Why you should watch the India-Pakistan Asia Cup cricket match tomorrow

Fans enjoy the Champions Trophy final between India and Pakistan PA Photos

What's the big deal about India-Pakistan cricket matches?
The India-Pakistan cricket rivalry is one of the most intense in all the sports. There is a history of conflict between the two countries, and the cricket rivalry, which stems from the political one, has its own eventful past. With cricket being the most popular sport in both nations, when India and Pakistan play each other in important games, the television audience is often close to 500 million - 495 million viewers were estimated to have watched their clash in the 2011 World Cup semi-final, and 400 million were estimated to have watched the 2017 Champions Trophy final between the two teams.

So what, where, and when is the Asia Cup match?
India and Pakistan will meet in a group match of the Asia Cup, a cricket tournament played between Asia's best teams, on Wednesday, September 19. The match is being played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, in the UAE, and will begin at 15:30 local time (11:30 GMT, 17:00 Indian Standard Time, and 17:30 Pakistan Standard Time).

Is this a rare event?
Due to political tensions, India and Pakistan do not play bilateral series against each other and only meet in multi-team tournaments. In the past ten years, they have played each other just 18 times. Their last match was in June 2017, the Champions Trophy final; Pakistan emerged victorious on that occasion.

What is the origin of the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry?
Before 1947, the regions now known as India and Pakistan were both part of British India. When British rule in India ended, two separate countries - India and Pakistan - were created along religious lines principally, and many people were killed as millions moved home in an attempt to live in the country where they would be part of the religious majority. Since then, India and Pakistan have fought four official wars and have been involved in various other conflicts.

So the cricket rivalry is an extension of the political conflict?
While political tension was certainly the origin of the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry, it has, over the years, forged a history of its own. There have been several periods during which the teams have been evenly matched, leading to hard-fought matches, close series and exciting moments.

What is the attitude of the fans towards each other?
While there are India and Pakistan fans who feel animosity towards the other team, there are many who have tremendous respect for the opposition. This is evidenced by the popularity of several Pakistan cricketers in India, and India cricketers in Pakistan. Some might even say that at times cricket has helped people from both countries transcend the political climate, communicate with each other, and appreciate the many cultural similarities they share. Cricket tournaments have sometimes been thought of as part of the attempts by the countries to make peace with each other.

Part of the history of this rivalry are many tales of people treating those coming from across the border for a cricket series with warmth and hospitality, incidents of fans applauding opposition players at stadiums and of players making respectful gestures to their rivals. For example, when the famous Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi retired in 2017, the entire India team signed a t-shirt and sent it to him as a gift.

Who has the upper hand historically?
While in recent times India have been the stronger team, historically Pakistan still have the edge. In one-day cricket, which is the format being played in the Asia Cup, Pakistan have won 73 matches to India's 52. In the late 1980s, Pakistan dominated India, and while the sides were more evenly matched in the 1990s and early 2000s, Pakistan still won more games. After 2007, momentum shifted towards India, but Pakistan upset them in their most recent encounter.

So who are the favourites for this game?
India would normally be favourites since they are ranked No.2 in ODI cricket, three places above Pakistan, but they are without their regular captain and star player, Virat Kohli, who has been rested for this tournament. Also, Pakistan's win in the Champions Trophy final changed the trend of India winning important matches in recent times. Both teams go into the game with a fair shot at winning.

Is the Asia Cup an important tournament?
The Asia Cup has been around since the 1980s, so it's a tournament with a lot of history. The premier tournaments in one-day cricket are the World Cup and the Champions Trophy, but the Asia Cup is also considered prestigious as Asia is the current power centre of cricket.

Who are the players to watch in the match?
Rohit Sharma, the captain of India in this tournament, has the highest score in one-day cricket and is the only batsman with three double-centuries in the format. Pakistan's Hasan Ali is the No.3-ranked ODI bowler in the world. He is a fast bowler and was player of the series in the 2017 Champions Trophy.