MS Dhoni and Shahid Afridi shake hands at the end of the match

"Next time, not against us, please"

© AFP
61

Hate to Love

Forbidden love

Cheering for MS Dhoni from across the border can be a complicated business

Saad Shafqat

Sometimes a Pakistani fan will find cricket love in the oddest of places, such as east of the border with India. In fact, from this side of the divide, "odd" doesn't even begin to describe it.

There is, first of all, the subcontinent's geopolitical backstory, spread over a thousand restless years and weighed down with enough psychological baggage to jeopardise any rapprochement for the foreseeable future. There is the serpentine barbed-wire fence snaking the border, from the coast in the south to the mountains in the north. Of course, there is the flashpoint, the K-word, whose mere mention can set off bullets and bombs. Unavoidably, there is the contemporary narrative, a Gordian tangle with finger-pointing and anxieties over nuclear war.

In this twisted snarl of hysteria and hostility, I somehow lost my cricketing heart to a rising Indian star. The attraction I felt was overpowering, yet so were the barriers. Often the most exciting kind of love is forbidden love, and what better place to find forbidden love than in forbidden territory?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was 23 years old and playing his fifth ODI when he savaged the Pakistan attack in Visakhapatnam in 2005. The crowd was at capacity, the ground awash in coastal sunshine. India won the toss and batted. There had been some hype about Dhoni, and he more than lived up to it, coming in at No. 3 and plundering 148 at a strike rate above 120. Flowing red-tinted hair framing a strutting mien, he cut a captivating figure, giving off the smell of a future Indian great. It is a smell that we in Pakistan know only too well. It fills us with dread.

I somehow lost my cricketing heart to a rising Indian star. The attraction I felt was overpowering, yet so were the barriers

As Dhoni's career progressed and he kept winning laurels, including against Pakistan, those initial fears gave way to grudging admiration and, in time, to outright adoration and fondness. Much of his allure lies in the way he carries himself. When he bats, he is poised at the crease as if nestled in a comfortable leather sofa. His technique is to combine brilliant footwork with a secure bottom-hand grip showing the full face of the bat. He has the brain of an astute strategist and the temperament of a finisher. His manner is calm as night, solid as oak. You can see him trying, but never too hard. When he crouches behind the stumps, he is like a big cat huddled in the grassland, eying its prey.

Above all, Dhoni appears utterly snug in his skin, going about his business with ease and flair, as graceful in victory as in defeat. There isn't the agitation of Kohli, the swagger of Sehwag, or the circumspection of Dravid. When he celebrates, it is easy on the eye. No jingoistic delirium or madness, no self-conscious understatement or taciturnity either. There is just this fluent channeling of cheerful emotions. You feel like smiling with him and celebrating along.

There is no shortage of cricketing legends in India, but you could make a compelling argument that Dhoni stands taller than the rest. Yes, the likes of Tendulkar, Gavaskar and Dravid have the runs; Kumble, Bedi and Chandrasekhar - and Ashwin catching up fast - have the wickets; Kapil and Mankad have their all-round charisma. And Dhoni? He has the success. He has captained his team in more Tests (60), more ODIs (199) and more T20Is (72) than anybody else. Under his leadership, India attained the top Test ranking for a 21-month stretch, starting November 2009, lifted the World Cup in 2011, captured the World T20 in 2007, and the Champions Trophy in 2013. Dhoni does have detractors, but really, who can argue with this record?

He has been able to ask much of his team because he has given much as well. In the list of history's most effective wicketkeepers, he stands fifth in Tests, fourth in ODIs, and first in T20Is. As a batsman he has over 15,000 international runs at a composite average of almost 45; this career tally places him fifth among his compatriots. Most impressive is his deftness at the death. On the 40 occasions that Dhoni has been at the crease at the end of an ODI, India have lost only once. In Tests and T20Is too, Dhoni staying till the end strongly protects the team against defeat. The same aura of invincibility emanates from his captaincy. There is this unfailing level-headedness and cool, quick thinking. You always feel he has got your back.

