When the Indian team takes on England in the second semi-final of the T20 World Cup in Adelaide on Thursday, it will get support from the most unexpected quarters — Pakistani former players and fans.
Even before Pakistan defeated New Zealand in the first semifinal in Sydney on Wednesday, the main discussion among cricket fans here was: will it be a Pakistan vs India final in Melbourne? Former Test captain Shahid Afridi said it would be a dream come true to have a Pakistan vs India final on Sunday at the MCG.
Given the historical rivalry between the two neighbouring cricket-mad nations and the current tense political relations between them, support for Rohit Sharma and his men is something unusual.
But former Test spinner Iqbal Qasim said despite the intense rivalry, there had always been a healthy respect for each others’ cricket history and performances.
“I will also support India to beat England because there is nothing like a match between the two countries and I should know as I have played in some of them,” he said.
Qasim played a stellar role in Pakistan’s historic Test win in Bangalore in 1987 and said even the ICC must be hoping for a Pakistan vs India final.
Pakistan’s former Test captain Rashid Latif noted that India had a good recent track record against England in white ball formats and had recently beaten them in a T20 series in England.
“Both teams are strong outfits with some very quality players. But how Virat Kohli and Suryakumar fare will to my mind be the key to a possible India win. England remain a very dangerous side but would be lovely to see a Pakistan vs India final,” he said.
Cricket historian and analyst Nauman Niaz, who has headed the sports channel of the state owned Pakistan Television Network, agreed. He said in sports there is nothing bigger then a Pakistan vs India final for broadcasters and sponsors.
“England are a classy side and it will be a tough one for India but yes I will support Rohit and his players to pull off a win,” Niaz said.
Cricket writer and film critic Omair Alavi said he knew for a fact that many of his circle of friends and relatives would be cheering India on when they play England.
“If we play India in the World Cup final and can defeat them it would be a double decker win for every Pakistani,” he said.
Cricket fans here had loud cheers and clapping as soon as Pakistan got the winning run against New Zealand. But after the celebrations, the talk turned to the India vs England match on Thursday. “Bhai Rohit ko runs karna hai kal..Kohli, Surya aur Hardik tu acha khel rahay hai. India jeeta tu mazaa ajaega world cup final ka,” said Chapra, a shopkeeper who has a TV at his shop to follow every ball. India managed to beat Pakistan in the final over when the two sides met in the opening match of the T20 World Cup.
“We will support India against England because we want them to play us in final so that we can beat them and also win the T20 World Cup,” said teenager Moazzam.