The reach of the sport extends beyond the cricketers that are regularly seen on our television screens.
Pakistan and India launch their T20 World Cup 2021 campaign in Dubai on Sunday, the first time the two sides will lock horns since the 2019 World Cup league match in Manchester more than two years ago.
The rain-disturbed encounter at a packed Old Trafford ended in a routine win for India.
But on Sunday, a completely different environment – from gloomy Manchester to dry and sunny Dubai – awaits the two sides as they meet for the ninth time in T20 cricket.
Tickets for the game, as expected, were sold out within hours of going on sale.
Both sides have won the tournament once. India were the winners in 2007 when they beat Pakistan in the final.
Pakistan went one better in the 2009 tournament, beating Sri Lanka at Lord’s to win their first cricket World Cup since 1992.
Pakistan have never beaten India at any cricket World Cup – the record stands at 7-0 in favour of India in the 50-over format, while it is 5-0 in the T20 form.
India, led by Virat Kohli, also have a superior T20 record against Pakistan, winning six of the seven matches.
Given the record, India start as favourites.
Indian players also have an extra advantage of playing in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) that was shifted to the United Arab Emirates due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, in the 10 years that Pakistan were unable to host international cricket, they played all their “home” matches in the UAE to great results, rising to number one in the Test rankings.
Pakistan have also won 21 of their 36 T20s in the UAE.
Recent T20 record
Pakistan come into the tournament after having their series against New Zealand and England cancelled.
The Kiwis pulled out of their tour of Pakistan minutes before the start of the opening match. Three days later, England scrapped their tour.
Prior to that, three of their four T20 in the West Indies were rained off.
India, meanwhile, have won five of their last 10 T20s and the IPL, India’s domestic T20 tournament, finished just days before the start of the T20 World Cup’s opening round.
India v Pakistan sporting contests are always fun to watch due to the intensity in the middle. They are even more enjoyable when viewed as a sporting contest, not a political battle. Try it. Works every time.#INDvPAK
— Kuldip Lal (@diplal) October 23, 2021
What are the captains saying?
Virat Kohli: “We never discussed these things, about our record and past performance. These things create distractions. What matters is how we prepare and execute on that particular day, regardless of the opposition.
“Pakistan is a very strong team and always has been a strong side. You have to play your best cricket against them, because they have lots of talent and players who can change the game.”
Babar Azam: “Records are meant to be broken. To be honest, what has passed is beyond us. We want to use our ability and confidence on the day of the match so that we can get a better result.
“The matches between Pakistan and India are always full of intensity so we need to perform well in all three departments of the game.”
— Games Underson (@Cloudy_popa) October 23, 2021