The security measures at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here were stifling but it was all part of the precautionary build-up ahead of the Twenty20 match between India and Pakistan on Christmas day.
Just as talk about journalists being briefly barred by over-zealous policemen did the rounds, another topic nudged everything into the background as news of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from One Day Internationals spread.
Understandably the first two questions addressed to Mohammad Hafeez in the press conference here on Sunday afternoon, centred on Tendulkar and security.
The Pakistan skipper answered both aptly and soon the focus shifted to the forthcoming series between India and Pakistan that includes two Twenty20s and three ODIs.
Hafeez termed it as a ‘fresh new journey’ and along with coach Dav Whatmore, spoke at length though the most powerful statement was made by manager Naveed Akram Cheema, who said: “We have come here not only to play cricket but also to win your hearts.”
Good-cricket, that’s all that matters
Hafeez: “We have come here to play good cricket. We will always try to play in the good spirit of cricket. We always love to come here.
“It is a fresh new journey and I think the next time it will also include Test matches. I don’t think winning or losing makes a difference to a good game of cricket.”
Coaching Pakistan against India
Whatmore: “This is a special set of games for us. We (Pakistan) have played India in ICC events but this is my first time (in a bilateral series). We have done (well) in the past and we have to put our best foot forward.”
Hafeez vs M.S. Dhoni, the captaincy stakes
Hafeez: “There is no doubt that M.S. Dhoni’s experience as a captain is higher than us, more than mine and more than Misbah’s. As far as captaincy is concerned I will try my level best not to play with any pressure and I will convey the same message to the boys.”
Hafeez: “Whenever you come to India there is the challenge in hand and that is do well and there is the expectation of the people and it is a great opportunity for the youngsters to come here, feel the pressure, see the crowd and its response and play well.”
Shahid Afridi’s relevance
Hafeez: “He is a great player. He is taking it (omission from the ODI squad) as a challenge. He is doing well in T20 and in the last two practice games in Pakistan, he came up with some good performances.
“He is a tough guy and once he performs well he can always come back in the ODIs.”
The angst of not having ‘home-matches’
Hafeez: “In the last three years it is unfortunate that we could not play at home. The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman is working very hard to get cricket back to Pakistan.
“We are not using home territory at all and still performing well and hopefully we will get cricket back to Pakistan.”