Shoaib Akhtar laughs off Harbhajan Singh's claims of being beaten up by him
Shoaib Akhtar has laughed off claims by Harbhajan Singh that he and Yuvraj were once beaten up in a hotel room by the Pakistani pacer. Akhtar has frequently been cited as an example of how Indians and Pakistanis can fight on the field and be friends off it but now in the midst of controversial accusations by Harbhajan Singh, the pacer felt he needed to clarify the context of the claims.
"I think he has made a big deal of it. Yes it did happen during 2004 when we were playing a Test in Rawalpindi. But it was nothing serious and all fun," Akhtar was quoted by the PTI.
He clarified that indeed the Indian duo of Harbhajan and Yuvraj were close to him and he perceived them as his younger brothers and that he would never do anything that harmed them. He stated it was all a bit of goofing around and there was no threat of serious harm.
"Basically we were horsing around and doing some arm wrestling and that is all but no Bhajji and Yuvi are my younger brothers no question of beating them up," Akhtar added.
Akhtar, who is famous for his on-field aggression and rivalry with Sachin Tendulkar also said that any rivalry with Indian players was only a part of competition in cricket and his on-field spats did not influence his off-field relations with Indian players. The Rawalpindi Express is also known to be close to actor Shah Rukh Khan and has often come together with Indian players for charity causes and events. He shrugged off Singh’s accusations by saying that all of them were good friends.
"They got along well with me and used to come to my room and have dinner together. Yuvi wanted to go for sightseeing in Islamabad. We have been good friends so how can I beat them," he remarked.
Harbhajan’s claims of being beaten up
Harbhajan had earlier claimed of being beaten up during a show on an Indian television channel and his claims were highlighted by the Pakistani media. However, he also mentioned how after their on-field spats, they would sit together as if nothing had happened.
“Shoaib abused me a lot. He used to sit with us, ate with us. Since he was too close to us, maybe he used to take us for granted. He challenged me once to hit a six and when I hit a six, he was shocked. He then bowled two consecutive bouncers which I evaded. He then abused me and I replied back. But after the game, we sat together as if nothing happened. Shoaib once threatened me he would come to my room and beat me. I told him come, let’s see who beats whom. I was really scared. He is a great hulk. He once bashed me and Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh) inside a room. Since he was heavy, it was difficult to catch him,” Harbhajan said.
Inzaman-ul-Haq who was Pakistan’s captain at the time has confirmed the incident but also made light of the claims suggesting that it was all in fun and hinting that seriousness of Singh’s claims have been exaggerated.
"But Shoaib was always very muscular and strong and even hugging him or shaking hands with him could be painful for other players," Inzamam joked.
We can only hope that the controversy will boil over soon and not cause further cricketing concerns between the neighbouring countries.