It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon but there was more than quite a buzz on the periphery of the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. It may have been a mind-boggling 42°C, but that didn’t deter cricket fans from India and Pakistan from being a part of this blockbuster encounter.
Perhaps, mindful of the traffic later on as well the security protocols they would undergo, fans from both the nations came well early, as early as about 2 pm to gain an early entry into the ‘Ring of Fire.’
Make no mistake, this is cricket’s version of football’s ‘El Clasico’ and perhaps a much bigger than the revered Ashes contest between England and old foes Australia.
An India-Pakistan encounter is one that stops both the countries and here it is, in our very own backyard.
As the fans lined up obediently to enter the stadium, they waved flags and cheered for their respective countries. But it was all done in a cordial manner with Indian and Pakistan fans mingling freely with each other. That has been the standout, especially in a cultural melting pot that is Dubai, known for its diversity.
Indians and Pakistanis co-exist with each other and also with people from over 200 different nationalities.
And the beauty about this India-Pakistan contest is that fans not just idolise their own stars but also consider cricketers from across the border, as their heroes.
One such fan waiting to get into the stadium was Kamran. Kamran, who hails from Pakistan, is a huge, huge fan of star Indian batsman Virat Kohli.
And a couple of days ago, his dream came true after he got a Pakistan t-shirt autographed by the man himself. Kamran watched India’s training at the ICC Academy and waited to get an autograph from Kohli. And the former Indian captain obliged.
Kamran will tick another box when he gets to see Kohli in action for the first time.
“I’m from Pakistan and I’m so excited about the game and I’m so eager to watch Virat Kohli live for the first time,” said Kamran, who calls himself Kohli’s biggest fan from Pakistan.
And the timing couldn't be any more perfect for Kamran as Kohli will be playing a landmark 100th T20 International, becoming the second player after New Zealand’s Ross Taylor to play 100 international games across all three formats.
About the autograph, Kamran said: “That was a dream come true for me. I had a Pakistan t-shirt signed by Virat Kohli. I’m one of his biggest fans from Pakistan.”
Kamran hoped for a Pakistan victory on the night but added that may the best team win.
“Being a Pakistani, I want Pakistan to win but whichever team plays well on the day, will win the match,” Kamran said.
As far as head-to-head goes, India hold a 8-5 lead over Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Indian skipper Rohit Sharma is on the cusp of a record as captain. The 35-year-old could equal Kohli with most wins as India captain in T20I cricket.
If India win tonight, Rohit will take his tally of T20I wins to 30 as captain, moving him alongside Kohli, who also has 30 victories. Rohit has led India in 35 T20Is, while Kohli had led India in 50 games. Former skipper MS Dhoni tops the list with 41 victories from 72 matches.
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