DUBAI // Umar Shah called in to work sick yesterday so he could watch the intense cricket match between India and his native Pakistan.
“When India and Pakistan play it’s pre-decided that I will not work,” said Mr Shah, who took time away from his job in the aviation sector to watch the game with friends at the Ramada Downtown Dubai.
“Nobody wants to miss out even a single ball. Whoever I know is not going to work,” he said.
“Any excuse will do: I am ill, my wife is sick, my child has to be admitted to hospital or I met with an accident.”
Mr Shah may have really been feeling a bit off-colour by the end of the game last night, as his country’s team was beaten by six wickets in the Asia Cup 2012 cricket tournament.
Those from the subcontinent who made it in to the office yesterday were glued to mobile phones, checking scores.
At home, housewives whipped up quick meals so they could tune in to the TV or radio, or log on to websites to catch the action.
Fans also packed into sports bars and clubs to see the teams compete in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a year after their face-off in the World Cup semi-final in Mohali, India, which was won by the host.
“I watched the match on television during my rest time for two hours in the afternoon,” said Aleem Khan, a Pakistani national who works as an assistant at East Asia Trading in Bur Dubai.
“Since I have a 3G connection on my mobile phone, I was able to catch the action even after I resumed work.”
Radha Javeri, an Indian housewife, said it was impossible to remain untouched by the cricket craze.
“I made lunch really quickly because we are only interested in the match, nothing else,” said Mrs Javeri, who watched the game at home with her family.
“We’re passionate about cricket. How can you not be when your country is playing?”
Trade was dull in Dubai’s normally bustling Meena Bazaar yesterday, and shops blamed the slowdown on the game.
“Business is very slow every time India and Pakistan play cricket,” said Salman Ali, a Pakistani trader at Dia Textiles. “Everybody wants to watch them play. People are not interested in shopping.”
Harish Amarnani, the chairman of Viva Fashion, said productivity was also affected at some companies.
“Business goes down at these times,” Mr Amarnani said. “People don’t work.”
But the Indian trader Manish Mulchandani said being a businessman at this time had its advantages.
“Business is business and I make sure that goes on, but I get to watch the game,” Mr Mulchandani said.
Many fans set their BlackBerry Messenger and Facebook status updates to reflect their state of mind during the game.
Mrs Javeri tagged a blue India logo on Facebook with the words, “C’mon India”.
This replaced her status update from last week, which bore the initials of India’s star batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, acknowledging his record of 100 centuries (100 or more runs in a single innings) in international cricket.
The games also have a strong following among children.
Sahil Parin Rathore, 6, said he was a big fan of the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
“I plan to see the entire match,” said the Grade 1 pupil at the Indian High School, who watched the game at his grandparents’ home.
Sahil said he had also watched the weekend match between India and Bangladesh, where his team suffered a humiliating defeat.
More than 500 people gathered to catch the game on big TV screens at a sports lounge in Ramee Hotel near Dubai’s Maktoum Bridge, while more than 1,000 watched the game in the food court at Lamcy Plaza.
“There is a craze about India and Pakistan games,” said Renjith Nair, the public relations manager at Ramee Hotel.
“Everyone has eagerly waited for this game.
“When there are large crowds, people feel they are at home actually cheering for their side.”
The staff wore Indian and Pakistani cricket T-shirts and placed flags of both countries around the sports club.
But one fan said the excitement this year did not compare to the play-off between the teams in March last year. India won that semi-final 260 to 231.
“The hype is a lot less than what it was during the World Cup last year,” said Rajni Ravi, a senior finance manager with a property group, who rarely misses an India match.
“I was following the scores online but I am resigned to the fact that India may not win the tournament.”