Cricket fans, their bodies painted in the colours of the national flags of India and Pakistan, pose for photograph in Ahmedabad on Sunday. AP
Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam and his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli have called it just another game, but that is clearly not the case.
India last hosted Pakistan in a bilateral series in 2013 and the teams now meet only in global tournaments, the last being the 2019 ODI World Cup in England.
“I was involved in the games in 2014 and 2016. If you ask me, as a player, it was always a high-pressure game,” former India player Suresh Raina wrote for the IICC website on Saturday. “In the build-up, everyone is just telling you how big it is. The fans have enjoyed this rivalry over the years and it is cricket at its best.”
The 17,500 tickets for the game were sold out hours after being put on sale and television channels in both countries are running special shows on the match.
“My inbox is flooded with requests for match passes,” Dubai businessman Anis Sajan, who owned a franchise in UAE’s domestic T10 tournament led by England captain Eoin Morgan, said.
“I’d say an India-Pakistan match is bigger than the Ashes. It may have become one-sided of late but emotions run high,” Sajan, vice president of the Dubai-based Danube Group, said, referring to India’s 12-0 record against Pakistan in cricket World Cups.
Official broadcaster Star India, which has lined up an impressive array of sponsors for the tournament, acknowledges the commercial significance of Sunday’s match.
Pakistan cricket team members warm up during a training session in Dubai. AP
“The India-Pakistan clash is one of the biggest matchups in the world of sports,” Sanjog Gupta, head of Sports at Star and Disney India, said in a statement. “The clash at an ICC event attracts core and casual cricket fans as well as viewers who don’t watch any other cricket.”
For the first time in Pakistan, marketplace and retail platform Daraz is live-streaming the World Cup on its digital platform and the response has been overwhelming.
Cricket fans, with their faces painted in the Indian and Pakistani national flag colours, pose for a picture in Ahmedabad. Reuters
“We have seen a massive surge in installs and daily active users on our platform,” its managing director Ehsan Saya says. “We are super excited to bring free streaming to Pakistanis and are confident our team will play their hearts out for our country.”
The timing of the game poses a dilemma for fans like Debasish Sarkar who does not want to miss Sunday’s other showdown between two arch-rivals, Manchester United and Liverpool in football’s English Premier League.
“It’s a tricky choice for someone like me who’s equally mad about cricket and the Premier League,” Sarkar, a manager with a global cyber security software company, said from Kolkata. “I’ll most probably have the India-Pakistan match on television and follow football on my mobile. I can’t afford to miss either.”
Pakistan made a light work of the modest total to break their losing jinx against India after 12 failed attempts in the showpiece events. Prior to this match, India had defeated Pakistan in all 12 World Cup matches .
"It is the most sought after rivalry in cricket and I never miss these games," Himanshu Desai, who has flown in from Harrow in England to watch the game in person, told AFP.
"We give him the freedom to strike," said Pakistan bowling coach and former South African fast bowler Vernon Philander on Monday. "It's an asset to have left-arm fast bowlers. Shaheen is such a wonderful talent."
Martinez will play in a back three with Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni opting for more defensive cover against the Dutch.
"We have a whole people behind us, a continent behind us and the Arab world behind us. That's a lot of energy behind us. We're going to try and do everything we can," Regragui said on the eve of the match against Portugal.
The match finished 1-1 after extra time, with Bruno Petkovic cancelling out Neymar's brilliant solo opener. Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved a penalty attempt by Rodrygo and Marquinhos later hit the post.