x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Cricket-mad: Indian expatriates come out to bat for their teams

This year eight teams will compete in the UAE, India and Bangladesh, with 20 games taking place here.

 Amit Ghosh is a Kolkata Knight Riders fan. Silvia Razgova / The National
Amit Ghosh is a Kolkata Knight Riders fan. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // It is a country of different languages, religions and traditions but it is united by one thing – a love of cricket.

As the UAE gets ready to host the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the biggest cricket tournaments in the world, we spoke to four expatriate fans who came out to bat for their teams.

Ishan Aggarwal, 22, from Delhi, said his hometown is cricket mad.

“When I was on the streets of Delhi, every person kept talking and waiting for IPL games to begin. My nation loves cricket so much,” said Mr Aggarwal, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for nine years and is a director in his family’s cement factory in the capital. “I’ll be watching all Delhi Daredevil matches.”

He also plays the sport at the Zayed Cricket Stadium, where he was taught the game as a boy.

“I am waiting to watch my favourite players – Jean-Paul Duminy from the South African team, Ross Taylor from New Zealand and Mohammed Shami from India.”

Amit Ghosh, 50, from Kolkata, is equally passionate about his team.

“It will be a delight to watch my team, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) playing here in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

“It’s very exciting and we should give more support and credit to the UAE Government for holding it here.”

Mr Ghosh has lived in Abu Dhabi for three years and is corporate chef at the Southern Franchise Company Group, which is responsible for India Palace restaurants.

“I love watching Gautam Gambhir play,” Mr Ghosh said. “He is such a fantastic player and captain of KKR. We are going to miss Sourav (‘Dada’) Ganguly, former captain of India and KKR for three seasons, now retired.”

Dada is a word in Bangla that means elder brother.

KKR have a huge following in the UAE as a large number of Indians and Bangladeshis speak the same Bangla language as Kolkatans, he said.

It is a team of celebrities, co-owned by Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla.

About a billion people across the world are expected to tune into this year’s IPL. Eight teams will compete in the UAE, India and Bangladesh, with 20 games taking place here. The first match starts at 6.30pm on Wednesday night at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in the capital.

Abdul Kadir Nangarath, 34, lives in Dubai but his family are from Mumbai.

“I wanted to watch the first match in Abu Dhabi but all the tickets were sold out. If I manage to get one, I will go,” he said. “I like Rohit Sharma, the captain of Mumbai Indians, Kieron Pollard, a Trinidadian cricketer who plays for the West Indies, and Harbhajan Singh, the Indian spinner,” said Mr Nangarath, who said he will watch most of the games on TV.

Mumbai Indians won their first IPL title last year, beating Chennai Super Kings. “We don’t have Sachin Tendulkar this season but the team are well settled to win this time too,” said Mr Nangarath, who runs an LED energy-bulbs business.

Abdus Salam, operations manager at Al Bader Exchange, comes from Mangalore in Karnataka, a south-west Indian state that has Bangalore as its capital. He supports Royal Challengers Bangalore.

He said that he hoped that they could win this year, as they have a strong team headed by Indian batsmen Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, West Indies batsman Chris Gayle, and bowler Muttiah Muralitharan from Sri Lanka.

“Great games are being held in Abu Dhabi and I’ll try to catch the maximum number of matches,” he said.