Manchester: “Tickets, please!”
That is the request that greets you as you approach the gates of the Old Trafford Stadium.
It isn’t that they are asking you to show your tickets.
Rather, it’s tickets of the high voltage India-Pakistan clash on Sunday that are being sold at a premium despite the threats of rain.
Prices for tickets on the black market are varying between $3,000 (Dh11,017) to $6,000 (Dh22,035) for the World Cup league match between archrivals, with the expectation on every cricketer to perform at his peak.
Almost every well-known former cricketer has added to the anticipation by giving their share of advice to their team on how to win this mental battle.
Wasim Akram, the legendary Pakistan pacer, has urged fans to stay calm and advised his team to play with “controlled aggression.”
India and Pakistan fans are the most vociferous lot — and to ask them to remain calm is next to impossible — and Pakistan cricketers have never played it with controlled aggression.
History shows that they either go for the kill or surrender meekly but if they fight as a unit, then they can be an unbeatable lot.
Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmad has appealed for consistency from his players.
Had his team players been consistent, would Pakistan be labelled as the most unpredictable team?
Calls to sack Sarfaraz, coach Mickey Arthur and even chief selector Inzaman-ul Haq had subsided after Pakistan beat England early in the tournament.
But, if they lose to India, all these calls will be renewed and all senior players could well consider this as their last tour.
India’s former captain Anil Kumble, as usual, has been very calculative in this assessment.
He feels the Indians are favourites but they need to be wary of Pakistan.
Almost along the same lines is legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar’s observation.
He says that the 6-0 win record over Pakistan in the World Cup should not make India overconfident. He added that the winner will be the team that absorbs the pressure best.
If a high pressure game in world cricket needs to be defined, just give an example of an India-Pakistan match. Former cricketers of both teams have all predicted a victory for their own team confidently. It makes everyone wonder whether they would also be able to predict if the match would be held without any rain interruption.
Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, who flew in as cover for Shikhar Dhawan, was seen training hard as if he would be keeping the wickets for the match. The weather being too cold, most players preferred to be indoors. Since there wasn’t much training happening, discussion in the press box hovered around why Inzamam-ul Haq should be at the training when he is only a chief selector and not even the manager or coach of the team? There was also a buzz going on that Mohammad Amir was included in the World Cup team under orders from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The Indian media was not much focused on the game. They seemed to be more interested in following a rumour that pacer Jasprit Bumrah has been dating South Indian film star Anupama Parameswaran.
So let there be love during an India-Pakistan match — keeping aside all border disputes and tensions — and let everyone enjoy cricket.
Of course, if it happens!
Catch the match
India vs Pakistan
Old Trafford, Manchester
Start: 1.30 pm UAE
Live telecast on OSN Cricket
Weather forecast: Overcast skies and spotty showers during Sunday. According to local meteorologists, fear of rain looms large which might affect the match but the only good sign is that the chances of rain are only 30 percent.