Some Pak cricketers refused to eat with Kaneria because he was Hindu: Shoaib Akhtar

Kaneria took 261 wickets in 61 Tests at an average of 34.79. He also played 18 ODIs

shoaib-akhtar-danish-kaneria Shoaib Akhtar (left) and Danish Kaneria

At a time when protests over Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, are rocking India, former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar stirred up a major controversy saying that leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who was a Hindu, faced discrimination within the team because of his religion.

Kaneria later confirmed that Akhtar's claims were true and that he will reveal the names of the cricketers who did not like to talk to him since he was a Hindu. The leg-spinner said he did not have the courage to speak out earlier, but he will do so now. "Shoaib has been a legend of the game. His words are also as blunt as his bowling. When I was playing I did not have the courage to speak on these matters but after Shoaib bhai's comments, I do. He has always supported me and also Inzy bhai (Inzamam-ul-Haq), Mohammad Yusuf and Younis bhai (Younis Khan)," Kaneria told PTI over phone from Karachi.

"Those who did not support me, I will make their names public soon. Having said that, I feel fortunate and honoured that I got to play for Pakistan," said Kaneria.

In a chat show Game On Hai on PTV, Akhtar revealed that a few of his Pakistani teammates even refused to eat with Kaneria, who was only the second Hindu to play for Pakistan after his maternal uncle Anil Dalpat. The leg-spinner took 261 wickets in 61 Tests at an average of 34.79. He also played 18 ODIs.

"In my career I fought with two three (in the team) when they started talking on regionalism. Things like 'who is from Karachi, Punjab or Peshawar', that used to infuriate. So, what if someone is a Hindu, if he is doing well for the team.

"They used to say 'Sir, ye yaaha se khaana kyun le raha hain'(why is he taking food from this place)?" said the 44-year-old, who played 46 Tests and 163 ODIs.

"The same Hindu won the Test for us against England. If he is taking a bagful of wickets for Pakistan, he should play. We could not have won the series without Kaneria's effort. But not many gave him credit for that," said Akhtar.

Kaneria, now 39, was found guilty of spot-fixing alongside Mervyn Westfield while playing for Essex against Durham in 2009.

The leg-spinner was found to have convinced Westfield to concede 12 runs during the one-day game. Westfield was handed a four-month prison sentence and ECB banned him for five years. Kaneria was banned for life in 2012.

After six years in denial, Kaneria finally admitted to spot-fixing in 2018 after six years of denial. However, he had claimed that the Pakistan Cricket Board had treated him unfairly in the spot-fixing issue because he was a Hindu.

Interestingly, three years ago, it was reported that Kaneria was considering migrating to India and had even expressed his willingness to work for the BCCI to earn a livelihood.

With the NDA government passing the CAA, it will be interesting to see if Kaneria finally gets to migrate to India citing religious persecution in Pakistan.

(With PTI inputs)