Dhoni's got sponsors falling over themselves to show him the money

Dhoni's got sponsors falling over themselves to show him the money © Getty Images

Along with all the applause and adulation have come material rewards. We never thought cricket could make one as rich as European footballers or American sportspersons, but Forbes magazine has repeatedly named Dhoni among the highest-paid athletes in the world, the only cricketer to crack the global top 100. India's surging economy, with a billion-plus consumers, and Dhoni's brand as a champion, explain his wealth, the bulk of which comes from sponsorships and endorsements. When I first heard of the Forbes mention, I was happy; not just for Dhoni, but happy - even in our part of the world, cash in sport had started to flow. That is promising and gratifying.

As one might imagine, nursing a passion for Dhoni has been something of a struggle as a Pakistani. Apart from the fact that not many people get it, there is the inner conflict. A close friend, who happens to be a psychiatrist as well as a cricket buff, explained it away as "reaction formation" - a psychological phenomenon where you end up praising what you actually dislike. An honest examination leaves me unconvinced of this theory. Another friend, a self-proclaimed expert on relationships, opined that I am confusing admiration with envy. I don't think I am.

I do wish that Sarfraz Ahmed will blossom into a Pakistani version of Dhoni before long, but I don't begrudge India its great good fortune. Dhoni is a creation of India and the modern Indian cricket scene, and he fits that setting incredibly well. It's a joy to see him perform, though when he does it against Pakistan, things get complicated. Five of Dhoni's 22 Man-of-the-Match awards have come against my team, and I have watched all of those games. Naturally, it is no fun to see my team lose but it lifts my spirits to know that Dhoni has done well. It is not a case of divided loyalty. It is hearty applause for a man who so abundantly deserves his success.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi. @_saadshafqat

 

RELATED ARTICLES

 

LOGIN TO POST YOUR COMMENTS

  • POSTED BY Chandra Prashad on | December 27, 2016, 10:35 GMT

    Excellent article, Saad! I remember growing up in Guyana and also having admiration for foriegn cricketers, even though we want West Indies to win. I love to watch Imran Khan bowl-the lithe, silky run up to the wicket, the smooth leap and lethal release. It was all magical. I was caugh between Imran doing well and West Indies winning. Lovely article. Like the part ,"naturally it is no fun to see my team lose but it lifts my spirit to know that Dhoni has done well." I can relate to this especially in 1988, In Georgetown, Guyana, when Imram had match figures of 11 wickets as Pakistan beat the West Indies.

  • POSTED BY Jose on | December 25, 2016, 14:11 GMT

    The theories on "reaction formation" & confusion between admiration and envy.reminded me of a strong reaction from another cricket lover from my own country, when I went a bit ga-ga over a couple off boys in the England team.

    It happened in these very forums (more specifically, in Cricinfo's readers' comments section). .

    Here is the specific case.

    I went a bit lyrical in praising the teenager Hameed, who was performing far better than the veterans in his team, followed by another praise for the young man, Jennings in the next test.

    That triggered the reaction.

    I was asked,

    "How come you are bi-polar? Aren't you an Indian? When these boys are troubling our own team, how can you think of praising them.?" And on and on.

    My response was simple.

    Cricket is just a game; and not a war!

    In sports & games there is no place for jingoism. We should be able to appreciate good performance of anyone irrespective of the player's origins or whom he plays for.

  • POSTED BY jai_sh8621755 on | December 24, 2016, 20:16 GMT

    nice piece. actually i am myself of indian background and i too have always cheered for pakistan against everyone except india. indians alway crush on pakistani fast bowlers but i am myself a huge admirer of pakistani batting. miandad was brutal, inzi dreamy but my favorite is shaan masood. <3

  • POSTED BY Shayan on | December 24, 2016, 19:30 GMT

    Nice one mr saad but being a fan of Dhoni in pak is not as bad as u have portrayed dear. I have been openly supporting the man and never ever came up with an argument against him for being indian. In your case the reason is only one try discussing cricket with a cricket fan not psychiatrists

