DUBAI: Former champions India and Pakistan will face off today (Sunday) in a T20 Cricket World Cup blockbuster in Dubai and the buzz around the game underlines the enduring appeal of the match-up between the sub-continent’s feuding neighbors.
India captain Virat Kohli and Pakistan counterpart Babar Azam have called it just another game, but that is clearly not the case.
The match will start at 7:00pm (PST).
The nuclear-armed neighbours have gone to war three times since gaining independence from British colonial rule in the mid-20th century and remain at loggerheads over Kashmir.
India last hosted Pakistan in a bilateral series in 2013 and the teams now meet only in global tournaments, the last being the 2019 ODI World Cup in England.
“I was involved in the games in 2014 and 2016. If you ask me, as a player, it was always a high-pressure game,” former India player Suresh Raina wrote for the International Cricket Council (ICC) website on Saturday.
“In the build-up, everyone is just telling you how big it is.”
“The fans have enjoyed this rivalry over the years and it is cricket at its best.”
The 17,500 tickets for the game were sold out hours after being put on sale and television channels in both countries are running special shows on the match.
“My inbox is flooded with requests for match passes,” Dubai businessman Anis Sajan, who owned a franchise in United Arab Emirates’ domestic T10 tournament led by England captain Eoin Morgan, told Reuters. “I’d say an India-Pakistan match is bigger than the Ashes.
“It may have become one-sided of late but emotions run high,” Sajan, vice president of the Dubai-based Danube Group, said referring to India’s 12-0 record against Pakistan in cricket World Cups.
Official broadcaster Star India, which has lined up an impressive array of sponsors for the tournament, acknowledges the commercial significance of Sunday’s match.
“The India-Pakistan clash is one of the biggest matchups in the world of sports,” Sanjog Gupta, Head of Sports at Star and Disney India, said in a statement.
“The clash at an ICC event attracts core and casual cricket fans as well as viewers who don’t watch any other cricket.”
For the first time in Pakistan, marketplace and retail platform Daraz is live-streaming the World Cup on its digital platform and the response has been overwhelming.
“We have seen a massive surge in installs and daily active users on our platform,” its managing director, Ehsan Saya, told Reuters.
“We are super excited to bring free streaming to Pakistanis and are confident our team will play their hearts out for our country.”
The timing of the game poses a dilemma for fans like Debasish Sarkar who does not want to miss Sunday’s other showdown between two arch-rivals, Manchester United and Liverpool in soccer’s Premier League.
“It’s a tricky choice for someone like me who’s equally mad about cricket and the Premier League,” Sarkar, a manager with a global cyber security software company, said from Kolkata.
“I’ll most probably have the India-Pakistan match on television and follow football on my mobile. I can’t afford to miss either.”
Babar Azam-led squad look to break World Cup jinx against India
The Pakistani team will look to end their losing streak against India at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup when the two rivals begin their title race in a Sunday blockbuster.
India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups.
However, Pakistan come into the Super 12s contest with 10 wins in a row in the UAE and former Pakistan all-rounder Mudassar Nazar believes the team has struck the right balance to challenge Virat Kohli’s India.
“A week ago I had apprehensions about the team but now they have made certain changes and they look a decent, well-balanced side now,” Nazar had told AFP earlier.
“Pakistan stand a very good chance as they have experienced players who have played a lot against India. India start as favourites and they have all the areas covered but in T20 anybody could beat anybody on their day.”
Azam, who is in top form with two T20 centuries this year, believes his team can break the World Cup jinx.
“Definitely we have played a lot of cricket in the UAE,” Babar had said when asked about his team’s dismal 0-5 record against India in T20 World Cup clashes.
“These conditions suit us and we know how to play here. We need to keep things simple in all the departments.”
The two teams last met in the 2019 ODI World Cup in England as India only plays Pakistan in multi-nation events after cutting off bilateral cricket ties with their neighbours following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shahdab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Haider Ali.