Homes and restaurants doubled up as stadiums and meeting grounds for cricket- lovers as fervour remains high for yet another India-Pakistan match. The arch-rivals clashed in a Super 4 stage match for the DP World Asia Cup 2022 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Last week, India won a closely contested match that had fans at the edge of their seat till the last ball.
Families and friends turned out in large numbers at Breakfast and Barbeque (B&B) restaurant in Oud Metha. The predominantly Pakistani crowd had several men, women and children dressed in the official cricket jerseys. Cheers rang out as India lost wickets at regular intervals with fans waving flags and celebrating. The 170-seater restaurant was fully booked out.
“An India-Pakistan match is always like the final, irrespective of whether it is the first match or a match in the middle of the tournament,” said Salman Ali. The Pakistani expat got together with a group of a friends at a restaurant in Dubai to watch the game. “A friend of ours had inaugurating his own workshop. After that we headed to another friend’s restaurant. He has secured a TV screen for us where we watched the match.”
The Dubai resident was excited for the day’s match. “Last week’s match was so close,” he said. “Our team has since beaten Hong Kong by 155 runs so the morale is really high. I know it is going to be a really interesting match.”
At Sindh Punjab restaurant in Bur Dubai, the mood was electric as several people gathered inside and outside the eatery to watch the match. Gulwinder Singh, fondly known as Pappi Singh, of Sindh Punjab has made sure to screen every Asia Cup match since the tournament began in 1983. The restaurant has also hosted top Indian players including Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar. “No matter who wins, I distribute laddoos at the end of the match,” said Pappi Singh. “I am a fan of cricket and for me, which team wins is not what matters. It is important that everyone watches and enjoys the match.”
At the restaurant Dinesh was with his friends to munch on some Indian snacks and enjoy the game along with his friends. The Dubai resident who has lived in the locality for over 3 decades says he would never miss an India- Pakistan match. “We always come here to catch up with each other,” he said. “On days when there is a match between India and Pakistan, we make sure we watch it with each other”
While many headed out to restaurants and sports bars others decided to get together with their friends at home to watch the game as a group.
Mahesh Nihlani was one of those who headed out to a neighbour’s house. “I watched the match with a group of friends of mine at one of their houses,” he said. “We were around 4-6 friends along with their families. I missed last week’s thriller because I was travelling. So, I was really happy that I got another chance to watch with my friends.”
For some residents, the match spelled trouble for their happy home life.
For Canadian of Pakistani origin Ali Muhammad, an India-Pakistan match is always a touchy topic. “My wife is Indian, so we have divided loyalties,” he said. “I live in the downtown area. Close to our house, we have a huge screen that shows the match. I invited a group of about 10 friends, a mix of Indians and Pakistanis, so that whether we win or lose, there would be a lot of friendly teasing and banter.”
Married to Saba Nasser since 2010, Ali said last week’s match was difficult for him. “Even though she has no interest in cricket, during an India-Pak match, she will make sure she is updated,” he chuckled. “Since we got married, there have been very few instances when Pakistan has won.”
“We usually don't watch together given the outcome that one of us has something to lose always,” said Saba. “Today, I joined a few friends in JLT to watch the match.”
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