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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Two India and Pakistan fans in UAE to prove cricket 'has no boundaries'

Pakistan's Mohammed Basheer sponsors good friend Sudhir Kumar of India so that they can both watch Asia Cup games together

Cricket fans Sudhir Kumar from India, left, and US-based Pakistani Mohammed Basheer have been friends since the 2011 World Cup. AFP
Cricket fans Sudhir Kumar from India, left, and US-based Pakistani Mohammed Basheer have been friends since the 2011 World Cup. AFP

Their governments might not be ready for talks, but that did not stop Pakistan's Mohammed Basheer opening his heart, and his wallet, to ensure India's most recognised cricket fan Sudhir Kumar could be at the Asia Cup.

Kumar, 37, from Muzaffarpur in the northern state of Bihar, has travelled all over the world supporting India but was resigned to missing the tournament in the UAE, which concludes this week, after his childhood hero and sponsor Sachin Tendulkar could not be reached in London.

"I called Kumar to ask when he is coming to Dubai for the Asia Cup," Basheer told AFP.

"But I found him a bit disheartened because of no sponsorship, so I paid for his ticket and stay in Dubai," the Chicago-based Pakistani added.

Basheer's kind gesture brought the two together, sharing a room in India's team hotel in Dubai.

Unfortunately for Basheer, his gesture meant also that Kumar twice saw India beat Pakistan - once in Group A, and again in the Super Four stage of the regional six-team showpiece.

And although Pakistan missed out on Friday's final after losing to Bangladesh on Wednesday night, Kumar will be there to support India against the Tigers, as will his old friend from across the border.

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Sudhir Kumar has become a near-constant fixture during India cricket matches. AFP
Sudhir Kumar has become a near-constant fixture during India cricket matches. AFP

Kumar first encountered Basheer during the 2011 World Cup on the subcontinent. The pair became firm friends and have been getting together at India-Pakistan matches ever since.

"I owe this tour to Basheer who has shown that friendship has no boundaries," an elated Kumar said.

"We pull each other's legs during the matches but at the end of the day cricket brings people of the two nations closer."

Cricket's fiercest rivalry charges up fans from Kolkata to Karachi and millions from all over the world.

Basheer said nothing compares to an India-Pakistan match and conceded to slightly split loyalties.

"My wife is from Hyderabad in India, so I support India because of my wife and [India wicketkeeper] Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Pakistan because it is my country of birth," said Basheer, who runs a restaurant in Chicago famous for the biryani - a spicy rice dish popular on both sides of the border.

Dhoni, the former Indian captain who still stars for the limited-overs side, often gives Basheer match tickets.

Kumar said he was happy to remain a bachelor because he was already "married to cricket".

"Every time my elders ask me to marry I run away from home for cricket. I have left various jobs to satiate my thirst for the game, which is my life and wife."

When India won the 2011 World Cup, Kumar was invited to the dressing room to have a picture with the trophy - his greatest honour.

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Read more:

Letters to the Editor: There is apparently more to unite than divide Indians and Pakistanis

Paul Radley: Here are the cassic moments from India-Pakistan cricket matches in the UAE

Also from Paul Radley: India v Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates - by the numbers

Explainer: India v Pakistan – all you need to know about the Asia Cup clash in Dubai