‘Cricket over my wife’: Fans ready for India-Pakistan clash

AFP News Agency

24th Oct, 2021. 06:35 pm
PAK vs IND

Cricket fans, with their faces painted in the Indian and Pakistani national flag colours, pose for a picture ahead of the first match between India and Pakistan in T20 World Cup super 12 stage in Dubai, in Ahmedabad, India. — Reuters/File

DUBAI, Oct 24, 2021 (AFP) – Thousands of fans arrived for the Twenty20 World Cup blockbuster between India and Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday with one supporter saying he chose “cricket over the wife” to watch the game.

The arch-rivals clash in one of the biggest games of the tournament with an estimated global television audience of up to one billion people.

“It is the most sought after rivalry in cricket and I never miss these games,” Himanshu Desai, who has flown in from Harrow in England to watch the game in person, told AFP.

“I had planned this trip long ago. My wife asked ‘will it be cricket or me?’ and I chose cricket over her!”

A woman who came from Manchester to watch the match said: “Millions watch it on TV and only a lucky few get a chance to be at the ground. And I am not going to miss it.”

Chants of “Jive Jive Pakistan” (‘Long live Pakistan’) and India ‘Zindabad’ (‘Long live India’) filled the air outside the stadium as fans dressed in national colours posed for selfies.

Matches between the two cricket-crazy nations are few and far between with India cutting bilateral ties with its neighbour in 2007.

“We should play each other more often. It is such a treat to see these two teams on the cricket field,” Mohammad Ashraf, a Pakistan national working in the United Arab Emirates, told AFP.

 

– ‘Peace’ and more cricket –

 

“(India captain) Virat Kohli versus (Pakistan fast bowler) Hasan Ali, what a contest! Politicians should not spoil all this for their own gains. Let them play cricket. I pray for peace between the two nations.”

There have been protests in India with calls to boycott the match in the wake of the recent killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Indian-administered Kashmir.

There was a brief thaw in the rivalry when Pakistan toured India for five limited-over matches in 2012-13 but since then they have only met in multi-nation tournaments.

They last match was played at Manchester during the 50-over World Cup in 2019 and India was also urged to boycott that game.

Tickets for Sunday’s contest — where the stadium crowd will number around 20,000 — were sold out just hours after they went online and many private online channels are offering resale of the entry passes at inflated prices.

Some resale tickets were being advertised for $250 with $6,000 for corporate boxes.

But the International Cricket Council (ICC) said the resold tickets would be invalid.

The excitement is palpable in Dubai but some see this as inappropriate due to tensions between the nations.

“I find this exercise pointless. People are being killed in the border area and we are playing cricket,” Raghuveer Singh, an Indian who is visiting Dubai for Expo 2020, told AFP.

“First stop the bloodshed and then play as much as you want.”

The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir – divided between the two nations – since their independence in 1947.

Kohli’s India come into the contest with an unbeaten 5-0 record in the tournament.

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said “records are meant to be broken” and the fans echo their captain’s sentiments.

“We will win inshallah (God willing). See it’s a new day,” said Hasan Sheikh, a Peshawar-born who drives a taxi in Dubai.

“We have a good team with Babar as the captain and our bowling is great. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali will hurt India.”