Oval: There is an aura of being at the Oval cricket ground. The history of cricket stares at you from every part of the ground. The stadium authorities have ensured that every historical moment in cricket is highlighted on the walls, and even the building has been maintained as it was years ago since it opened in 1845.
A massive banner of England batsman Joe Root, after he hit 162 against Sri Lanka here last year, welcomes you to the ground.
An English volunteer, standing below that banner, said: “England should have been here practicising for the final. It’s terrible we are not in the final. If not in our country, in which country will we reach the final?”
Ten months ago Pakistan had beaten England here through Younis Khan’s double century and Yasir Shah’s five-wicket spell. “This is Pakistan’s favourite ground,” remarked a Pakistan journalist seated next to me. To which an Indian journalist remarked: “We started beating England from here through BS Chandrasekhar’s deadly spell in 1971.”
The Oval is the home of Surrey County Cricket Club and the history of the club, like a comic strip, dons the walls on the way to Oval’s press box. The bar, which was set up in 1845 for fans, is also still there.
Many top Pakistan players have played for Surrey, including Pakistan’s present bowling coach Azhar Mahmood and famous spinner Saqlain Mushtaq. Near the entrance to the press box is a portrait of former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam who had captained Surrey team.
Near the press box there are rooms called the India room, Pakistan room and former England Prime Minister John Major room. All these rooms are filled with pictures of glorious moments on this ground.
As usual, an India-Pakistan final has generated many jokes, tweets and even doctored videos on the social media. India’s Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor has taunted the Pakistan Cricket Board by asking them to send a proper team to beat India. Many enthusiastic cricket fans from the UAE have arrived here for the final. Shyam Bhatia, who established the Bhatia awards for outstanding performers in the UAE cricket, and Anis Sajan of Danube cricket team, are all here. On the way to the Oval, an artist was seen drawing posters that he plans to sell before the final.
Since June 18 is Father’s Day, one of his posters said: “For my father’s sake please win the final.” He has fixed names of both teams ready, and they will be placed according to the nationality of the fan who will be buying it from him. A poster for Indian fans read: “We won’t allow Kohli to get a century again. We (Pakistan) will get all out for 98.”
A huge banner inside the stadium says ‘The final’ and next it another one says: “Champions Trophy — where Heroes becomes Champions.”