Dubai: Even six months ago, there was hardly an inkling that the city would be hosting an India-Pakistan cricket match in such a prestigious event as the Asia Cup.
As all roads now lead to Dubai International Stadium on Wednesday, there is a virtual guarantee that there will be at least one of the teams — if not both once again — in the final on September 28.
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While the venue has worked as a windfall for the legion of expat fans of these two countries here, a billion more will be glued to their TV sets, laptops and smartphones to follow the contest which has held the game’s followers in thrall for generations.
It’s easily the most worn out cliché to say that the India-Pakistan cricket matches have been always ‘more than a cricket match’ and with good enough reason.
It’s simple: which other sporting contest on the globe has such stark political overtones, rich history and sees a roller-coaster of emotions?
The legacy may have come a long way since the former Pakistan President General Zia-ul-Haq initiated the ‘cricket diplomacy’ when he visited India to watch a Test match in 1987, but there is no gainsaying that politics and cricket had been inseparable in this contest.
Martand Jha, a research scholar at the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, summed India-Pakistan matches up well in a line last year: “Sometimes it has come as an icebreaker. At other times, it has merely marked a deceptive lull before another storm.”