DUBAI // More than 40 Indian and Pakistani celebrities, including the Bollywood actor Salman Khan and the fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, are set to play a 20-over match at Dubai Sports City's cricket stadium on May 27. Salman's brother, Sohail Khan, also a Bollywood actor, announced the game at a press conference yesterday.
He said the match was being held to raise awareness for a humanitarian organisation, Being Human, which his family had set up in India. The Dubai Autism Centre is also a charity partner. "Shoaib Akhtar called me up last week and I was telling him about our planned match. He asked me if he could come and play, and I said, 'Sure - as long as you don't run before you bowl'." The Indian team of 16 will include the three Khan brothers, Salman, Sohail and Arbaaz.
Sharman Joshi, whose recent film 3 Idiots was a box office hit, and Sonu Sood, who played a poor taxi driver in the recent Emirati movie City Of Life, have also signed up. "This whole weekend is just to bring awareness. God willing, Salman my brother is doing well, he's popular and he believes that when you do something noble, charity happens." Tickets for the match are being priced from Dh35 to Dh500 (US$136), while entrance to a gala dinner the following night will cost more than Dh1,000.
Javed Sheikh, a Pakistani actor, is heading his home country's side. He will be playing with Akhtar (who is nicknamed the Rawalpindi Express for his performances with the ball for Pakistan), the fashion designer Hassan Shehryar and the singer Fakhre Alam. "I want to show my support to the great Bollywood celebrity [Salman Khan] and his idea," Sheikh said. "I have seen Salman and he does a lot that people do not know about. Inside he is a very heartwarming person, he helps a lot of poor people."
In the tradition of Twenty20-style cricket, there will also be a team of celebrity cheerleaders brought in from the two South Asian nations. Although some of the profit from the events will go to the Dubai Autism Centre, cash donations will not be accepted. Haider Ali Mirza, the managing director at Cynosure, the organiser, also cautioned that it is not purely a charity match. "While we are supporting a local charity, this is still a business," Mr Mirza said. "T20 is gaining popularity and it is always good to get India and Pakistan, the old rivals, together. Salman Khan has a good band of fans here too, so we have everything covered."
Looking ahead, Sohail Khan said he hopes to export this celebrity tournament across the world. "We have come all the way to do something nice and we want to do this in different countries for different people," he said. Khan, who also has produced stage shows in India, was most recently on the big screen for the movie Veer, in which he played the brother of a rebel against British rule. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org