Pakistan's Basheer sponsors Indian superfan Sudhir

Pakistan's Basheer sponsors Indian superfan Sudhir

BONDING OVER SPORTS: India cricket fan Sudhir Kumar (left) and Pakistan fan Mohammad Basheer share a laugh. Basheer has sponsored Sudhir's trip to the Asia Cup. AFP

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

The 37-year-old Sudhir, from Muzaffarpur, 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," added the Chicago-based Pakistani.

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 Sudhir twice saw India beat Pakistan in the group stages of the regional six-team showpiece.

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

Sudhir first encountered Basheer during the 2011 World Cup on the sub-continent. 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," said an elated Sudhir.

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

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

"My wife is from Hyderabad in India, so I support India because of my wife and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Pakistan because it is my country of birth," said Basheer, who runs a restaurant in Chicago famous for Biryani.

Dhoni often gives Basheer match tickets.

Sudhir 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, Sudhir was invited to the dressing room to have a picture with the trophy -- his greatest honour.

Sudhir has seen India play in 64 Tests, more than 300 one-day internationals and 72 Twenty20 internationals, but said his most memorable tour was to Pakistan in 2006.

"I can't forget the Pakistan tour for the love and following I received," said Sudhir, who spends hours decorating his head and body with enamel paint and carries the Indian flag to every venue.

"I went through various hassles to get a visa for Pakistan and when I reached Wagah on a bicycle they initially did not allow me to cross the border but somehow I managed."

Basheer too gets a warm reception every time he tours India, the last being in 2016 for the World Twenty20.

"People-to-people love exists, no matter what happens at the top level," said Basheer.

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