Mohali: Mohammad Bashir, the Pakistan cheerleader from Chicago, who adores Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is here. Having met him during the ICC World Cup 2015 in Melbourne, he quickly recognised me at my hotel’s breakfast table. Like a typical hospitable Pakistani, he invited me to his room for a cup of tea.
Bashir, who was born in Karachi, is known as Chacha Chicago since he migrated from Pakistan to America.
He owns a restaurant in Chicago called Ghareeb Nawaz Restaurant that serves Hyderabadi Biryani.
Though he is in Mohali following the Pakistan team, he tries not to miss a Dhoni match.
“I want Dhoni to lift the World Cup. He is my hero.” Then he spoke his famous line: “I love Dhoni, Dhoni loves me!”
And it is a fact that Dhoni is friendly to Bashir. Whenever Dhoni comes to practice, if he spots Bashir among the fans cheering for him, he always makes it a point to wave. For this World Cup, Dhoni has ensured Bashir gets a ticket for every match. “I flew to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup. There Dhoni gifted me a bat before the final. When I told him that I would be coming for the Twenty20 World Cup, he called his manager and told him to make sure I had tickets for every venue.”
Just because he is a Dhoni fan does not mean that he is not a fan of his country of birth. “I drape myself in an outfit that has flags of both India and Pakistan. I was born in Karachi but left for Chicago on 7-7-77. Since I have a US passport I can fly to India anytime. My wife is from Hyderabad, and we visit my brother-in-law here,” said Bashir, who has included his latest hero Virat Kohli as well on his outfit.
So whom did he support in Kolkata during the India-Pakistan match? “I had flags of both countries. Whoever did well, I waved for them.”
The Kolkata match was memorable for Bashir in many other ways. “I was allowed to meet Amitabh Bachchan, and he shook hands with me; so did Sachin Tendulkar,” said a elated Bashir while showing me pictures of the legends shaking hands with him.
But Bashir is upset that Pakistan are playing badly. “Pakistan needs a captain like Dhoni who can carry the team together and lead from the front. There is too much of groupism in the Pakistan team. Whoever says there is no groupism is lying. It’s a battle for the next captaincy,” noted Bashir, who is in his sixties.
“I’ve had three heart attacks, and I am a diabetic too,” he said, and then showed me his box full of medicine.
“For me cricket is the best medicine. Had I stayed at home I would have fallen sick. Everything comes under control when I watch a match, especially when Dhoni is playing.”
Bashir believes there is lot of talent in Pakistan.
“We’ve had some great talented cricketers like Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas. Afghanistan too has spotted talent from among the not-so-wealthy, and soon they will be the strongest team in Asia after India,” he predicted.
This cricket-crazy fan recently visited the Karachi stadium and was pained to see it empty. “Pakistan Super League (PSL) must be held in Pakistan whether foreign cricketers come or not. It’s the tournament of the people and should be played in front of them,” he stressed.