DUBAI: There may be six participating teams in this 14th edition of the Asia Cup, but amid all the hype surrounding the Indo-Pak rivalry, it seems like the tournament is just a glorified version of a three-match bilateral series between the two arch-rivals. We all know due to political reasons these days India and Pakistan only face each other in multi-team tournaments. So, any face-of between these two sides is highly anticipated.

In this Asia Cup, there are two almost assured India-Pakistan matches and a possibility of a summit clash on September 28. So, it means there are three marquee encounters within 10 days, which actually is the USP of this tournament, whether supporters of the other four teams agree or not.

Nevertheless, these will be mouth-watering 10 days for the cricket fans. And especially for the people in the UAE, the occasion will be more special as India will be playing in this part of the world after 12 years.

In the 80s and 90s, Sharjah used to be the hub of India-Pakistan rivalries. Plenty of memorable matches were played, history was re-written. But following the match fixing controversy in the early 2000s, BCCI stopped sending its team here. Their last international fixture over here was way back in 2006, when Rahul Dravid’s team played couple of ODIs against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.

So, understandably, the strong sub-continental fan base here is long deprived.

The eagerness was evident back in 2014, when BCCI decided to host the first three weeks of the lucrative Indian premier League (IPL) in the UAE as it was clashing with the general elections back home. That initial phase of the tournament turned out to be a mega success. All the matches were well attended across the three venues – Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

The organisers are expecting a similar sort of response on Wednesday when both the teams will lock horns at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Tickets for that game have already been sold out. Even, as I write this piece, the most likely ‘Super Four’ encounter between them on September 23 is getting pre-booked as well. It is expected that a lot of fans will be travelling down from Europe and America in order to be a part of this cricket carnival.

You can see plenty of people talking about that high-profile clash while having a stroll around the Dubai Mall, Palm islands or any other landmarks of the city. Around the city the organisers have put up plenty of hoardings to promote the tournament and as anticipated, most of these promotions are highlighting the marquee rivalry between India and Pakistan. At times, you are bound to get a feeling that we are perhaps too obsessed with these two teams.

However, from the fans point of view, irrespective of number of matches, the expectation and hope will be closely fought encounters. Last year, in the ICC Champions Trophy, both teams played each other twice and on both occasions matches turned out to be one-sided.

This time following such hype, one-sided encounters will be nothing but spoilers for the fans. Let’s hope, not only India and Pakistan, but the other four teams – Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Hong Kong -- too make their presence felt by playing some heart-pumping cricket.