The telegenic Jalil Chacha is the most visible face among Pakistani fans who are touring India
Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
ONE OF cricket's most colourful characters is Abdul Jalil `Chacha' from Sialkot, Pakistan. The 57-year-old cricket enthusiast has the reputation of being Pakistan's number one fan and since 2000, has been sponsored by his country's Cricket Board and Super Asia Washing Machine Company.
Jalil first attracted media attention at Sharjah (he was a regular there too) while he was working at Abu Dhabi. He invariably lists Javed Miandad's last ball six off Chetan Sharma as the best match he has witnessed. "Chetan Sharma always rues the fact that I consider that match the best, but undoubtedly Miandad's heroic effort can never be erased from memory."
The saddest match for him is the India-Pakistan encounter during the World Cup in South Africa. "Pakistan capitulated without a fight and I was very depressed after that."
This telegenic cricket enthusiast blew up his savings by 2000 before he managed to get a sponsorship from the Pakistan Cricket Board. Super Asia joined in as co-sponsor and since then Jalil has been able to travel all over the world waving the Pakistan flag at international venues.
Cricket and statistics generally go together. Jalil has achieved a rare distinction of being present at the past three World Cup fixtures. He rooted for Pakistan in 1996, 1999 and 2003. He has watched more than 350 Test and one-day matches since his first ever cricket match.
His favourite players include Majid Khan, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, and among the present crop, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. His favourite Indian cricketers are Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble.
Jalil's unique cheerleading style includes pepping up players with couplets from films or advertising slogans, sometimes from family planning ads. This genial and affable man makes friends with co-spectators easily and entertains them with anecdotes. Jalil has been a former club level cricketer himself. "I used to be an all-rounder. With my towering personality, I could easily pass off as a fast bowler," he grins.
JALIL CHACHA is not alone in the legion of fantastic fanatics. Sri Lanka has its own number one fan in Percy Abheyshekara. Percy has been chief motivator at many of Sri Lanka's matches and has been sought after by cricket correspondents the world over.
`Garvy' was a well-known face at the West Indies matches. He has since retired but for years, Garvy reggaed and danced at venues in the West Indies. Backed by steel bands and chanting supporters, Garvy's heckling and cheering was quite popular for a long time.
England has its own vocal support group with the Barmy Army and West Indies too has a Trini Posse.
In India, a small group called Desi Mators is slowly but surely gaining strength.
Thanks to these crazy cheerleaders, there's enough action off the pitch too.
D. RAVI SHANKAR
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