All roads lead to Mohali for “mother of all contests”

NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – A tiny north Indian city has  overnight become a hottest tourist destination, drawing Prime  Ministers, corporate czars, showbiz celebrities and passionate  fans for what is touted as the “mother of all cricket contests”.
Nothing gets bigger in this part of the globe than a cricket  match featuring India and Pakistan, who fought three wars since  their independence from Britain in 1947.
The rivalry would be renewed in Wednesday’s World Cup  semi-final in Mohali in the state of Punjab and the city  administration is already bracing for a logistical nightmare.
Many government and cricket officials fear the match could  be a potential tinderbox given the emotions involved and some  have urged the fans and the media not to hype what is  essentially a cricket contest.

Javagal Srinath
Javagal Srinath

“It’s like any other match. The media hype around the match,  I think, is totally unnecessary,” Pakistan team manager Intikhab  Alam told CNN-IBN channel.
“We have come here to play cricket. This is not war field or  anything. I’m sure you will see a great game of cricket,” said  the former Pakistan captain, who has coached the Punjab team in  Ranji trophy.
Even South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis hoped the  high-profile match would pass without anything untoward.

CRICKET DIPLOMACY
“India v Pakistan in Mohali is a spectacle not to be  ignored. Like everyone else, my greatest wish is that the match  takes place without any ‘incident’, either on or off the field,”  he wrote in a column that appeared in Sunday’s Hindustan Times  newspaper.
Former India pace bowler Javagal Srinath advised the Indian  team not to let the “dream semi-final” to distract them from  their ultimate goal of winning the title.
“The general perception among the Indian fans that beating  Pakistan is the be-all and end-all must change,” Srinath wrote  in the same newspaper.
“We have to move out of that line of thinking. As a nation  we have evolved and I don’t think there can be any compromise on  winning the final.”
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani  counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani will watch the match in what is  billed as “cricket diplomacy”.
Industry moguls are not lagging behind either.
According to a newspaper report, airport authorities have  received requests from business tycoons, including India’s  richest man Mukesh Ambani and fellow industrialist Vijay Mallya,  to allow them to park their private jets in Chandigarh.
While politicians and Bollywood celebrities will also be in  tow, there is a growing sense of anger among the ticket-seeking  fans who complained of large-scale black-marketing.
The CNN-IBN channel claimed tickets priced at 15,000 Indian  rupees ($335.6) were available in the black market for 100,000  rupees ($2,237), while tickets priced at 10,000 were being sold  at five times their original worth.
Both Chandigarh, some 10 km from the stadium, and Mohali are  bursting at the seam and around 2000 hotels rooms are proving  inadequate to accommodate the visitors and the rush has not  ended yet.

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