New Delhi: When Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid defended the Centre's decision to grant visa to former Pakistan cricket captain Javed Miandad to watch the ODI series against India in January this year, little did anyone realize there was a passionate cricket fan working behind one of India's most affable and senior politicians.
The government had drawn flak for granting visa to Miandad to watch the ODI series as he had family ties with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who is wanted in India in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case. Miandad's son Junaid is married to Dawood's daughter Mahrukh.
Khurshid had then said: "Miandad is one of the greatest cricketers and visa was granted to him as per the norms." Wednesday evening at Jamia Millia Islamia saw Khurshid, the cricket lover.
Having grown up at Jamia, in south Delhi, the senior minister "had a party" being the guest of honour at the Toyota University Cricket Championship between Jamia and Madras University. It was like "home-coming" for the minister whose early schools days had memories built around the Jamia area. His father still lives here.
Khurshid played serious cricket and was a fairly accomplished off-spinner. The minister never misses the annual contest between the Minister of External Affairs and the FICCI. On Wednesday night, he was happy to share the TV commentary box with former Indian paceman Atul Wassan.
"It's a great feeling watching all these boys play in coloured clothes. We always played in whites. Cricket has come a long way and Jamia has changed so much. University cricket on live TV is amazing," Khurshid said.
Jamia was packed to the rafters on Wednesday night. Fans had lined up since 6 PM for the 7.30 start. There were more waiting to get in after the match started. "This is unbelievable. I knew there would be a crowd, but not this," Khurshid said.
At a time when a Test match between India and England fails to draw the fans at Ferozshah Kotla, the turnout at Jamia was astonishing, felt the minister. "Speaks volumes for where the real cricket is. That is what this championship (TUCC) will do. It's all in the Universities," Khurshid said.
Saying the TUCC will throw up many a talent. "Not only bonding and involvement, this tournament will see many students making it into big-time cricket," Khurshid said.
So does star cricketers need to attend colleges? Mahendra Singh Dhoni and India's under-19 skipper Unmukt Chand will be happy to hear what Khurshid said: "Great people don't need books. They are a library by themselves!"