T20 World Cup 2021: Dubai ready for India-Pakistan blockbuster

India currently has the wood over Pakistan in T20 World Cups, with five successive wins. While Virat Kohli's men might be overcooked with all the game time in the IPL, Pakistan is undercooked after New Zealand and England pulled out of tours last-minute.

All roads will lead to the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday evening when India and Pakistan will face off for the 13th time in a World Cup match.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Once a small port on the edge of a desert, Dubai today has become a global hub of influencer culture. From eye-popping skyscrapers to purpose-built islands, Dubai aspires to be in the vanguard of everything bigger, better and swankier. 

So it is no surprise when Jaleel, a taxi driver who plies between the Dubai International Airport and the Sheikh Zayed Road, says, "India-Pakistan is the biggest rivalry in cricket.

A rivalry like this deserves a venue like Dubai - here, size matters... of buildings and rivalries.."   India and Pakistan will meet in a Super 12 clash in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup to resume arguably the most politically charged and intense sporting contest at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

Jaleel, who was born in Pakistan, moved to Dubai in search of work. His family lives in Peshawar, but his heart beats for both India and Pakistan. However, he barely gets time to pursue the sport he adored growing up.

"Driving a cab day and night takes a toll. I don't follow the sport as closely as I once used to. But whenever India or Pakistan plays, I actively scroll through scorecards to keep a tab." Jaleel's favourite batter is Shahid Afridi, and he idolises former Pakistan pacer, Shoaib Akhtar.

"That six Tendulkar hit against Akhtar in 2003 World Cup - only a great player can hit a great bowler like that," he says with a smile before quickly adding: "I love M.S. Dhoni. I see him talk, walk and get this feeling that he is a no-fuss 'dude' like me." Even before a ball has been bowled, Jalal has planned his celebration.

"I will have dinner with my Indian friends tonight if India wins and party with Pakistan friends if Pakistan wins," he says and bursts out laughing.

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Jalal isn't alone. Khaleel, a salesman at a local supermarket in Al Barsha 1, thinks India vs Pakistan on a cricket field has a feel-good undertone. "It is a match that runs deeper than bat and ball," he says, arranging a box of water bottles on a shelf.

"I am from India. My Abbu (father) was a great admirer of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis... he also had posters of Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath and Sourav Ganguly in our living room. I will not be surprised if tonight's game is the most-watched World Cup match of this year. It's India vs Pakistan, yaar," he declares.

India currently has the wood over Pakistan in T20 World Cups, with five successive wins. While Virat Kohli's men might be overcooked with all the game time in the IPL, Pakistan is undercooked after New Zealand and England pulled out of tours last-minute. Its players featured in a National T20 Cup for game time, but "that is not nearly enough," says Allen, an England fan, whose second favourite team is Pakistan.

"I love the way they play - they are so unpredictable - can make you go 'oh, wow' to 'oh, why' in the space of five balls. That's crazy."

For many, however, all the hype is outdated. "I don't know what the big deal is. It is two good teams playing in a World Cup. Happens across sports. It is being whipped up because games like these also boost the economy."

Say what you like but come six o'clock Sunday evening, when India and Pakistan players emerge from their respective dugouts, as Jaleel says, "all roads will lead to the stadium."

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