The teams trained with a glint in their eyes. The media swarmed around them, hoping to pick up on something; anything that can be used to enhance coverage. Smartly-dressed security personnel were out on patrol; ten of them to one player from either XI. No one wanted to slip up and everyone was excited. India-Pakistan cricket was in the air.
As has happened in the past, political tension between the two countries had sidelined a bilateral series that was supposed to take place in December 2015. So here in Bangladesh they meet and add to a series of one-off contests dating back to the 2013 Champions Trophy in England. The last time India and Pakistan played a bilateral series was in 2012-13 – two T20Is and three ODIs.
There is no shortage of emotion and expectation from fans around the world, even without the lure of an Asia Cup trophy. It’s a little harder to gauge the pulse of the players themselves though. Virat Kohli was democratic. “There is a lot of hype, which is exciting for the people. But on the field it’s the same as playing any other team.” And Shoaib Malik made the average person feel closer to the team. “People from both countries enjoy this encounter and they want their team to win. The cricketers are the same, they give their best and enjoy the contest a lot.” On some level, it seems Saturday may just be a bit of sparring bout before the main event at the World T20.