Mohali braces for epic tie

Thousands waiting to cross over; India unlikely to issue fresh visas

Mohali braces for epic tie

India has already facilitated around 5,000 visas for Pakistanis even before the semifinal line-up was confirmed. Now with the match barely four days away, massive crowds thronged Lahore’s Gadhafi Stadium on Saturday to enquire about the availability of tickets for the keenly awaited encounter.

There was some misunderstanding as some Indian TV channels reported that India would reserve 5,000 visas to the Pakistanis for the Mohali match. In reality, India has already issued that many visas to those having tickets for the quarterfinals, semis and the final in Mumbai.

According to sources, in the wake of India-Pakistan semifinal clash, there is no possibility of issuing fresh visas to any Pakistani fan as anyone wishing to apply for the travel document will have to undergo the normal application procedure which will take at least a month. Besides, tickets were sold long ago and no visa application will be entertained without a copy of the ticket.

The enthusiasm has increased following the push given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has invited his  Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the high-voltage tie.

Even as match ticket prices skyrocketed in Chandigarh and flight charges went through the roof, authorities were busy making arrangements for ferrying visitors from Pakistan to Mohali. Special buses are likely to be pressed into service at Wagah, close to the border with Pakistan, for the convenience of Pakistani cricket fans to visit Mohali.

The authorities are making arrangements for the buses at Wagah—the only land border crossing between Pakistan and India—for those Pakistani cricket fans who wish to travel to India. Sources said the buses, which are expected to ply between the Wagah-Chandigarh and Wagah-Amritsar routes, may be operationalised from Monday.

PM’s invite

In Islamabad, Gilani was to meet Zardari to decide on the Manmohan Singh invitation. However, it is not known whether the Pakistani government would make an announcement regarding its decision after the meeting or hold further consultations on Sunday. Gilani is likely to accept Singh’s invitation.

While the tickets for the Wednesday match are already sold out, at least some of those who have bought them in advance are selling the tickets at a premium. Officially priced at Rs 5,000, a terrace stand ticket is going for not less than Rs 35,000 while others are touching Rs 60,000 and may reach Rs 1 lakh a day before the match. All hotel rooms and guest houses in the city are full. Air tickets have also skyrocketed. An Air India flight from Mumbai to Chandigarh for Sunday is being quoted at Rs 21,000.

In Srinagar, Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, who is also president of the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, on Saturday hoped that Pakistani leaders will accept the prime minister's invitation to watch the semifinal.
 

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