What’s the story?
The members of the Indian cricket team, led by skipper Virat Kohli, may be busy building friendships or rather mending relations in case of some Australian players with the IPL, but many of them share a special bond with many Pakistani cricketers despite the players from across the border not participating in India’s T20 extravaganza.
A special gesture that proves the very same point came to light recently when a Pakistani journalist revealed how the Indian side, led by skipper Virat Kohli, had gifted a jersey bearing Kohli’s name and signed by the Indian players, to the retiring Shahid Afridi following the maverick cricketer's announcement that he would be quitting international cricket in February.
Here is the Tweet made by Geo Sports journalist Faizan Lakhani that has won the hearts of not just the Indian cricket fans but also the adulation of the cricket loving public from across the border.
Virat Kohli's shirt, signed by Indian team, for Shahid Afridi, with a message "always a pleasure playing against you." pic.twitter.com/KexlCjTNeZ— Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) April 15, 2017
Parallels from history
Virat Kohli might not come across as a friendly cricketer with his aggressive approach to the game often rubbing the opposition the wrong way on many occasions, but he has time and again showed that he is a class act off the field of play.
On the eve of the 2016 World T20 fixture between India and Pakistan at the Eden Gardens, Kohli had gifted Pakistan speedster Mohammad Amir one of his most favourite bats as a gesture of appreciation for the youngster’s memorable spell against India during the Asia Cup fixture just a few weeks before.
The heart of the matter
Afridi, much like his cricket, which blows hot and cold most of the time, has had a love-hate relationship with the Indian public. One of his most controversial comments was when he said that he felt more loved in India rather than back home in Pakistan, a big change from when he courted controversy following his ugly spat with Gautam Gambhir during an ODI at Kanpur in 2007.
Afridi does, however, share a good bond of friendship with many Indian cricketers and he was in for a surprise when the Men in Blue decided to gift him a Virat Kohli jersey that bore the message, “Always a pleasure playing against you.”
Indeed, Afridi essayed some of his most memorable knocks against India, such as the century in the Kanpur ODI in 2005 and the cameo during the 2014 Asia Cup encounter, and it is heartening to see such a friendly gesture from the Indian team to one of their biggest tormentors. The jersey bears the signature of many prominent Indian cricketers like Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, R Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, and former coach Ravi Shastri.
Despite bringing down curtains on his international career that spanned 21 years, Afridi is very much around in the domestic circuit. At 36 years, he still has time on his side to carry on playing in the shortest format of the game in which he has tasted much success, especially with the ball.
He is currently involved in a number of charity activities with the Shahid Afridi Foundation and was recently named as one of the eight ambassadors for the ICC Champions Trophy later this year alongside India’s Harbhajan Singh, Bangladesh’s Habibul Bashar, England’s Ian Bell, New Zealand’s Shane Bond, Australia’s Mike Hussey, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, and South Africa’s Graeme Smith.
Cricket matches between India and Pakistan might be few and far between due to the political tension prevailing between the two Asian countries and the few matches that they do contest against each other at major ICC events often turns out to be highly competitive affairs.
Despite the rivalry on the field, the cricketers from both sides of the border are good friends off the field. It is always nice to see gestures like this one from the Indian cricket team that proves that a sport like cricket has the ability to bring nations together in this age of conflict.