There is always electricity in the air whenever India and Pakistan meet on the cricket field.
NEW PAKISTAN Cricket Board chairperson and former World Cup winner Ramiz Raja could not have described it any better.
“It is a show stopper!”
An India-Pakistan clash is certainly the biggest billboard attraction in world cricket. This is not just a sporting contest between two countries. It is a head-on collision of two ideologies draped in historical trauma.
Since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1947, relations between the south-Asian neighbours have been tempestuous. It was at an all-time low between 1961 and 1978 when they did not meet on the cricket field at all.
In 2021, the situation remains virtually the same with Indo-Pak matches confined to official International Cricket Council (ICC) events since the last bilateral series eight years ago.
It stands to reason, then, why tickets for their T20 World Cup Group 2 clash on October 24 in Dubai were sold out within minutes of being made available despite the Premium and Platinum range costing in the region of Dh 1,500 (R6,100) and Dh 2,600 (R10,600).
Although the majority of the 25,000-seater stadium ‒ which can only be filled to 70% capacity due to Covid-19 regulations ‒ will no doubt consist of the region’s business tycoons, Bollywood stars, musicians and politicians, there will still be a cacophony of noise that will reverberate throughout the UAE desert.
But it is on television where the numbers are mind-blowing. The 2019 World Cup clash in Manchester was watched worldwide by 273 million unique viewers on linear TV with a further 50 million digital-only viewers.
Such astronomical viewership figures enabled a broadcaster to sell a 10 second advert for Rs20 lakh (about $26,715.64; R400,066.21) during that game.
Away from the politics and staggering amounts of money that is associated with Indo-Pak matches, it is ultimately about the players that are eager to perform against their arch-rivals.
The inaugural T20 World Cup Final at the Wanderers in Johannesburg was a thriller that went the way of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Indian team, transforming the global cricket landscape in the process with the resultant birth of the Indian Premier League.
They are also the only teams to ever contest a “bowl out” at the World T20 when their group meeting in the same 2007 tournament ended in a tie at an adrenalin-charged Kingsmead in Durban.
India’s inspirational captain, Virat Kohli, holds the record for the most runs scored in T20s between the two countries, highlighted by two splendid undefeated half-centuries that spearheaded successful run-chases in both 2012 (Dhaka) and 2016 (Kolkata).
In his last tournament as India T20 captain, Kohli will no doubt look to repeat the dosage.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam will equally go toe-to-toe with Kohli in Dubai. Babar is in fact ranked two places higher at No.2 on the ICC T20 batters list, and will be desperate to become the first Pakistan captain to lead his team to victory over their arch-rivals at a T20 World Cup.
The stage has been set for another enthralling chapter of a rivalry like no other.
Let the fun begin.