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'I'd been following cricket for 50 years and watched almost 500 matches' - Abdul Jalil
Die-hard fan

'I'd been following cricket for 50 years and watched almost 500 matches' - Abdul Jalil

The craziest die-hard fan of Pakistan cricket who has travelled with the team wherever it goes and cheered at many historic contests, the crowd's favourite, Abdul Jalil who is famously known as Chacha (Uncle) Cricket talked to Cricingif about his journey as a passionate cricket fan and shared some interesting anecdotes. Pakistan's celebrated fan has watched over 500 games and he has no plans to stop. Last year, Abdul Jalil was recognised for his contribution and awarded the 'global sports fans award' for his true love for the game during the ICC World Cup 2019 in England.

Which is the most memorable game that you enjoyed watching the most?

I have been going to the stadiums and rooting for Pakistan cricket team for about 51 years and I have watched almost 500 international matches in various cricket ground around the world. One of the most memorable matches that I watched was in Austral-Asia Cup (1994) and especially the moment when Javed Miandad hit Chetan Sharma for a six on the very last ball of 50th over and handed Pakistan a great victory. Other than that I can never forget World Cup final in 1999 between Pakistan and Australia at Lord's Cricket Ground, the semifinal between Pakistan and India in 2011 at Mohali, Chandigarh and recently in 2017, the champions trophy final between Pakistan and India at Oval, London where Pakistan managed a spectacular victory and there were celebrations in England, Pakistan and everywhere else.

Who are your favourite cricketers from the present and from the past?

In the current team, all players just like the previous ones are my friends and are like my kids, but if I have to take one name, just like every Pakistani, my favourite cricketer is Babar Azam and I hope he will make our country proud and make many many records. From the past, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Brian Lara, Ian Botham Javed Miandad are my favourite players but if I have to name only one big-name then I would go for Wasim Akram who has contributed in many wins for Pakistan and who is accepted as a legendary player all across.

When I was young, I used to keenly follow Majid Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Asif Masood, Wasim Raja, Asif Iqbal and Miandad were top-class players but the best captain in my view and an all-rounder, Imran Khan took Pakistan to great heights after winning the world cup in 1992 in Australia.

How did you become interested in cricket?

I used to play cricket in my youth and I travelled from Sialkot to Lahore to see my first international match in 1969 at Gaddafi Stadium. It was a Test match between Pakistan and England. From thereon, I followed the game with great interest and I like the game a lot.

What was the kind of reaction like from your family when you quit your job and dedicated yourself solely to watching matches at stadiums?

I got popular at Sharjah due to my unique style and catchy slogans and at that time I met with the then PCB chairman late Zulfiqar Bokhari and he invited me to Pakistan and said that PCB will support me fully and he backed me to go all around the world with the team and cheer them up. Thereafter, I accepted the offer and quit my government job in 1998 in Abu Dhabi and ever since I have happily carried the Pakistan flag and feel very proud to represent my country.

My family was really happy when I returned from Abu Dhabi because I left the job that I did for 25 years and they were happy that everybody was appreciating my passion for the country and I was becoming popular.

Is it true that you sold your house to see a match?

I really wanted to visit England in 1999 Cricket World Cup cup but PCB didn't help me and I didn't have any sponsors at that time but England embassy granted me a visa and that really lifted my spirits. I had to sell my house because I couldn't look back but now I live in a rental. I am blessed to have some kind friends and sponsors who help me to continue my mission which is to become a good citizen of Pakistan and spread joy wherever I go and help the poor.

What does the 'Global Sports Fans Award' mean to you?

In 2019 during the ICC World Cup, I was holding the Pakistan flag high in the stands and got the attention of the entire global media. In recognition of my unwavering support for Pakistan team and being the number one cricket fan, I was awarded the 'Global Sports Fans Award' in Manchester. It was an emotional moment for me and I was overjoyed to receive this award, it will always remain a cherished memory.

