Britain Cricket - Pakistan v India - 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final - The Oval - June 18, 2017 India and Pakistan fans before the match  Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

5 feel-good moments between Pakistani and Indian cricketers from the Champions Trophy final

India, Pakistan have recently been embroiled in bitter disputes: can cricket heal the wounds of politics?
Published June 22, 2017

On Sunday, as Pakistan and India — arguably the biggest rivals in the cricketing world — went head-to-head for the coveted Champions Trophy, most cricket-crazy fans on both sides of the border expected sparks to fly.

The acrid hostility between the two countries is no secret, and with the war of words between the two countries intensifying with each new diplomatic spat, many expected the negativity to spill over into the cricketing field.

Instead, what the whole world saw was both Pakistani and Indian cricketers engaging with each other on a personal level in what appeared to be a most dignified and sportsmanlike manner.

Here are five moments before, during and after the Champions Trophy final that should serve as as a reminder for citizens of both countries that, despite our political differences, we should probably start drawing a line between banter and outright disrespect when we engage over our favourite sport.

Dhoni's picture with Sarfraz's son becomes a viral sensation

Hours before the final, as media and fans ratcheted up pressure on their teams on both sides of the Pak-India border, 'Captain Cool' Mahindra Singh Dhoni warmed the hearts of cricketing fans when a photo showing him holding Pakistan Captain Sarfraz Ahmed's son in his arms went wildly viral on social media.

The picture prompted many emotional Pakistani cricket fans to forget the upcoming clash and heap praise on Dhoni for being their 'favourite' cricketer from the Indian side.

Shikhar Dhawan and Mohammad Hafeez's 'moment' before the match

Right before the game, as the players descended the pavilion to assemble for their respective national anthems, Pakistani all-rounder Muhammad Hafeez and Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan could briefly be seen sharing a friendly moment as they made way to the ground.

Going by their body language — Dhawan's arm was briefly around Hafeez's shoulder — one would assume they were old friends instead of fierce rivals.

Virat Kohli's remarkable post-match speech

Instead of avoiding giving credit to the winning side, Indian skipper Virat Kohli — during both the awards ceremony and his post-match press conference — was unequivocally appreciative about the quality cricket Pakistan played to earn the title of 'champions'.

During the post-match press conference, Kohli gave credit to the Pakistani bowling attack who forced his strong batting line-up to make mistakes.

"Credit to the opposition for forcing us to make mistakes because of the way they bowled and applied pressure on the field," he said, "We have no hesitation or shame to admit that we could not play our best game today."

His praise took a fair number of fans by surprise — India are giants in the game, and to see their captain hold the Pakistani side in such high regard meant much for the celebrating Pakistani fans.

It was also a departure from usual post-match press conferences, where losing captains are generally reticent in conceding the other side's strengths.

Players of both sides mingle after Pakistan claims title

The Indian captain and Yuvraj Singh were seen sharing a joke with former Pakistani skipper Shoaib Malik and Pakistan's bowling coach, Azhar Mahmood, moments after Pakistan took the title from the Indian team.

The four could be seen laughing as Malik apparently cracked a joke about catching the ball.

The ICC shared the video clip on Twitter with the hashtag "#SpiritOfCricket.

We cannot disagree.

Indian players take time out for batsman Azhar Ali's sons

Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni also kept rivalry to the side when they took time out for the children of Pakistan's opening batsman, Azhar Ali.

The children's happiness at the Indian stars taking pictures with them was widely seen as a testament to how the love for cricket unites people divided by borders.

While both cricket boards continue to spar over a much-delayed bilateral cricket series between the two countries, these friendly exchanges at a highly personal level between their players show that the India-Pakistan cricketing rivalry seems to be maturing over time.

Sadly, news of supporters of rival sides being arrested and charged with criminal offenses continue to make headlines on both sides of the border, and open displays of affection for the opposing side are still considered unforgivable.

One hopes that both PCB and BCCI will put politics aside and continue striving to give Indian and Pakistani fans more opportunities to come together and enjoy, like the heroes they adore, the spirit of the Gentleman's Game.