The students from Jammu and Kashmir were among the first to queue up for tickets, arriving at the stadium gates at 2am, although ticket counters were not scheduled to open until 10am. “We couldn’t buy tickets online and this was our only opportunity to ensure our maiden World Cup experience,” said Haleem, who will root for Pakistan.
“We, of course, support India when Rohit Sharma’s team plays. Otherwise, we support the Pakistan team for the brand of cricket they play.” Also among the first to get hold of tickets were Kamran and his friends, also from J&K.
Asked who they were supporting, Kamran, an engineering student from Srinagar, said, “We support cricket. We like watching Steve Smith bat as much as we enjoy the performance of Babar Azam,” he added.
Asked on which flag they would carry, Kamran, who is also a social media influencer, had an interesting take. “We will carry the Karnataka flag because the state has given us so much and that’s our way of showing the world our gratitude.” The Karnataka State Cricket Association’s (KSCA) decision to introduce a separate line for women was appreciated by many. Political ties between India and Pakistan may be strained but players on either side of the border share a warm and friendly relationship, and this is mirrored by fans. One reason why Pakistan have such a large fan base is their absence from the IPL.
“While we get to see Australian players like Glenn Maxwell, Josh Hazlewood or David Warner in the IPL, Pakistani talent is largely unexposed here,” pointed out Aditi, who is a fan of Pakistan skipper Babar. Pakistan has also found backers among the Afghan Diaspora in the city, mostly students. Rahimulla, who hails from the Nagahan province, said, “We support all teams from the subcontinent and on Friday, we are backing Pakistan.”
Some have even convinced vendors in Shivajinagar to print Pakistan flags, but are wary of a backlash.