After a long lull, there are loud cheers at the stadiums in the UAE where large crowds of cricket fans have gathered to support their teams. The T20 World Cup, which was supposed to be held in India but later moved to the UAE, owing to the rising Coronavirus cases in the neighbouring country, begun this week. The matches would mark the revival of international cricket after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the tournament since its onset in late 2019. But it is back and a lot rides on the game.
Cricket after all is more than just a sport. The adrenaline rush of the audiences backed with socioeconomic uptick of livelihoods connected to the game, and the opportunity of countries with tense diplomatic situations coming together, makes the event larger than life. And it is this enthusiasm that fans across the globe had been yearning for, especially in Pakistan. After the back-to-back bad news for cricket at home, first with the New Zealand team abruptly ending their tour few hours before the first match was about to start and then second with England pulling out, the enthusiasm was overruled by frustration. But the Pakistan squad is all set to now take on its arch-rivals India on Sunday. It will be the green team’s first match in the tournament, and with less practice owing to the last-minute cancellation of tours, the tensions are high. It is not just the men in blue who need to be won against but India’s recent rise in aggression against Pakistan also needs to be avenged. When it comes to the two estranged neighbours, cricket does become political. It is because of this that calls for the Indian team to pull out from the contest with Pakistan are gaining momentum in India as many Indian ministers have asked for its cancellation.
It is not just India that Pakistan is expected to win against, but the Kiwis and England too. The squad is expected to avenge the betrayal they had faced last month. But fans across Pakistan must remember that the controversial selection of the team may hamper its performance during the matches. India, on the other hand, has a balanced team, while England is the ODI world champion and the Kiwis have the title of the world’s test champions. The matches are going to be tough. Let’s just hope that the ‘boys play well’.