When Pakistan and India clash – weather permitting – in their Super Four game of the Asia Cup in Colombo today, passionate cricket fans from both countries will be cheering their respective teams on in Bahrain.
This is the second time the two teams will play each other inside ten days in the same tournament. The first match was abandoned due to rain after only one innings and the weather promises to play spoilsport again with forecasters predicting a 90 per cent chance of rain.
But the depressing forecast has not dampened the spirits of Indian and Pakistani fans in the kingdom who have made elaborate plans to watch the eagerly-awaited contest.
Roanna Miranda, an external auditor who moved to Bahrain eight years ago from her native Goa, plans to watch the high-voltage game at home with her family and believes India will win.
“Of course, India will win!” Miranda, a cricketer herself who has trained with some of the members of the current Bahrain women’s team, told the GDN.
“We are the best! But Pakistan are also very good so it’s going to be a fascinating contest. The thing with these India-Pakistan matches is that the game can go in any direction at any time.
“But, if two of the top three in India’s batting line-up manage to fire, the match will be India’s to win. I just hope the rain stays away – my father-in-law, who’s just as passionate a cricket fan, has constantly been checking the weather forecast.”
However, Anzar Faseeh, 41, a banker from Karachi who has been based in the kingdom since 2010, thinks Pakistan have a better chance of winning.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Pakistan will win,” Faseeh, a regular on Bahrain’s club cricket circuit for the past decade, told the GDN.
“This is the best side we’ve had for the past three decades. Also, there’s going to be more pressure on the Indian players than on the Pakistanis.
“And the bowling, for both sides, will be a crucial factor because of the weather conditions. And I will watch the second innings at a friend’s place in the evening because I have to be at work during the day.”
Nisha Kotwani, a chartered accountant from Mumbai who has lived in Bahrain since 2002, is more concerned about the weather than she is about the result.
“We saw last week’s match between the two teams rained out and the forecast is not good for this one too,” she told the GDN.
“But I believe India’s best performance is yet to come in this tournament and it could be in this game. The top-order is eager to make their point and deliver the first blow.
“Also, this will be akin to a semi-final between the two teams because they’re likely to lock horns again in the final next week.”
Tariq Zafar, 62, who was born in Bahrain to Pakistani parents and has lived here all his life, was more circumspect.
“As a cricketer myself, I know that it all depends on how a certain team plays on the day of the match that defines the result,” Zafar, who still turns out for his club side, told the GDN.
“Pakistan, however, have an edge because of their bowling attack so I would rate their chances to be 70 per cent.”
Niraj Mukhia, a 36-year-old graphic designer from Mumbai who works for Gulf Air, thinks, however, that India have an advantage because of a settled, strong side.
“India are a very strong team so I would suggest that they are likely favourites,” Mukhia, who also plays regularly at club level and intends to watch the match with his wife and some friends, told the GDN.
“But Pakistan are also a very good side. I think (Indian fast bowler) Mohammed Siraj will play a key role for us and Pakistan, of course, have Babar Azam.”
Pakistani Irfan Farooqui, 40, who hails from Karachi and has been based in the kingdom since 2011, felt that Pakistan’s inspired bowling performance in last week’s game had boosted their morale and would have a slight edge because of that fact.
“That will be a factor and, also, Pakistan have solved a persistent problem with their middle-order and now have good players so that will also give them an advantage,” Farooqui, a keen club cricketer himself who played for the Saudi Arabian national team for eight years before moving to Bahrain, told the GDN.
“But India are an excellent side. Overall, I think it’ll be a keen contest between the batting line-up of one team (that’s India!) and the bowling attack of the other.”
Ratinder Nath, 74, a businessman from Hyderabad (India) who has lived in Bahrain since 1996 after spending 20 years in Saudi Arabia, agreed with Farooqui.
“I think Pakistan will win,” Nath, who will watch the game with his family, told the GDN.
“They have a wonderful bowling attack, led by the absolutely superb Shaheen Shah Afridi. And they have a very good batting line-up as well. I was a bit disappointed with the Indian batting in the game last week but, hopefully, they can do a better job this time – if the rain stays away, that is.”
And Nadia Aamir, a homemaker from Karachi who moved to Bahrain with her banker husband in 2003 with whom she’ll watch the match, has absolutely no doubts about who will emerge victorious in today’s game.
“Pakistan, of course!” she exclaimed to the GDN.
“I just feel Pakistan are the better team, they are first in the ICC ODI rankings and that’s why they have a better chance of winning.
“India are a very good team too, a fantastic side, so I suppose it’ll all boil down to which team has better energy on the field and can handle the pressure better.
“Also, what I like about Pakistan-India cricket matches is that they have a completely different vibe compared to any other sporting contest. That’s why we all get so involved in them. But I just hope the rain stays away and doesn’t play spoilsport.”