  • POSTED BY Zafer Abid on | December 24, 2016, 19:23 GMT

    As an Indian fan, I have some questions for Pakistani fans - There was a time when we placed our faith in gritty, grinding players when you went for talent. Now since Misbah has taken over, talented players in Pakistan like Umar Akmal, Shehzad etc were sidelined for Aslam and Azhar. While India have given longer ropes in tests to first Kohli and then Rahul till they came good. We even waited for ages for Rohit to improve. Interesting thing is that both approaches have produced similar results for both the teams in batting. Do you think Misbah can't handle players more talented than him? Imran did this best because he was undoubtedly the best Pakistan (and possibly sub continent) has ever produced. In my view fab five batting line up of India hit the right balance with talent (Tendulkar, Sehwag, Laxman-3) and grit (Dravid, Ganguly, Gambhir-3). I think Pakistan should have handled Akmal brothers better though Kamran was more of a batsman than wicket keeper.

  • POSTED BY Lokesh on | December 24, 2016, 19:17 GMT

    Such a lovely little article. Well articulated. I especially liked your comment about "When he bats, he is poised at the crease as if nestled in a comfortable leather sofa". You managed to capture that really well. Nice read. Please keep writing.

  • POSTED BY Vilayanur on | December 24, 2016, 13:57 GMT

    Very nice article, Mr. Shafqat.

    "When he crouches behind the stumps, he is like a big cat huddled in the grassland, eying its prey."

    That is spot on.

    In the 70s, we openly admired and adored Pakistani cricketers. Masjid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Zander Abbas, Wasim Raja were household names. With the advent of social media, jingoism has taken over.

    Thank you again for the article. Look forward to more from you.

    Peace.

    @Rawal - your comment was equally well written. Why can I see my keyboard clearly?

  • POSTED BY CS on | December 24, 2016, 7:52 GMT

    though Dhoni had been around for a while, he really burst onto the scene only in the 2007 T20 World cup, Around the same time we we indians were introduced to Misbah . Over the last decade these two have been like colossus' striding over the cricket of their respective countries. Indeed the sub-continent is lucky to have these two gentlemen of the game around at the same time. they both deserve all the adulation that they get - on both sides of the borders and across the world

  • POSTED BY Jawwad on | December 24, 2016, 5:50 GMT

    There are several Indian cricketers from the past and present that I admire but Dhoni tops it all. He has been true to the game and a pure gentleman, on and off the field, He is someone who anyone would love to play under. One of the best finishers in the short version of game. A gem of a player and captain. Cheers from a Pak fan.

  • POSTED BY Anmol on | December 24, 2016, 5:25 GMT

    One of the best article I have ever read. Even being an Indian, we friends always used to lick our lips seeing Wasim and Waqar turn in a hostile seam attack and swinging the ball as if they have a wand attached to their hands. Seeing Shoaib Akhtar charge in and bowl at the speed Indians have always been so envious for and bowl two of the greatest Indian batsmen ever born (Dravid & Tendulkar) at our mecca of cricket(Eden) was heart breaking, but still one couldn't help but admire Shoaib. This admiration of Pakistani cricketers will always be there and I hope someday all the cross border problems will end and we'll be able to live like brothers.. #AmanKiAsha

  • POSTED BY Samuel Arun on | December 24, 2016, 3:49 GMT

    Saad, join the club! The club of Indo-Pakistanis who have worshipped at the feet of cross-border cricket idols. Many are the Indian boys - now middle-aged men - who were enraptured by Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram. And Imran especially, for even had he not been a cricketer, he would have attracted hero-worship with his self-belief, charisma and uncompromising work ethic.

  • POSTED BY Sujan on | December 24, 2016, 1:47 GMT

    Saad,

    Cross border "love" is more prevalent than all the other elements , just that we pride our nation and its security bit more . Imran Khan Niyazi is the single largest darling loved across the world even after his cricketing days are over...because he played , played like a champion ( lion) and who does not empathize with that. Keep the love flowing, its a part of the game that seems missing nowadays in Cricket.

