There arguably isn’t a bigger brand in world cricket at the moment in than India’s Virat Kohli. The ‘chase-master’ has the biggest of records in the cricketing spectrum, especially in the ODI format, and his craze remains unmatched, no matter which part of the globe he goes to. Though Pakistan remain India’s most bitter rivals, even fans across the border are crazy about Virat Kohli. Former Pakistan stars like Rashid Latif, Azhar Ali, etc. went ga-ga over Kohli, narrating the fan following the India talisman has in the neighboring country.

“The day Virat plays in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi or in Multan, only then you guys will understand his craze in Pakistan,” former Pakistan captain Azhar Ali told The Indian Express.

“You won’t believe but the stadium will be filled with green jerseys, magar peeche naam Babar ya Shaheen ka nahi, Virat ka hoga aur No 18 ke saath (but the name on the backs won’t be Babar Azam or Shaheen Shah Afridi, it will Virat Kohli’s along with his jersey No 18),” he added.

Virat Kohli went through a tough period with the bat, from 2019 to 2022. It wasn’t just India that prayed for his form during that phase, but also Pakistan. Ali said that he himself offered prayers for Kohli when he was struggling for runs.

“When he was out of form, I prayed so many times for him. Allah isko aaj run banane do (Please god let him score). I have prayed for Kohli. I don’t know why but I did consistently for three years,” he laughs. “You will find people, who will criticise Virat’s batting but before criticising him at least try and understand what he has done for over 15 years. There was a dip but he bounced back. I have not seen anyone doing that,” says Azhar.

Rashid Latif, a former Pakistan batter, summed up Virat’s fan following in Pakistan, suggesting his popularity in the country is on par with Bollywood legends like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, etc.

“It’s not like that Virat is the first one with such a big fan base in Pakistan,” said Latif. “If you go back, Dilip Kumar had a massive fan following in Pakistan. Sunil Gavaskar became a cult in Pakistan. Young batsmen were told to copy Gavaskar saab’s technique. Then Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘angry young man’ movies used to get sold out. Then came Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, MS Dhoni. When Dhoni came here his long locks became a trend.”

“But Virat’s popularity in Pakistan is on par with Dilipsaab, Mr Bachhan and Shah Rukh. Like in India, you guys loved our bowlers – Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar became household names. Here in Pakistan, we adored Gavaskarsaab, Tendulkar, then Dhoni and now Kohli – they are all icons. Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag too have a good fan following in Pakistan. But all said and done, Virat ko le kar deewanapan next level hai,” he said.

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