Cricket Extravaganza

By Muhammad Ali Bandial

Published: Sun 14 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

The excitement quotient will be off the charts as international cricket arrives in the UAE with the upcoming Asia Cup



Life is expected to come to a standstill among the cricket-crazy community as Asia Cup 2022 will commence on 27 August in UAE with the final set to be played on September 11. The eagerly anticipated 15th edition of the tournament, featuring teams representing the top cricketing nations from Asia will start with hosts Sri Lanka taking on Afghanistan in the tournament opener. But the match that everyone will be waiting for will take place a day later as India and Pakistan will renew their iconic rivalry on 28 August in Dubai.

The main tournament will feature six teams divided into two groups. India, Pakistan and the qualifier are in Group A while Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan form Group B. Each team plays within the group once, with the top two teams qualifying for the Super 4 round where the teams play against each other in league format again before the final where the top two would feature.

Keeping in mind the strong competition and the big stage, Pakistan have announced a strong squad for the T20I Asia Cup that commences later this month. Batting maestro Babar Azam will once again lead Pakistan after being named captain as he carries on his hot form while leading his country to further glory.

The only notable omission has been that of Hasan Ali who has been replaced by fellow quick Naseem Shah. Star left arm quick Shaheen Afridi is named in both squads and is in line to make his return to cricket after missing the recent second Test against Sri Lanka last month.

There are few encounters in sport as riveting as the ongoing rivalry between Pakistan and India in cricket. It is a spectacle that is guaranteed to bring fans from both countries in droves to grounds, eager to cheer on their respective teams and to be able to claim bragging rights in a fiercely contested sporting tradition that hints at the shared bonds both countries share.

Cricket aficionados in the country are eagerly looking forward to the India-Pakistan match, which promises to live up to its billing as the blockbuster affair it has been over the years. The schedule has been announced with the tournament pencilled in from August 27 to September 11, but the mega event of the tournament is surely the India and Pakistan encounter, which will take place in Dubai on August 28. As the T20 World Cup is also scheduled to be played this year, this edition will be played in the abridged format. The UAE, which boasts of world class facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, has played host to top tournaments in the past, more recently, the ICC T20 World Cup last year. The two rivals had clashed in a group en¬counter with Pakistan prevailing by 10 wickets. That was a landmark match with it being the 200th international fixture between the two countries. For Pakistan fans, it was a momentous occasion as it was the first time in 13 attempts that it had beaten India in either a 50-over World Cup or T20 World Cup match.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that India and Pakistan have faced each other in the UAE. India has won the tournament three times when it was hosted by the UAE. Back in the inaugural edition in 1984, India had won the tournament in Sharjah with Sri Lanka finishing as runners-up. Then, in 1995, India beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets. More recently, in 2018, India had defeated Bangladesh at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium to lift a record seventh title. India and Pakistan had played each other twice over the course of the 2018 tournament — in the group stage and the Super Four — with India emerging triumphant by eight wickets and nine wickets respectively.

While they are fierce rivals on the ground, off the field there is genuine and mutual admiration and warmth between players from both sides. A recent example of this was when Pakistan team captain came out in support of Virat Kohli, praising him and his exploits in a tweet. “He is one of the best player and he knows how to come out this. It takes time but we should back him,” he said. The feelings were reciprocated as Kohli too had nice words to say for Azam and wished him well on his cricketing journey.

— ali@khaleejtimes.com


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