Pakistan's interior minister has apologized to the country's cricket team after saying he was keeping a "close watch" on them ahead of Wednesday's World Cup semifinal against India.

Rehman Malik was quoted Monday as saying he had warned the team "there should be no match fixing" and that the players were being closely monitored.

Team captain Shahid Afridi confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that Malik had telephoned him to apologize for his comments, which came just two days before the semifinal.

Afridi said he did not want to comment further on the matter.

Malik said Monday he was "sure the team has very clean members" but that he couldn't take any risks after the spot-fixing scandal last year which led to long-term bans for Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.

The three players were found guilty of accepting bribes in return for making sure no-balls were bowled at certain times during a test match in England last August.

Malik's remarks — and in particular the timing of them — were widely criticized in the Pakistan media and by other politicians, notably Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to the World Cup title in 1992.

A series of messages were later posted on Malik's Twitter account to explain his remarks. One said that "a section of press has twisted my statement out of context, and wrongly projected my words."

Another said: "My only intention was and is that Pak cricket team play and perform their best. The support and prayers of the whole nation r with them."