    We wish we have champions like Imran and Dhoni in every walk of life when it comes to India -Pak so that even " neutral Umpires" are not needed.

  • POSTED BY laksvi5642713 on | December 24, 2016, 0:40 GMT

    I definately think love, admiration deep respect are in two categories, one for the skills alone of the sportsman/cricketer, second is for the skills as well as the way the concerned person carries themself, their restraint in victroy, their dignity in defeat, their humane qualities in treating success and failure-both fickle friends in life, with the same paramour, same attention and same values. Am proud to say india has produced quite a few of the second category for eg Rahul, VVS, Anil K, Kapil-Srinath , viru, and in the years gone by pataudi, vishwanath, sunny, umrigar, contractor, pras, chandra, venkat et all...the same goes for pak with people like Anwar, Inzi, Misbah, YK, wasim, waqar, mohsin, zahir abas, etc-i would unbashedly cheer for these pak guys even if they did well, for the first category i'd have kohli, javed miandad, aamir sohil, harbhajan,, sarfraz navaz etc...teriffically skilled but hey i'd rather cheer for the other bunch....

  • POSTED BY Shankar on | December 23, 2016, 23:15 GMT

    "When he celebrates, it is easy on the eye. No jingoistic delirium or madness, no self-conscious understatement or taciturnity either. There is just this fluent channeling of cheerful emotions. You feel like smiling with him and celebrating along." What writing Sirji. Very well put indeed.

  • POSTED BY Srinivasan on | December 23, 2016, 20:44 GMT

    Great article. I have a lot of 'best XIs' in my head. When it comes to 'Streetsmart XI', or 'Will-never-lose-the-test-match-come-what-may XI', the first name I will pencil in is Javed Miandad. Right behind him will be Rahul Dravid....From an ardent Indian Fan who is still aching from Miandad v Chetan Sharma.

  • POSTED BY ma on | December 23, 2016, 18:24 GMT

    there is always a face behind every case,i am a big fan of ganguly and his batting style i guess there is fans everywhere of those legends,i heard recently an indian fan of boom boom afridi was arrested by indian police, and a pakistani fan of kohli arrested by pakistani police i hope thise politics have zero influence over every sports,

  • POSTED BY Rashid on | December 23, 2016, 17:37 GMT

    I think there are two types of sportsmen: 1. who are loved by their countrymen, 2. who are loved by everyone. Any cricket lover would love Dhoni. With all his cricketing and leadership skills, he is such a likable character. I, as a Pakistani, have always been a fan of Dhoni. Not for his mad cricketing skills, or quick-thinking leadership style - of course these do play a role - but for the way he carries himself. You kinda wish him to win - even if he's playing against your team, you want him to win. No other player, certainly none from India, has ever made me feel that way (is it love? haha!). Kohli is perhaps the best batsman of this era but he's not likable. Afridi is likable but he's not remotely as skilled as Dhoni. Dhoni is someone who commands respect, from his countrymen as well as fans from other countries. Oh, and I have never ever been questioned on being a Dhoni fan.

  • POSTED BY Prateek on | December 23, 2016, 17:21 GMT

    Nice read! Reminiscent of Cardus on Trumper. However not sure if admiration for Indian cricketers is such an anathema amongst Pakistanis, or whether the writer has made use of the creative licence to add colour to this piece. As Viv-Viru pointed out, a lot of Indians are big fans of Pakistani cricketers and this is not something unusual or forbidden. I wager there are more Wasim fans in India than in Pakistan, though the size of the population is a big factor

  • POSTED BY Noman Ahmad on | December 23, 2016, 17:05 GMT

    Nice article. Although the love isn't as forbidden as is made out here. I myself am a fan of Dhoni and support him openly in front of my friends (not against Pakistan of course :) ). I admire Kohli also, but not as much as Captain Cool. Kohli's passion for the game is admirable but it's manifestation is sometimes off-putting.

