Cricket fever grips Pakistan on eve of Indo-Pak semis clash

The whole nation -- from ulemas to politicians, from students to businessmen and government officials -- is praying for the success of the side in the high-voltage clash at Mohali tomorrow.

The mass prayers are being held, public screenings in cricket stadiums, cinema houses and even in prisons are being organised. The religious scholars and ulemas have got behind the team, with around 5000 students of the well known Jamia Binnoria seminary holding special collective prayers for the success of the Pakistan team in Karachi today.

"We have had Quran Khawani and collective prayers to wish the team well. The Ulemas and our students, like the rest of the country, also want the team to do well," a spokesman for the seminary said.

Religious seminaries have usually kept a distance from cricket and have never encouraged their students to take part in cricket activities but this time the spokesman said it's different. "Our students which include foreigners are so keen about the match. We feel it is important to support the Pakistan team in their match against India," he added.

Even in the Central jail and the Malir jail in Karachi, special arrangements have been made by the prison authorities to allow prisoners to watch the match. "In Malir Jail, we have around 200 Indian prisoners and we are making arrangements to show them the match on a big screen," IG prison, Ghulam Qadir said.

There no cable service available for the prisoners at the Central jail but for tomorrow's match, changes have been made. "I have never seen the people keyed up so much for even an Indo-Pak match before. It is amazing the interest this game has generated," former Test captain Zaheer Abbas told PTI.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has also announced that it is holding a special screening of the semi-final at the Gaddafi stadium tomorrow under floodlights on the directives of the government. "We have made this arrangement keeping in mind the immense interest of the people and it will be a great experience and opportunity for the people to support their team in a stadium," a board official said.

The PCB said entry into the stadium would be free and permission was also being given to organizers to arrange similar live screenings at other stadiums under the control of the Board in other cities. The Gaddafi stadium has a seating capacity of around 35,000 people.

Expectedly, the political parties have also joined in the wave of support for the Pakistan team with the chief of the Mutthaida Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussain urging his followers to pray for a Pakistan win.

As expected in such circumstances, the traders and small businesses have also had a field day exploiting the immense demand ahead of the the semi-final, dubbed as the 'mother of all cricket clashes'. Shopkeepers in the crowded and popular Zianab market confirmed that they had run short of the Pakistan team jerseys such was the demand by cricket fans.

"These team T-shirts are being made in the local market as well some big traders have got them manufactured in China, Bangladesh and Thailand in anticipation of the high demand for the shirts," shopkeeper Karim Bawani said.

He said despite the traders flooding the market with these T-shirts, the stock had fallen short as soon as it was confirmed Pakistan would play India in the semi-final.
"Everyone specially the youngsters now want to wear the T-shirt on the match day and they are willing to even pay 800 to 1000 rupees for one piece," Karim said. Another phenomenon during this World Cup has been the installation of giant screens to show the matches live at public parks, private clubs and in hotels and restaurants.

"Everywhere you see it seems every restaurant, hotel, club and park is holding special screenings of the semi-final and the interest from the people is amazing," a city government official said.

Even the government is aware of the interest the semifinal has evoked and special instructions have been issued to power supply companies to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply during the match and to suspend the load-shedding schedule. "We can't risk angry protests from the people if we carry on with the load shedding schedule during the semi-final. So we are trying to ensure the people can watch the match in peace," a spokesman for the Karachi Electric supply corporation said.

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