World Cup diary: Shyam Bhatia, super fan from Dubai, set for his 13th outing

This 80-year-old businessman has attended all one-day international World Cups since 1975

Shyam Bhatia (left) celebrates the 50th anniversary of Sunil Gavaskar's Test debut in his cricket museum in Dubai (photo: Shyam Bhatia)
Shyam Bhatia (left) celebrates the 50th anniversary of Sunil Gavaskar's Test debut in his cricket museum in Dubai (photo: Shyam Bhatia)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

From Lord’s to Wanderers to Wankhede, Shyam Bhatia has been a perfect example of been there, done that for a cricket fan. The 80-year-old businessman from Dubai, who has been to all 12 editions of the ODI World Cup so far, will do it again when he flies into Ahmedabad on Friday 13 October. 

The mega clash between India and Pakistan at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Saturday will be his first pit stop, following which he will attend a number of fixtures, including the highly billed India-England game in Lucknow on 29 October. Bhatia will then be back for the first semi-final in Mumbai on 15 November and the final in Ahmedabad on 19 November. 

‘’I am excited as always about the trip. I am not too sure how many like me, who started watching since the 1975 World Cup in England, are still alive,’’ Bhatia said from Dubai. In the global cricket fraternity, it won’t be an exaggeration to say his reputation as a superfan precedes him as he runs a wonderfully curated cricket museum in his villa in the Jumeirah area and hosts an annual awards ceremony in his name to honour the best local talents. 

Speaking to National Herald over phone, Bhatia said, ‘’It’s my passion for the game which has taken me to different parts of the world. I prefer the 50-over format to the T20 any day as after Test cricket, it offers the best test of skill. I am blessed to have watched so many memorable finals.’’ 

It was by chance during a business trip to London in 1975 that his love affair with the World Cup began, when one-day cricket meant 60-over matches, changing to 50 overs from the 1987 World Cup in India. ‘’I watched the two semi-finals and the final of what was then an experimental event by the ICC (in 1975). It failed to create much of a buzz, but I will never forget the match-winning innings of 102 off 82 balls by West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd against Australia,’’ recalled Bhatia.  

Lloyd’s autographed bat now enjoys pride of place in Bhatia’s museum, alongside signed equipment from most of the other iconic names of the sport, most of whom have become his lifelong friends. Bhatia also runs an initiative, Cricket for Care, which distributes free kits to children in different countries. 

"I consider myself fortunate to have watched both the 1983 and 2011 triumphs of India from close quarters. I still believe it was Kapil Dev’s team which changed the course of Indian cricket and that remains on a different plane,’’ he recalled. 

And what about the magical night of 2 April 2011 at the Wankhede? ‘’Unforgettable. I had slipped back with my brother and brother-in-law to our hotel close to the stadium for some quiet celebrations. Sunil (Gavaskar) called me to find out where I was and joined us with two very special guests, Sourav Ganguly and Amir Khan, in our hotel room. It was a wonderful night,’’ Bhatia signed off.

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