Karachi - Shahid Afridi has claimed that cricketers from India and Pakistan, contrary to popular belief, get along pretty well off the field while singling out Gautam Gambhir as the exception. Afridi also voiced his admiration for Virat Kohli stating that he had a "better heart in his supremely fit body".

India and Pakistan have a bitter rivalry both on the field and off it. The last time the two bitter rivals took to the field in an ODI game, during the 2015 World Cup, an estimated 288 million Indian fans tuned in for the game. Even though the rivalry has been hostile since the very beginning, Afridi claimed that the players from both sides get along pretty well with each other. The former Pakistan captain also singled out Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, and Zaheer Khan as his closest friends in the Indian cricket team while singling out Gautam Gambhir as the exception. 

“Contrary to popular belief, India and Pakistan players get along very well. Of course, there are exceptions like Gautam Gambhir, who dare I say isn’t the friendliest. We are unlikely to be found together at a coffee shop anytime soon. We had a heated exchange on the field some years ago and it made headlines all over the world. While I have moved on in life as I feel these things are part and parcel of the game, Gautam for some reason can’t get over it. Good luck to him!” Afridi wrote in a recent column for ICC-Cricket.com.

“While Gautam is clearly an exception, I have enjoyed excellent relationships with Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. The three are some of my best mates and we have some wonderful memories together from the times when both the sides used to play and tour each other on a regular basis,” he quoted.

Afridi is one of the most recognizable faces in Pakistan cricket having represented his country for almost two decades and was a part of some of the most volatile matches the rivalry has ever produced. However, even "Boom Boom Afridi" was humbled when the Indian cricket team sent a signed jersey to him after his retirement.

“Another player I admire and respect from the present lot is Virat Kohli. He has a fantastic cricket bat in hand and an even better heart in his supremely fit body. I will always remember him for the gesture he showed when he gave me an India cricket team signed shirt following our match in Kolkata in the ICC World Twenty20 2016,” he wrote.

Even though Pakistan lead the head to head record between the two sub-continental neighbours, it is India who hold most of the bragging rights, having never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup game. However, as Afridi pointed out, the Champions Trophy is the only tournament where Pakistan have had the edge over India in the past. 

“The Champions Trophy is the only ICC event where Pakistan have had successes against India. We won the 2004 match at Edgbaston and then the 2009 match at Centurion. I hope the Men in Green deliver a rousing performance at Edgbaston to improve their record against India in global events,” said the 37-year-old.

“On the upcoming match in Edgbaston, I really hope that we see a classic Indo-Pak match. India has the strength as well as the psychological advantage based on its recent performances against us. India is a batting powerhouse brimming with talent, which is well supported by an aggressive and attacking bowling line-up.

“But I feel that Pakistan has a formidable bowling line-up that can challenge the Indian batting, especially in the English conditions. As always, the match would be a game of nerves and both teams would have to maintain their composure throughout.”