  • POSTED BY Sid on | December 23, 2016, 17:00 GMT

    Nice article. M not sure whether this, and many other articles admiring Indian cricketers, is an effort to start social media craving of a series between these two. If it is, I dont think it would help as it is country first. If it is not, KUDOS to the writer. Millions of Indian fans adore pak cricketers similarly as is evident from many comments below without any repercussions. This love will continue from both sides as some of the cricketers instead are wizards and no one can help but love and admire them. Sadly in Pak current team, there are not many such players. Lets see how good amir comes back. He has the potential to be one of the all time greats.

  • POSTED BY Cricket on | December 23, 2016, 14:52 GMT

    Nice piece on Dhoni, but it is hard to understand the conflict in admiring greatness. It was never forbidden to like Imran or Wasim or Shoib or Afridi very openly in India regardless of anything. No psychological baggage ever forbid Indians from their love of Pakistani cricketers (should I say almost all the bowlers). There may have been some envy in Pakistan producing so many great fast bowlers, but again whatever feelings people felt were gladly expressed openly in public without any guilt, let alone any repercussions. This freedom is the very underpinning of the billion fans help create the cash machine that is finally elevating cricket on par with other sports.

  • POSTED BY Pragadheeswaran on | December 23, 2016, 14:11 GMT

    Good Article!

    We Indians too admire greats like Imraan Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saqlain, Inzamam, Razzak & Afridi. Oh I forgot to add Saaed Anwar (what a player?)

    Good article by Saad Shafqat to break the open pandora box of mutual admiration (in the comments section below)

    It is another point that we admire (Mostly all fans around the world) the players from the West Indies even their home team may lose against them but the conduct & fondness of the West Indian Cricket Team (especially like Gayle, Dwayne Bravo) makes the game watching ectastic.

  • POSTED BY ran on | December 23, 2016, 11:57 GMT

    dhoni is great but sachin is the greatest player india produced and imran khan is greatest pakistan produced . English and australia have produced more great player than india and pakistan combines.

  • POSTED BY Prafful on | December 23, 2016, 11:18 GMT

    Very Fine Article I always admired Dhoni the way he handles pressure of being captain of Indian cricket team, I am eagerly waiting commentary from him want to listen what he thinks of game in different situations like field placing bowling change etc. hope he obliges me.

  • POSTED BY laksvi5642713 on | December 23, 2016, 9:46 GMT

    You could possibly substitute every time you've mentioned Dhoni with any from Imran, Zed, Qadir, Akram, Waqar, Moin khan, Inzy, Mohsin, Shahid afridi, ijaz,YK take your pick....as an indian fan felt wasim's banana bender to Rahul-1999- chennai or Shoiab's exocet missiles at calcutta in 1999, or waqar bowling azhar at sharjah were against us (or even or moin yelling 'cmon saki...' to saqlain...:) and at the time even if i wanted india to win but could not help but be taken aback and be amazed at the sheer wizardry, skill and pace for these, have viewed on youtube so many times...bitter sweet, but hey true talent - is to be cherished and admired.....amongst the recent ones - huge respect for mishbah for his role in pak cricket, his stature, good luck at the mcg test...from an indian fan of pak cricket....may we cherish such feats on such blogs in exemplary fashion....Saad - well written article

  • POSTED BY hasans9162175 on | December 23, 2016, 9:30 GMT

    Nice article.Yes its a fact that majority of both Pakistani and Indians dont appreciate eachothers feats because of having ego problems or fearing they will have to let go of their patriotism in doing so.It has been very evident since the revolution of social media in the modern era where on cricket discussions both sides are arguing trying to degrade eachother by highlighting flaws and weaknesses.But its also a fact that there have been some great cricket legends from both sides which neither opposition is reluctant to appreaciate. For e.g most notably Imran Khan from Pakistan and MS Dhoni from India are two that can be singled out who are admired by both opposing cricket fans without any reluctance.That shows the spirit of leadership in cricket and how much respect it generates as both are the greatest leaders of their respective sides uptil now. Apart from these 2 the rest have been having a love hate relation with the opposing fans.

