BIRMINGHAM – England need all the help they can get as they try to get their World Cup campaign back on track against India.
But is this really a “home” tournament for Eoin Morgan’s side?
Huge numbers of Pakistan and India fans from Britain’s large south Asian community have turned grounds green and blue during the tournament, giving passionate backing to their favourite teams.
Normally sedate English stadiums have been transformed into seething cauldrons of noise and colour, despite the damp conditions at the start of the tournament.
Even minnows Afghanistan have enjoyed backing from a hardy knot of flag-waving fans who made their presence felt in their opener against Australia.
On Sunday, Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground will play host to thousands of passionate India fans, desperate to see the two-time champions seal their place in the World Cup semi-finals.
Morgan, whose side need to win both of their final matches, against India and New Zealand, to guarantee a place in the semi-finals, said England’s players knew before the tournament what they would be up against, despite being the home side.
“When you play Asian teams, you certainly get that impression that there’s a lot of fans there,” he said.
“It is what it is. We have accepted that when we do play against teams like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, they will feel like away games. And that is just the way cricket is.”
Indian seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar said his team felt the benefit of the support.
“Always, wherever we go, doesn’t matter whether it’s India, England or Australia,” he said.
“Whichever country, we get that (crowd backing) and enjoy that a lot.”
Pakistan’s Imam-ul-Haq said the level of support in England gave the team a huge lift, making matches feel like home games.
“We have been coming here for the last three years, so support is always good,” he said.
“England is a home away from home, and the kind of support we get here is admirable.
“In the second match at Nottingham (against England), it was like 50-50 support from the fans, and that encouraged us a lot.”
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Pakistan all-rounder Imad Wasim, the Man of the Match for his decisive innings on Saturday, credited the crowd in Leeds for roaring the team home in a tight finish against Afghanistan.
“Thank you to the crowd, it feels like home here,” he said after the victory, which kept alive Pakistan’s hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals.
“They gave us a boost in confidence.”
Australia captain Aaron Finch was not surprised by the vocal backing for India when the teams met earlier in the tournament.
“India have amazing support everywhere they go, everywhere around the world,” he said.
“Their fans are very vocal. They’re great to play in front of because they provide so much atmosphere. They’re passionate about the game.
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“And being on the other side of it, it’s not ideal, but at the end of the day, they’re always going to outnumber you.
“They are so loud, and they’re a happy crowd. They appreciate good cricket.
“Obviously they’re there to watch India do well, but they appreciate really good cricket, and when they’re playing their music and chants are going up, it’s a pretty great atmosphere to be a part of when you win.”AFP