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Pakistan eagerly waiting for Kolkata World T20 clash

KOLKATA/KARACHI: India and Pakistan will grind to a halt today as hundreds of millions of cricket fans gather to watch the World Twenty20 match between the two arch-rivals in Kolkata.

The cricket-mad neighbours share one of the world’s fiercest sporting rivalries and their rare showdowns on the pitch can bring both to a standstill.

In Pakistan, fans said the match was a chance to take revenge for their side’s recent defeat in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, where they lost to India and the hosts.

Few Pakistan fans are expected to attend the game, after the venue switch from Dharamsala to Kolkata disrupted travel plans, with some denied visas at the last minute.

But that did not stop the atmosphere from amping up at home.

“We hope to have a turnout of a couple of thousand spectators at our big screen,” said Faisal Baig of the Port Grand complex in Karachi, Pakistan’s bustling economic hub of 20 million people.

“It feels wonderful to see people from different ethnic and political backgrounds become one nation and it only happens when Pakistan plays India,” he added.

A sign outside the city’s Bambino cinema declared regular movies cancelled as it shows the match instead, while the National Stadium is hosting a public screening.

“We really want to see Pakistan win — it’s terrible to watch us lose,” said Amjad Islam, an electrical engineering student at Indus University.

Many fans were pinning their hopes on Pakistan’s most popular cricketer, captain Shahid Afridi, whose all-round performance against Bangladesh sealed a thumping win.

The World T20 is set to be the 36 year-old’s final tournament.

“We want to see Afridi to perform regardless of the outcome,” Umaima Tahir, a software engineering student told AFP.

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