Rivalries run deep in cricket. None more so than the fierce India-Pakistan one. The headlines, more often than not, reflect incidents where fans and fanatics of their respective teams are involved in aggressive displays of affection towards their team and hatred towards the other.
In that regard, the photograph of a Pakistani fan, who grabbed eyeballs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the Boxing Day Test for sporting a Pakistan team jersey with Indian ODI captain MS Dhoni’s name on it, is a welcome change.
During the second Test of the ongoing Australia-Pakistan series, this fan showcased his green team jersey with Dhoni’s name and the number seven on the back. He was immediately picked up by the cameras and soon went viral on social media.
The two countries, though fierce rivals, are united in their passion and love for cricket and it is acts like these that can help unite the two South-Asian giants; albeit in the realm of sports. Twitter was soon filled with tweets from both sides of the border:
— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) December 28, 2016
This reception is especially heart-warming after recent incidents where fans of opposite team's players were targeted on both sides of the border. Recently, a 21-year-old student Ripon Chowdhury, was arrested in Hailakandi at Assam for wearing a jersey with Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi's name on it after his shirt angered a Hindu nationalist group. Afridi had later criticised the arrest, calling it "shameful", adding that it would not deter the subcontinent's cricket-mad fans from supporting rival players.
Earlier this year, Umer Daraz, a Pakistani fan of Indian cricketer Virat Kohli, was arrested on 25 January for hoisting an Indian flag on the rooftop of his house. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, before the court granted him bail.
Daraz, a tailor by profession, was arrested from his house in a village about 200 kilometres from Lahore. The police registered an FIR against him under section 123-A of Pakistan Penal Code and 16 Maintenance of Public Order.
"I am a big fan of Virat Kohli. I support the Indian team because of Kohli. Hoisting of Indian flag on the rooftop of my house only shows my love for the Indian cricketer," Daraz had said.
He said he had no idea that he committed a crime, urging the authorities to pardon him as he should be seen as "an Indian cricketer's fan and not as a spy." Large photographs of Kohli were found on the walls of Daraz's house. He was arrested the day India beat Australia in a T20 match and Kohli was adjudged man of the match. Some civil society activists and journalists had raised their voice for his release and termed his gesture purely that of a sports lover.
Let's just hope that the fan who wore the jersey with Dhoni's name on it does not face similar action.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Dec 29, 2016 12:17:32 IST