Matches between the cricket-crazy nations are few and far between
Fans of India and Pakistan called for “peace” and more cricket between the two Asian giants ahead of the blockbuster clash at the Twenty20 World Cup on Sunday.
The arch rivals will lock horns in Dubai in one of the biggest games of the tournament with an expected television audience of up to one billion people.
But matches between the two cricket-crazy nations are few and far between with India cutting bilateral ties with its neighbours since 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.
“Virat Kohli versus 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 recent killings of 11 migrant workers and minority Hindus and Sikhs in Indian-administered Kashmir.
There was a brief thaw in rivalry when Pakistan toured India for five limited-over matches in 2012-13 but since then have only met in multi-nation tournaments.
They last played at Manchester during the 50-over World Cup in 2019 and India was also urged to boycott that game.
“I brought a ticket for the game as soon as it went online. I mean you look forward to these contests, especially when you are far away from home,” Pankhuri Raj Mehta, an Indian who works in Abu Dhabi since 2017, told AFP.
“I know there has always been trouble with Pakistan. But that’s for the politicians to sort out. I will enjoy the game with my husband.”
Tickets for the contest were sold out just hours after they went online and many private online channels are offering resale of the entry passes at ridiculous prices.
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.
Virat 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.”