  • POSTED BY Ritu on | December 23, 2016, 8:56 GMT

    Why do Pakistanis have to defend themselves loving Indian greats, I don't understand?

  • POSTED BY Umair on | December 23, 2016, 8:35 GMT

    I have always thought that Adam Gilchrist changed the wicket-keeper batsman role in the modern cricket; however MSD took it to another level never seen before. Border or no border, MSD is and would always be admired all around the world from the fans who support cricket and not the teams; as allegiance to one team is good but not a necessity to enjoy the game.

  • POSTED BY ankska8657798 on | December 23, 2016, 7:54 GMT

    The love is not as forbidden as one might think. I have grown up loving and to an extent imitating Akram playing gully cricket. We here also are fond of music imports and, more recently, Fawad (heard about him a lot from my female friends). Here, no one raises an eye when one is showering praises about such greats from across border. In fact, during the tests recently concluded (Ind vs Eng an Aus vs Pak), I preferred watching and rooting for a Pak win over watching Ind vs Eng thinking it was a dead-rubber draw. So, at least in regard to sports ans culture, no love is lost between the two!

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 23, 2016, 7:07 GMT

    Good to read. If only there were more writers that would be brave enough to write such articles, not only Indian or Pakistani. There is no doubt that sport bridges cultural and political barriers that otherwise stand as firm as the Great Wall of China. I love watching India Pakistan cricket games, they may not be as old as the ashes but there appears to be so much more at stake with such a huge following. In spite of their inherent differences the players seem to get along as if one! The camaraderie and the mutual respect is overwhelming to see and I hope, especially for those that religiously hang on to the differences that separate the two peoples. The IPL is a prime example of how players of all sorts are thrown into Plato's cave and emerge better persons. It is so unfortunate that politics bars Pakistani players from taking part....the IPL would be much better off!

  • POSTED BY AhmadJavaidQureshi on | December 23, 2016, 7:03 GMT

    Excellent artical about a Pakistani's love for an Indian legend. What I cant understand or agree to is the drama the writer have tried to creat. No body arrests you in Pakistan for praising an Indian legend. Music albums of great India n singers are openly available in the market, no shop keepers have ever been penalised for it. Our cinemas show lates Indian movies, so where is the problem in it. I followed most of the test series between India and England. Nothing forbidden in liking what you like. Legends from any field, be it sports or music are reverred in Pakistan what ever their nationality. we are too broad minded. I tend to agree with the specialist"s opinion about his aprehensions. Dhoni is a living legend and is liked by so many of us. I believe much of such negative hype is created by India itself........refusing to play Pakistan. And Media too. I dont want to sound political. Lets keep politics out of Sports, Music, Arts etc. Hope my comments will be published.

  • POSTED BY Fair on | December 23, 2016, 6:51 GMT

    Nice ode to a fine cricketer! Admired and respected widely.

  • POSTED BY Sarang on | December 23, 2016, 6:00 GMT

    Well, it is good to read that the love from Pak fans/writers for Indian cricketers is shared on this forum . Somehow I have always felt that it is only Indians who profess their admiration for players from other countries. Mr Shafqat, I can understand your predicament to accept this against the "norm" in your country. Also, the fact that Dhoni has won so many matches (including T20 WC final, ODI WC Semi) against Pak but I guess you will agree that a true cricket fan accepts defeat of his team against a player/team whom he admires. No shame in that. Indians accepted that Pak were better team than India till mid 1990s but since 2000, India have been better. No need to bring stats into this, this is just common cricket knowledge and feel. A big reason for that has been Dhoni and his predecessor, Ganguly.

