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Frenzy peaks over India-Pakistan cricket clash

Monday March 28, 2011 09:56:39 PM, IANS

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Mohali: A Pakistani businessman fears he will have a heart attack if he doesn't get a ticket for the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final; a young man from Jharkhand is ready to sell his kidneys for one; desperate cricket fans ready to fork out up to Rs.25,000 for the cheapest ticket... Frenzy has peaked here over the most eagerly awaited clash only two days away.

As the first of Pakistanis began arriving here for a match whose two most prominent spectators will be Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Punjab government has its hands full, overwhelmed by the soaring demand for match tickets, hotel rooms and more.

A desperate Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal Monday urged Mohali's residents to host Pakistanis in their homes since all hotels have run out of rooms.

"My god, I have never seen anything like this," remarked US-based Pakistani Mohammed Basheemuddin Khan, as he hung around the stadium in the hope of getting tickets for himself and two friends from Karachi.

"I could see matches in Colombo, Dhaka. But here no one is helping me. I am a heart patient, and I am standing under this blazing sun. I will go on hunger strike if I don't get a ticket," said Khan.

Indians milling around him are sympathetic but they can't do much as they themselves are hunting for tickets. Shopkeepers say they are ready to give "our Pakistani brothers" free food and beverages.

Officials of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) -- whose phones do not stop ringing -- are expecting some 400 Pakistani fans to witness the match apart from the 100-strong delegation that will accompany Gilani.

The PCA Monday hurriedly despatched 200 passes to the Pakistani cricket board - after the Pakistanis complained that the earlier lot of 50 tickets wasn't enough to satisfy the hunger to see the Mohali showdown.

At one time, Punjab Police used batons to disperse large crowds ready to overrun the Mohali cricket stadium -- one of the best in India. Thousands of commandos and security forces are all over Mohali and Chandigarh, only 10 km away where the Indian and Pakistani teams are staying.

From Mohali, the cricket phobia has spread to all parts of India and Pakistan, two countries where cricket is a religion and where its players are demi-gods.

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who has a huge fan following in Pakistan, summarized the sub-continental mood: "There is unbelievable frenzy. The entire country shall be coming to a stop while (the match) is on. As will Pakistan."

In Madhya Pradesh, the post-lunch session of the assembly on Wednesday has been cancelled and a special screening of the match arranged for the legislators.

In Lahore, organisers of the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PFDC-SFW) have cancelled Wednesday's shows knowing well that all eyes will be rivetted to the semi-final.

In Chandigarh, Indian fans are organising prayer sessions, havans and other religious rituals -- because they want their team to win.

Pakistanis are looking forward to a great game of cricket. One fan said on Twitter: "Let the sportsman spirit prevail please."

Muhammad Hasan said on Facebook: "Clash of rivals, but with manners and ethics. Bats not guns, balls not artillery crackers."

Said another Pakistani, Raahil Faraaz: "There is huge excitement over the match and we are all looking forward to a great game of cricket that will be a victory for sport."

The clamour for tickets is unending.

Eight men have been arrested here for selling tickets at unbelievable prices. One of them was trying to sell two Rs.250 tickets for Rs.20,000 each. Another wanted to sell a similarly priced ticket for Rs.18,000.






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