x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Rain? Who cares, it's game on

Supporters of India and Pakistan's national teams come to enjoy each other's company.

Indian and Pakistani cricket fans at the Time Cafe in Ramee Royal hotel in Dubai.
Indian and Pakistani cricket fans at the Time Cafe in Ramee Royal hotel in Dubai.

DUBAI// When India and Pakistan play a cricket match, Ravi Prasad and his friend Khurram Bhatti switch team loyalties.

At the Time Cafe at the Ramee Royal Hotel yesterday, where more than 300 Indians and Pakistanis had gathered to support their home teams in the ICC Champions Trophy, Mr Prasad, from India, was pegging his hopes on the rivals.

"Whenever I come with Khurram to watch the match, I support Pakistan," he said, despite wearing the blue T-shirt of the Indian team.

"When in India, it always seems like a cricket war. Here you can actually watch it together as a game."

The 10th One Day International (ODI) being played at the Edgbaston stadium in Birmingham, England, began at 1.30pm UAE time, but was delayed for more than two hours because of rain.

The interruption did not stop thousands of aficionados in the UAE from picking up streamers, waving flags and wearing their team's colours to cafes and street restaurants that were showing the match on large screens.

Tables at many cafes had been booked weeks in advance for the big match between the rivals.

Mr Bhatti, who has been in the UAE for eight years, said he never misses a chance to watch a showdown between India and Pakistan.

"I don't like Ravi too much, but we always get together for these matches," he joked.

"The rain has dampened Pakistan's chances, especially with fewer overs," said Mr Bhatti, referring to the fact that the delay meant only 40 overs would be bowled.

For Dominic Vijay Mathias, the manager of the cafe, big groups of screaming, hooting and sometimes brawling supporters during high-stakes India and Pakistan matches are common.

"We had about 700 people come in at noon, even before it began," said Mr Mathias. The match resumed at 6pm.

"We had some people leave when it stopped, but I have a lot of reservations for this evening."

The bar has 40 60-inch screens and two 107-inch LED screens on every corner for supporters to sit around puffing shisha pipes.

A roar and whistles were heard when Misbah ul Haq, Pakistan's captain, went out shortly after the restart.

"Chances look bleak because a Misbah long run in the game often carries the team to victory," said a disappointed Mr Prasad. "The game is fun when both teams have a fighting chance."

Khaja Afzal, assistant manager at the Huddle Sports Bar at Citymax Hotel in Bur Dubai, said they had prepared for the big turnout.

"We also have some offers that bring in people," said Mr Afzal.

"We have 100 people in and are expecting more guests later on."

Pakistan has played 124 ODIs against India since 1978, gaining the most wins with 71 victories.

With Pakistan already out of the Champions Trophy because of a lack of wins and 165 runs on the board for India to chase yesterday, India hoped to clinch a 50th ODI win against their rivals with ease.

Ritesh Sequeira, from India, said there was always a camaraderie between Indians and Pakistanis during such matches.

"It is exciting to have them all there supporting different teams. It is a very healthy and friendly rivalry," said Mr Sequeira, who has been in the UAE for 10 years.

At 8.30pm the game had to be stopped again because of rain, with India managing to make 63 runs for the loss of a wicket. Fans hung around restaurants watching the highlights of the match and reruns of old matches, analysing the play in the break.

"We will stay till the very end," said Ziad Qamar. "We waited for two hours when the match had stopped. We will see this through."

The targets were reduced when the match began for the third time. India had a quick win with their target of 102 in 22 overs at the end.

 

aahmed@thenational.ae