Australia As fierce rivals India and Pakistan prepare to clash at the T20, fans in Australia are ready to cheer them on

23:50  23 october  2021
23:50  23 october  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Rajul Sharma (centre) and other cricket fans have composed an anthem for Team India. (Supplied: Rajul Sharma) © Provided by ABC NEWS Rajul Sharma (centre) and other cricket fans have composed an anthem for Team India. (Supplied: Rajul Sharma)

There's no other more polarising event on the cricket calendar than tonight's Twenty20 clash between Pakistan and India in Dubai.

The subcontinental neighbours are fierce rivals both on and off the cricket pitch and supporters in Australia have made special plans to cheer on their teams with passion as they begin their T20 World Cup campaigns.

And while the bitter political enmity between the two countries continues unabated, it's hoped the game will provide a respite from the coronavirus pandemic that has affected both.

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Fans India founder Rajul Sharma is getting together with a group of 25 friends to watch the Dubai game at an Indian restaurant in Adelaide's north-east.

"We'll have food, drinks, musical instruments, we'll be wearing our Team India jersey," Mr Sharma said.

He said while screenings of the match in Australia would not be as large as those held in India, fans would be cheering on the players all night and into the morning.

"We just go out there, full [of] positive energy. We will record our cheering for the team and send it to [Indian] broadcasters," he said.

"We will do certain lives on our Instagram channel."

Fan anthems to cheer on Team India

In the days leading up to the clash, Mr Sharma has been composing a song for India fans to sing during matches this year.

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"Every time before a World Cup we release a fan's anthem and we're working on another one," he said.

"This particular one will be launched on YouTube and a copy will be given to the broadcasters if they want to use it."

It has been composed in Hindi with the help of a local musician, and focuses on one of India's most successful cricket captains, MS Dhoni.

"We are just basically reminding fans that he's back in the team, we have another really good chance to win another World Cup," Mr Sharma said.

Mr Sharma said he hoped the game would serve as a distraction from COVID-19 which ripped through India this year, claiming more than 450,000 lives, according to the World Health Organization.

"Cricket is a big, big thing, it’s part of Indian people’s lifestyle," he said.

"For a lot of Indian people it’s like another religion, so it helps to heal all the pain they all have back in India.

"This gives everyone in India, and all across the subcontinent a chance to switch off from all the issues and challenges they are facing and watch the game."

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Rival Team Pakistan fans emerging from COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney are embracing relaxed restrictions as much as they can, with residential gatherings capped at 20 fully vaccinated people.

Pakistan supporter Suffan Hassan, from Newington in Western Sydney, said India-Pakistan matches were always a big deal.

"It's such a big occasion, we try and gather as many family and friends. In the past we've watched it at the community hall as well," Mr Hassan said.

"After three and a half months we'll actually get to sit down and have dinner together ... Now with the game coming up, it was a great excuse to meet up."

'Two biggest rivalries in sport'

Mr Hassan, who is also a cricket coach, said the intense cross-border rivalry between India and Pakistan always made the matches thrilling.

"Living in Australia, Pakistanis and Indians they all get along, there's no hard division, most of them are family friends … we all play in the same cricket teams.

"Whenever these two countries play it’s usually a close game and it brings the best out of all players. As a cricket player that’s what you want to see in a game.

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"Sport has been a great vehicle to distract people and keep their mind off COVID for a while."

Mr Hassan's friend Omair Rasheed will be at the long-awaited, albeit smaller than usual, cricket party.

"I grew up playing club cricket and obviously my parents being from Pakistan we kind of lived and breathed cricket, so it’s always been a part of my lifestyle," he said.

"Everyone is going to be watching it together, family and friends.

"Last year we marked it on our calendar and when the official fixtures came out we were like, 'Oh wow'.

"It is probably up there in the top two biggest rivalries in sport."

India and Pakistan have a long and complicated history steeped in tension and conflict.

When Britain withdrew from India in 1947, the area was divided into two countries roughly down religious lines.

Pakistan became a Muslim-majority state and India dominated by Hindus.

Both states have fought two of three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, near the Chinese border.

Both sides to put politics aside

While improving relations between the two nuclear-armed nations still has a long way to go, there are signs each side are prepared to set aside their political differences at this year's clash.

India Captian Virat Kohli told the media the cricket match was "just another game of cricket".

"I don't think we can make anything extra out of this game and for us, it's a game of cricket that has to be played in right spirit, in the way we know we can," India Today quoted Kohli as saying.

Mr Rasheed said he expected heated rivalry and emotions to be high but believed the teams would "celebrate the win or take the loss graciously without spilling over any more than that."

Mr Sharma said while he believed politics would stay out of this year's clash, the players would inevitably be under pressure.

"From Indian players' point of view they are treating it as a normal game, but in real fact, it is not a normal game."

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