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Brothers, united by common legacy, in a country that prides itself on tolerance

The desi group – the Indian and Pakistani expats in UAE – are united by love, food and camaraderie throughout the year but separated for a few hours, only when India and Pakistan play a game of cricket.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
October 24, 2021 8:46:47 pm
They went to the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday for the T20 World Cup’s biggest fixture, ready to shout themselves hoarse to back their respective teams, engage in banter and then, after the game was done, forget the cricket divide and focus on unity.

The Midnight’s Children celebrated azaadi together. Yours brotherly, it’s a love story.

In August this year, the Indian and Pakistani artists based in the United Arab Emirates joined hands to celebrate the Independence Days (August 14 and 15) of the two countries. Jashn-e-Azaadi, an art exhibition, had 20 Indian artists and as many from Pakistan.

The desi group – the Indian and Pakistani expats in UAE – are united by love, food and camaraderie throughout the year but separated for a few hours, only when India and Pakistan play a game of cricket. They went to the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday for the T20 World Cup’s biggest fixture, ready to shout themselves hoarse to back their respective teams, engage in banter and then, after the game was done, forget the cricket divide and focus on unity.

The art exhibition was a by-product of this togetherness, which showcased culture, colours, history and tradition of the two nations, a vast swathe of them being joined by a common thread. It was where the depiction of Lord Krishna and Lord Ganesha shared space with Pakistan’s truck art. In a country where tolerance is a virtue, the event was befittingly attended by Yasser Algergawi, director of programs and partnership, Ministry of Tolerance — UAE.

On the field, Pakistan embraced nationalism. A member of the squad carried their National Flag and planted it firmly on one side of a practice pitch, as the players started to warm-up. India’s arrival, on the other hand, was all business, completely in sync with Virat Kohli’s approach: “For me, it’s always been just another game of cricket”. Pakistan stuck to their cricket and fitness drills, while India started off with fun football.

Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas dropped in at the press box, soaking up the atmosphere and fending off interview requests. The Indian spinners, meanwhile, started rolling their arms over – Ravichandran Ashwin and Rahul Chahar – with team mentor MS Dhoni doing the wicketkeeping. Pakistan quickly assembled for a team huddle before the actual battle.

Imagine this game taking place at Eden Gardens in front of 67,000 fans! It could well have been the case but for the Covid-forced switch of the tournament from India to UAE. Back in 2016, when the India-Pakistan World T20 match was relocated from Dharamsala to Kolkata, then Cricket Association of Bengal president Sourav Ganguly added more spice to an already high-profile event, inviting Amitabh Bachchan to sing India’s National Anthem. Kohli was resplendent in his match-winning innings.

In Dubai on Sunday, fans’ build-up was a tad slow but steady. The local authorities put arrangements in place, expecting a mad rush, but the crowds came at a leisurely pace. At the toss, Indian supporters out-voiced their Pakistani counterparts. The reply came via a roar when Babar Azam won the toss and chose to field.

The stadium can accommodate 25,000 spectators, but its capacity has been reduced to 17,400, thanks to Covid safety protocols.

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