  • POSTED BY sam on | December 23, 2016, 5:53 GMT

    Don't worry Mr. Saad Shafqat. I have had the same divided loyalty when it comes to Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and now Misbah Ul Haq. Cracking cricketers (first two in fact legendary cricketers) and great ambassadors for the game. Even now, when Misbah is staring on retirement I still want him to perform and smile for the very last time on a cricket field. It has nothing to do with borders. Borders are all that is manually created. We are human and we like certain human beings. The fact that I loved watching Imran, Wasim, Waqar, Anwar, Inzamam, Yousuf, Misbah, Yasir have nothing to do with borders or non-existence of borders. Similarly I have disliked watching Shahid Afridi and made extreme fun of Kamran Akmal's keeping and facial expressions and branded Saeed Ajmal a "proper cheat". It's all a matter of personal choice. We live in a free society and are free to choose whom we like and dislike.

  • POSTED BY Ramesh on | December 23, 2016, 4:47 GMT

    Very well written. Dhoni has changed the way India played Cricket and he deserves all the praise, fame and riches. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have large fan base in India. Who can forget Wasim Akram's golden spell in World Cup finals against England?

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 23, 2016, 4:43 GMT

    Article is honest, well balanced, matter-of-fact, enjoyable and admirable - wait that's like defining Dhoni himself !!

    Trust me there are Pakistani cricketing legends who are equally admired in India. I am still in awe of the Great Imran Khan....1978 was the first series which was aired on TV in India. I watched it in B

  • POSTED BY Saifullah Farooqui on | December 23, 2016, 4:28 GMT

    My favourite indian cricketer of all time .

  • POSTED BY siddharth110575 on | December 23, 2016, 4:17 GMT

    Great article which captures beautifully this mixed emotion of being a fan of a rival team player! I have similarly been admiring Pakistan fast bowlers over the years. Imran, Waqar, Wasim, Shoaib, Amir...a seemingly endless list of bowlers who have the ability to capture ones imagination with skill,flair, performance and unleashed pace! Like Saad mentions even in Cricket the India-Pakistan equation struggles to keep itself ouside the broader picture. However purely as a sports fan PAK have been one of my most followed teams.

  • POSTED BY S on | December 23, 2016, 3:22 GMT

    Kudos to you Mr. Shafqat on a well-written article. Not to discredit any of my other favorite Indian skippers (Sunil, Kapil, and Sourav), Dhoni is definitely among the greats in my opinion. I have been and will always be an admirer of MSD! ~ A hardcore Pakistani fan

  • POSTED BY Scott on | December 23, 2016, 3:13 GMT

    Very well written Saad! There are many huge fans of Wasim Akram in India. Akram invokes similar feelings in true cricket fans in India.

  • POSTED BY jaswant on | December 23, 2016, 2:55 GMT

    The pure flow of timely words and description has caught my attention. It's like celebrating the rare find of a heavenly prince whose exploits have dazzled the mind and seized the imagination. Such thought especially from across the border tells that within the embodiment of flesh and blood, dwells the marvel of truth. Dhoni to me matters not. In such refutable complexity,the heart has spoken.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 20, 2016, 0:32 GMT

    I felt the same way for Pakistan's Waqar Younis, copying his action all thru my teens. What a bowler he was,

  • POSTED BY Karthik on | December 16, 2016, 12:48 GMT

    Have I found another idol from the writer in you Mr. Shafqat, in addition to THE man in mention here ! Take a bow.

  • POSTED BY Pravin on | December 16, 2016, 6:39 GMT

    Oh you just cannot fathom what I felt for Waqar, his debut match (same as Sachin) was the first cricket match I remember watching. I even followed his bowling style. And what to say of Imran and Wasim, one other player I liked a lot and won't be mentioned here is Moin Khan, his unorthodox batting was superb. And also the gentle giant Inzi who was never hurried by any bowler no matter how fast. Special mention for the street fighter like Miandad..

    The Indian and Pakistan cricketers of old mainly Imran and Sunny, also had a mutual respect and almost always stood for each other on world stage on most occasions. Something which is missing in the subcontinent teams a bit now a days.

