India’s best-hated ‘gora’ explores Pakistan’s mad love affair with cricket

The inseparable bond between Pakistan and cricket brings Aussie journalist Dennis Freedman to Pakistan

Maria Shamim
Dennis tries his luck with tape-ball cricket in the streets of Lahore/@DennisCricket_

Dennis Freedman, a cricket journalist born and bred in Australia, is secretly a Pakistani – and a very patriotic one, too. Well, that’s one of the conspiracy theories that at least comes close to explaining his inexplicable love for Pakistan and the nation’s eternal love for cricket.

Although his claim to fame are his cricket blogs and ‘Can't Bowl Can't Throw’ cricket show, Dennis Freedman – ‘Freedmanistan’ as he’s calling himself these days – is far more famous for trolling Indian fans on Twitter.

Dennis’ fascination with Pakistan cricket is no secret. Awed by the insane cricketing talent this nation has produced ever since it came into being, he finally decided to set out on a trip of a lifetime, to the land of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Zaheer Abbas and Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, Misbah and Younis, to find out what makes Pakistan such a dominant force in cricket, to get down to the bottom of this country’s mysterious and mad love affair with cricket.

He’s dubbed his two-week long trip ‘Dennis Does Pakistan’, during which he will document the country’s relationship with cricket, the ups and the downs, the proud days and the dark ones, but most importantly: the nation’s resilience; its unwavering love for cricket despite the hardships the country has endured over the years.

His documentary is being produced by cricket website Cricingif, where it will be available to watch once it’s complete. caught up with Dennis to hear all about his adventures in Pakistan and how his project is coming along.

Hi Dennis! How are you liking Pakistan? You’ve always wanted to come here, haven’t you?

I’m loving Pakistan. The people have been amazing and the life of the cities is something I’m really embracing. I guess I’m a bit of an adventurer by heart, so Pakistan was always on the bucket list.

What drew you to Pakistan cricket in the first place? Did you grow up watching Wasim and Waqar’s toe-crushing yorkers whose memory never left you?

Being an Australian, all we knew of Pakistan growing up was Imran, Waqar and the like. Abdul Qadir’s mystery spin and Boom Boom’s total dominating nature. But we knew nothing of the people, the backgrounds or the history. It was a bit of a mystery.

We’d love to know more about your trip. What’s your inspiration behind flying in here all the way from Australia? What do you hope to accomplish out of this project?

Sure. I wanted to explore two avenues. Firstly, why is it that Pakistan and cricket are so inseparable? What makes you guys so resilient given issues you have been facing since 2009? 

Secondly, I wanted to bust some of the myths and perceptions that we have of Pakistan in Australia; these being things like you are radicals, you are suicide bombers, you are corrupt, the place is unsafe and it is dirty and 3rd world.

A great aspect of your project is Pakistan’s street cricket, away from the cameras and the world stage, but just as important in binding the social fabric of this society, not to mention it’s also been the hotbed for some of Pakistan’s biggest cricketing talent. Tell us a bit more about your experiences with the ‘tape-ball’ street cricket here. How is it similar/different from Australia’s ‘backyard cricket’?

It is similar in that it brings kids together and it is played with its own unique rules for every pitch. However, it is very different to [Australia’s] backyard [cricket] in that mostly, our pitches aren’t full length, therefore we have pace restrictions. 

We also rarely tape the ball or bet on matches. Backyard cricket also isn’t an avenue for players to rise up the ranks like tape ball is here in Pakistan.

Dennis poses with some 'tape-ball' experts in the streets of Karachi 

Did you get to meet some former and current cricketers? Did you visit some of our cricket grounds and academies here? How do they compare with the cricket infrastructure in Australia?

I’ve met everyone from Misbah, to Zaheer, to Aqib Javed to Adnan Akmal, to Sikander Bakht to Abdul Razzaq and more. Everyone has been overly welcoming and hospitable with their time.

Dennis interviewing former captain Misbah for his documentary/@DennisCricket_

I’ve visited UBL ground, Gaddafi Stadium and the NCA. The facilities are excellent. Gaddafi is no lesser ground than say, the WACA. It’s probably better. The NCA is world class.

You mentioned before arriving in Pakistan that you would embrace it all: our people, culture, language, food, customs, clothing, everything. How’s your cultural experience been? What do you love the most about being here?

I’ve tried everything that has been thrown at me. Motorbike rides, I’ve driven a car, I’ve crossed a street all by myself without getting killed,  I’ve bought some traditional clothes...

I’ve eaten everything, I’ve played tape ball.. the list goes on.

My favourite thing is probably being able to sit in the street at night and watch the world pass by while eating BBQ chicken and rice with a fresh lime.

What stereotypes about Pakistan were broken into a million tiny pieces now that you’re finally here? Tried anything bizarre that you’d be proud to brag to your mates about when you go back to Oz?

Ha! Every negative stereotype Australians have about Pakistan is wrong. Well, except for the bit about you guys always being late! But it’s safe, clean, the food is amazing and everyone wants to help.

What will I brag about? Probably that I rode in the tray of a police van from Bahawalpur to Multan. For fun!

Any misadventures so far? Apart from that one instance where the airline didn’t let you carry your bat from one city to another.

There was the bat issue. My visa took 14 weeks to arrive and then was quite narrow in where it has let me go. So lots of NOC applications. This part has been an issue and not very user friendly.

But no, the crew and sponsors have kept me out of most issues. I haven’t been robbed or arrested or had an upset belly....yet.

Heard you had to wait a bit to get your first taste of Biryani. How did you find it?

It’s just rice and chicken. Overrated. Will I get in trouble for saying that?

It’s very entertaining (and often enlightening) to follow your cricket blogs. Have you finally cracked that great mystery of all times: Fawad Alam?

Yeah. I’ve been told firsthand now that too many ex players don’t think he has the temperament for Test cricket. If only Inzi would tell him that. Or, even better, just pick him and let him prove them wrong. Pakistanis, like Aussies, are at their best when their backs are against the wall.

What was your reaction when Pakistan won the Champions Trophy? Did you celebrate by wearing a ‘Kohli Who?’ shirt?

Hahaha. No I did not. But I may have indulged in a few beers or two. What an amazing win for a team that qualified 8th!

Dennis' 'Sachin Who' shirt is a particular bone of contention between him and Indian fans. 

Thanks for your time, Dennis. We wish you all the best for your documentary and cannot wait for it to be out! Happy travels.  

The writer is a producer at and tweets @Mariaa_54