Do you miss watching Pakistan-India contests? What would you like to say to the governments of both countries regarding resuming cricketing ties?

I have watched many famous Pakistan versus India matches at various venues. I must say I have never seen the kind of atmosphere that I saw in these matches and the kind of energy that fans bring in these matches is unparallel. I urge the governments of both countries to revive cricket and I suggest Imran Khan - Kapil Dev series to be started so we can all enjoy cricket rivalry like we used to before.

Which format of cricket do you enjoy the most and why?

I have played cricket at club level myself and I understand the game pretty well. My favourite format is Test cricket but as a spectator, I enjoy One Day International and Twenty20 cricket more where I try to entertain the crowds.

What are your thoughts on PSL being entirely held in Pakistan?

Like my fellow Pakistanis, I am super excited about entire PSL coming to Pakistan and its huge success. I'm really glad that our stadiums were once again packed and the 'raunak' (excitement) is back in our country.

Would you like to share some stories from your long journey as a loyal cricket fan?

In 2005 at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, it was the sixth One-day of the series and India had won two while Pakistan had won three games. 'Chacha Cricket' alongside dear Pakistanis chanted 'Pakistan Zindabad' and 'Pakistan will win' slogans and it was so much fun. Meanwhile, the then President Pervez Musharraf stood up and waved at me, he respected my passion and supported my love for the country and the sport. It was my dream to wave the Pakistan flag at  Feroz Shah Kotla and I was over the moon to do that. That was a great moment!

I have visited India five times and the fans there love me a lot. They tell me that your energy and passion is awesome. I meet with the members of England's Barmy Army, India's Sudhir Kumar Gautam, Sri Lanka's Gayan Senanayake, Bangladesh's Shoaib Ali tiger and New Zealand's Sonny Shaw. They are all good friends and being a senior, they respect me a lot.

How are you spending your time during coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown and are you missing live cricket?

Firstly, I am very sad that PSL has been postponed due to coronavirus and the season couldn't be finished. Since this is a global health issue, I request the people to follow the government's guidelines. I am also confined to my home and spending time with my family. I watch a lot of television these days and I hope we will be able to overcome this crisis. I also request the well-off to help the poor in this hour of need.

Do you have any concerns or grievances?

I have been following the game for over 51 years now and I have been representing my beloved country all around the world but if I had the full support of government and PCB, I could have done more for the country. I would have liked to participate in special celebrations on independence day. Even though in 1999 at London Green Street, I was the one who organised a rally of thousands of Pakistan and you know before that independence day celebration was limited to wedding halls and community centres only.

What is your message to the Pakistan team?

These players are like my children and dear to me. I would like to suggest that they should focus on fitness, don't just think about yourself but keep Pakistan first whenever you enter the ground and strive to perform at your best.

You had a problem with PCB over lack of financial support in 2018, what exactly happened?

I, 'Chacha Cricket' in 1998, on PCB's invitation, left Abu Dhabi and my job and came back to Pakistan. I saw the 1999 World Cup and went to England out of my own pocket. In 2000, for the first time, PCB sponsored my tour and approved my allowance.

In 2016, PCB management due to some misunderstanding stopped my allowance and upon several requests, they didn't explain to me the reason for discontinuing the support.

However, Chacha Cricket will continue his mission and hopes that the current PCB administration will support me in my worthy mission. Yes, I was a bit disappointed by the whole situation but thanks to a private sponsor, I managed to continue my mission and I will continue supporting Pakistan team!

Do you ever feel insecure due to the presence of other 'chachas' (uncles)?

Back then, only a handful of people in Sharjah used to come dressed up in Pakistan flag and I used to join them and had a lot of fun. I see many fans who try to copy me and wear colourful dresses. I feel good about it because they are representing Pakistan and supporting the country. I am always happy to see them and I have only one message for them: if you are waving Pakistan flag then you must not do something that brings the country into disrepute. Pyar kiya toh darna kya (If you are in love, then there is no need to be scared), Pakistan Zindabad.