  • POSTED BY cricfan75105082 on | December 11, 2016, 19:41 GMT

    Well well well....Don't have much words to describe my love and craze for dhoni..He is just great.. I became Fan of Dhoni After 2007 WC. Again in 2011 WC and then in series against India in india 2012. Always had the feeling "Yaar Abhi Dhoni khara hai! Abhi kch bhi ho skta hai"..His captaincy skills...he is just like glue which holds not only indian team together but the whole india..Kohli is pure class but nobody in near future can reach the level of Dhoni..He made the greats of India including Ashwin jadeja binny raina kohli pandya and rohit..India just should always Thank him for his services ..Best of luck to Saifi and i wish he could be a dhoni of Pak..

  • POSTED BY Ramana on | December 10, 2016, 14:45 GMT

    I guess Indians across the border have similar admiration for Pakistani cricketers-esp the fast bowlers (Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis). Very well written ode to MSD. Keep it up Saad !

  • POSTED BY Sri on | December 10, 2016, 14:29 GMT

    Very nice article. As a devoted Dhoni fan from India, I salute the author for putting into words what many of us Dhoni doters would love to ink. Misbah in his youth may have well blossomed into a Pakistani version of Dhoni, and I have always been an admirer of his calmness, intellect and match awareness. Unfortunately, he could only serve Pakistan and himself only in the fag end of his career.

  • POSTED BY Shakeel on | December 9, 2016, 6:29 GMT

    Excellent observation Saad. No one would have praised MS better than you.

    Though we Indians like Waseem the same way. Nice article. keep going.

  • POSTED BY ravikanth on | December 8, 2016, 15:06 GMT

    You're right, Saad. Waqar and Wasim generated similar feelings in me. So did Qadir and Miandad before that. And reading about Z takes me back to the days when I'd pore over Sunny Days repeatedly. Sometimes I feel it has nothing to do with the individual. It's just one's romance with the game. Some players make us express it to ourselves better.

  • POSTED BY AniRudh on | December 8, 2016, 11:33 GMT

    It is same for the Indians. Admiring in public the exploits of Shahid Afridi or the calmness of Inzamam or the skills Akram is at times frowned upon.

  • POSTED BY Hassaan on | December 8, 2016, 7:11 GMT

    Simply the genius of the game best ever captain for me after Imran Khan both share same sort of Characteristics Wish to see him playing in PSL

  • POSTED BY Faiz Hassan on | December 7, 2016, 10:50 GMT

    Really delighted to article praising Dhoni and the sort of praise he enjoys in Pakistan, the fact about Dhoni is that he is really easy to like, you might not like Kohli of old due to his over the top attitude, one incident which really sticks to mind is the one in Asia Cup where Kamran Akmal and Gambhir, both of them underachieved in their respective careers, were in loggerheads, and Afridi was bemused what to do, and here was Dhoni who just calmly walked behind Gambhir and had his shoulder upon him and took him away with a smile That was typical Dhoni for me, no matter how great the crisis, great man made it look easy.

  • POSTED BY Behram0029666 on | December 4, 2016, 5:44 GMT

    Spot on! as a Pakistani I've always admired the calmness of Dhoni, his brilliance as a finisher. And he indeed is the best captain I've seen so far. I still argue with most of my friends that Pakistani team needs a Dhoni-like leader. I absolutely adore him.

  • POSTED BY Russell on | December 3, 2016, 9:20 GMT

    Totally know what you mean brother... Your fast bowlers always had a jaw dropping effect.. Even the lesser renowned ones like Mohd Akram who could bowl Garnersque snorters from good length areas.. Wahab's spell to Watson in the '15 QF is something I watch once a week.. Shoaib's spell at Kolkatta in '98? A little less than that :)

  • POSTED BY Indranil on | December 2, 2016, 16:19 GMT

    I totally sympathize with you. As an Indian, I felt the same torment watching Akram throughout his career, particularly when he kept knocking over my brethren. But then, that is what sports is all about. Embracing genius and true class wholeheartedly gives a gratifying feeling that elevates us over the menial humdrums. Thank God for sports, and thanks for a heartwarming read.

  • POSTED BY John on | December 2, 2016, 10:34 GMT

    Good luck to Sarfraz Ahmed. We hope he will be a Dhoni for Pakistan.