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July 15, 2019

All roads lead to Lord’s


July 15, 2019

LONDON: The Jubilee Line train from Green Park to St John’s Wood was packed on Sunday morning. Almost everyone present in my section of the compartment was an England fan. It took me a while before finally spotting the sole New Zealand fans – a young couple wearing the Black Caps t-shirts, writes Khalid Hussain.

A few minutes later, holding their umbrellas and in some cases their picnic baskets, the fans were making a beeline for Lord’s eagerly looking forward to the World Cup final, England’s first since 1992.

There was excitement in the air as I walked towards Lord’s but the sort of frenzy that would generally mark an ICC World Cup final was missing.

It was in stark contrast to the festive mood that one witnessed on June 16 at Old Trafford when Pakistan and India clashed in a group game of the World Cup. Thousands of supporters from either side turned the venue into a virtual battleground trading slogans in the favour of their respective teams. Another game that came close to matching that sort of fever pitch was the Pakistan-Afghanistan match in Leeds. But that was actually turned into a battle scene with some rowdy Afghan fans resorting to violence.

There was no such noise or frenzy outside Lord’s less than an hour before the final. Perhaps the fact that there were very few New Zealand fans contributed towards the relatively low-key atmosphere outside Lord’s.

The Black Caps’ supporters were few and far between. “Any tickets, please,” a youngster accosted me carrying a placard that read “Desperate New Zealand fan looking for final ticket.”

One of the many reasons why there were so few New Zealand supporters was the fact that not many are here in England to support their team. And even many of those who are here didn’t buy the tickets for the final as they weren’t really confident about their team making it to the final. So it was hardly surprising when one saw at least ten Indian fans for every Kiwi supporter at Lord’s on an overcast Sunday morning. They were the ones who had bought most of the tickets. Many of them sold theirs once India were knocked out of the World Cup by New Zealand. But others held on their tickets even if the final didn’t feature Virat Kohli and his men.

“It’s the World Cup final,” Satish, a young Indian fan told me. “It would have been a dream come true had India made it to the final but even if they are not here I had to see this game.” As I entered the North Gate , it became apparent that that security was extra tight. There was a significant presence of cops as the organisers had taken stringent measures to ensure smooth running of the final.

There were strict measures in place at the JP Morgan Press Box as well. Even accredited media needed to get their cards revalidated to get in the facility.

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