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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Cricket crazy: Fans all set for 'dream' Asia Cup showdown

India and Bangladesh will be going for glory in the showpiece tournament final in Dubai

Siddhi Pagarani and brothers Darshan and Shantanu can't wait to see their Indian heroes take part in the Asia Cup final. Satish Kumar for the National
Siddhi Pagarani and brothers Darshan and Shantanu can't wait to see their Indian heroes take part in the Asia Cup final. Satish Kumar for the National

Bangladesh cricket fans say their dream has come true as their national team prepares to take on India in the Asia Cup final in Dubai.

Defending champions India will be hot favourites to clinch the title for a seventh time as Bangladesh strive for their first major international trophy after stunning Pakistan to make the final.

Bangladesh will be outnumbered in the stands and many expect them to be outmatched on the pitch, but fans remain hopeful they can pull off a surprise win.

And for the Indian supporters, Friday’s event offers them a rare chance to be there to see their team lift a trophy.

The game will captivate much of the Emirates, with an estimated 3.5 million Indians and 500,000 Bangladeshis calling the UAE home.

Indian fan Siddhi Pagarani said she was excited and wanted to see how her heroes responded to pressure in the big event.

“Watching an international match live in the stadium is a dream come true,” said Siddhi, 16, an all-rounder who has been training with the UAE women’s cricket team since 2014.

On the bench this season with a knee injury, she will take mental notes on how Indian cricketers step up.

Siddhi was in the crowd for India’s two thumping victories over arch-rivals Pakistan during the tournament along with her brothers Darshan, 13, and Shantanu, 11.

“The matches were great experiences because this is the best rivalry I can think of,” she said. “It was a whole different atmosphere.

“Indians and Pakistanis in the crowd were having fun, even if their side was not winning. It’s as if the whole stadium were friends for a long time. There was no tension or rivalry.”

Siddhi’s cricket-loving family watched Indian Premier League Twenty20 games in the UAE and one-day internationals against Australia back home.

A leg spinner who bats at No 4 and the only girl on her school team, she believes the Indian side’s resilience will come to the fore in the final.

“It will be the confidence of every player that matters because everyone will have to pitch in,” Siddhi said. “Their body language will also matter. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have to score and Bhuvneshwar [Kumar] has to get wickets too.”

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Read more:

Bangladesh 'haven't played our best cricket yet', Mushfiqur Rahim warns India ahead of Asia Cup final

Asia Cup 2018 final: how India and Bangladesh reached the championship game

Cricket fans counting hours, days, weeks and months until India vs Pakistan in UAE

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Darshan plans to take an air horn and an India flag to Friday’s game. He plays for his school team as a leg-spinner and middle-order batsman who learns a lot from watching the national team in action.

“When we play in school we don’t feel the game as intensely, we are not always fully in the match,” he said.

“But on the field, you could see how everyone is alert. They support each other and give high-fives.”

Shantanu is also on the school team. He lost his voice cheering in earlier matches and will not be surprised if it happens again in the finals.

“I couldn’t speak the whole night,” he said. “It was such a different experience. I just wanted the ball to come to me when it got hit into the crowd. To me the most important thing is India winning.”

Bangladeshi UAE resident Abdul Kalam, 46, will be checking his team’s progress during breaks from work at Dubai International Airport.

He believes Bangladesh, or the Tigers, can beat the odds.

“The team has a lot of determination,” said Abdul, who has lived in the UAE for eight years. “If they concentrate and work hard, they have a good chance of winning.”

Most men in his Deira workers’ accommodation watch the game in their rooms, glued to their mobiles phones.

“We don’t have a television in the room because all of us are on different day or night shifts and need to sleep,” Abdul said. “But we have Wi-Fi so we put on headphones and watch the game.”

Student Usama Zafar, 21, will be there despite Pakistan losing by 37 runs on Wednesday.

“Cricket is my first love. I watch games regardless of the team. I’m a diehard fan of cricket and not just of my team,” Usama said.

As testimony to the camaraderie of the Asia Cup matches, he will go to the game at Dubai International Cricket Stadium with his Indian friends.

I will not miss the match because the atmosphere in the stadium is electrifying.”