Excited Indian and Pakistani cricket fans based in Bahrain are all set to cheer their respective teams this evening as the two major cricketing nations clash in their opening game of the 2022 Asia Cup at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
With India-Pakistan contests confined to just International Cricket Council (ICC) tournaments like the One-Day International (ODI) and T20I world cups and multi-nation championships like the Asia Cup, this hotly-anticipated match will be the first time the two teams will be playing each other since Pakistan beat India by ten wickets in a group-stage game in the 2021 ICC Men’s T20I World Cup, also in Dubai, last October.
That win was Pakistan’s first victory over India in 13 attempts, across ODI and T20I world cup matches stretching back to 1992 when the two teams first played each other in an ODI world cup game in Australia.
Indian cricket fans are hoping that their team will be able to exact revenge for that defeat while Pakistani supporters are quietly confident that their side will be able to repeat their performance and defeat India for the second time in a row. Both sets of supporters have made plans to watch the high-octane game at various cafes and hotels around the kingdom, with some opting to host get-togethers at home.
Arvind Krishnaswamy, 51, an Indian architect who has lived in Bahrain since 2006, told the GDN that he would be watching the match at a sports lounge in Seef with some friends. But he added that, while he was looking forward to the game, he wasn’t sure if India’s victory was as assured as some of his compatriots tended to think it was.
“We got thumped pretty badly last time so I really want to see what they come up with this time,” he said, candidly. “The team looks a bit under-prepared at the moment, since their primary focus seems to be the T20I World Cup in October. But, it could still be anybody’s game, especially since both sides have injuries to key players.”
Adnan Awan, 45, a Pakistani businessman who was born and raised in Bahrain, agreed with that assessment, saying that while he supported his country’s team, he didn’t think they had a very good chance of winning with injuries side-lining two key bowlers.
“I’ll be watching the match at home with family and friends,” he told the GDN. “I think Pakistan’s chances of winning have suffered a little with Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Wasim not playing because of injuries. But, then, India’s Virat Kohli has been out of form and Jasprit Bumrah is also out injured, so I suppose it kind of balances the equation out.”
For Sanjay Kapoor, 54, an Indian film-maker who has been based in Bahrain since 1992, the match will be more about the pleasure of seeing the two cricketing arch-rivals playing each other again more than just the prospect of seeing his team win.
“It’s always nice to see India and Pakistan playing each other,” he said to the GDN, adding that he would be watching the match at home. “A game between these two old rivals is good for cricket and a good medium to bring the people of both countries together.”
Farhan Malik, a 38-year-old Pakistani banker who has lived in the kingdom since 2011, told the GDN he would be watching the game with some friends and was looking forward to seeing the captains of both teams displaying their batting prowess.
“Babar Azam, the Pakistani captain, is obviously the best batsman to watch,” he added. “But Indian captain Rohit Sharma on song is an absolute beauty to watch. And the T20I format is always exciting: the game gets done in three hours or so with non-stop action all the way.”
Meanwhile, Tejbir Singh, 60, an Indian architect who moved to Bahrain in 1998, will be watching the game at another sports lounge in Seef and is looking forward to the pleasure of seeing KL Rahul, the Indian vice-captain, and young star, Suryakumar Yadav bat.
“I have always been a Kohli fan,” he told the GDN. “But Rahul and Yadav are a treat to watch: they are so easy on the eye and rely on timing, rather than slogging. As for the match itself, I think it’s going to be a pretty tight game.”
Zeeshan Ali, 47, a Pakistani banker who has lived in the kingdom since 2010, said that he would be watching the match at home with his family and added that, while he hoped Pakistan would win, he wished good luck to both sides.
“This is a big game,” he told the GDN. “Because of the T20I format, just one over can change the complexion of the game so one can’t really make a prediction about the winner. That said, I would love to see Pakistan play India more often. And, if we’re lucky, these two teams might end up playing each other twice more in this tournament: once in the Super 4 stage and, if they both make it, in the final too.”
The T20I format, Kapoor agreed, made it difficult to predict how the match would turn out.
“It’s unlike Test cricket, which is like a feature film where every session decides something and the story goes back and forth,” he explained. “How do you predict what’s going to happen in a T20 game? It can turn on its head in no time.”
Singh also felt the same way.
“Anything can happen in a T20I,” he said. “Pakistan have been in good nick recently. But, then, so have India. We just have to wait and see what happens.”
With both teams quite unpredictable, supporters of both teams would be justified in expecting the unexpected, Awan added.
“India have a lot going on and Pakistan can always pull a rabbit out of the hat,” he said. “There’s no telling which way the match will go.”
Weather conditions would also play a major part in determining how the match would turn out, Krishnaswamy said.
“Playing in Dubai in August? The heat will have the players sweating buckets,” he explained. “It’s going to be a real test for them physically.”
Malik, meanwhile, was just looking forward to seeing a good game of cricket.
“I just hope it’s a good match,” he laughed.
And Ali hoped to see Kohli roar back into form.
“While the Babar-Kohli match-up is a tantalising prospect,” he said. “What I want to see most is to see Virat perform. He’s a brilliant batsman, one of the greatest of all time. I hope he comes good in this game.”