Dubai: It’s not very often that you find die-hard supporters of the Pakistan cricket team screaming their lungs out in support of the Indian cricket team.
In fact theirs is the biggest rivalry in sport – and life on the subcontinent comes to a standstill when India and Pakistan play each other.
A win in the bilateral encounters triggers wild celebrations. A defeat equals a national disaster.
But Monday’s cricket World Cup match between India and England might behold a surreal scenario.
For that’s when Pakistan fans will pray for their arch-rival India to beat England – and pave the way for Pakistan to qualify for the semi-finals. All for a good reason!
Pakistan’s thrilling win over New Zealand on Wednesday has made all cricket fans pull out the calculator and work out the complex permutations that will ultimately help Pakistan reach the semis.
And one of those calculations involve India beating England on Monday.
Rain interruptions and some unexpected results have thrown open the World Cup as it enters the home stretch, transfixing it from a petrifyingly dull and wet competition to a championship of hope, especially for Pakistan.
Perhaps the tone was set with some Indian fans cheering for Pakistan in their game against New Zealand – where the men in green beat the Kiwis to keep India’s record as the unbeaten team intact.
More crucially, Pakistan’s victory in that game also improved their chances of a mouth-watering clash with India again in the competition.
So who will get into the final four?
Let’s first look at the certainties in the tournament so far.
Australia with 12 points have qualified for the semi-finals, while three teams – Afghanistan and South Africa are out of the tournament and West Indies, who have a wafer-thin mathematical chance, are all but out.
If they lose today’s clash against India, then it is over and out.
That leaves us with six teams competing for three remaining slots for the knock-out stages. In this race, India and Sri Lanka have a slight edge as Virat Kohli’s team have only played five games, today’s tie against West Indies is the sixth, and only a win or two away from booking their place, depending how the other contenders perform.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have to play the ninth-placed South Africa and the West Indies in their two matches before taking on India in their final clash on July 6. This could be a do-or-die clash for one of the teams, should they lose their other games and come to the final contest.
Similarly, another intriguing contest is the one between Pakistan and Bangladesh a day before the India-Sri Lanka tie on July 5. With both teams on seven points from seven games, should they both win their next games, then their last group game will assume gigantic proportions. But the sad truth is only one of them will be able to reach 11 or 10 points, which could be the cut off for the last four stage.
Hosts England, who were the overwhelming favourite for the title before the start of the showpiece, have floundered in the last two games, suffering three losses in seven matches. With eight points, the world No. 1 team will have to beat both India and New Zealand, the No. 3 and No. 2 teams in the table.
One win would suffice for England should Sri Lanka lose two of their games, as only one between Pakistan and Bangladesh will reach 11 points and could sneak in as the fourth-best team.
Now the fans will not only be following the results of their respective teams, they will also follow that of their potential ‘friends’, who could upset the cart of the rival contenders.
As a start, Pakistan fans will rooting for an India win in the clash against England on Sunday.
Tighten you seat belts for a thrilling show and bring on the samosas!
Let the ultimate rivals of sport meet again this cricket World Cup – perhaps in the finals?