ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
India v Pakistan, 1st semi-final, World Cup 2011, Mohali
Tight security as ministers flock to Mohali
Nagraj Gollapudi in Mohali
March 28, 2011
Inside the Mohali stadium there is an eerie silence. Pakistan arrived in the morning for their nets, India followed in the afternoon, then Pakistan returned later in the evening for fielding practice. Sitting inside the ground it just seemed another normal day. But that feeling blew away in the Mohali dust as soon as one stepped towards the entrance of the stadium, the epicentre of the ground.
There were officials and personnel from several arms of the Indian security machinery. The army, the National Security Guard (NSG), the Special Protection Group (SPG), which guards the country's prime minister, the state police; they all milled around like worker ants, doing decoys and last-minute checks.
Outside the ground, hundreds of fans had been clambering along the ticket windows since early in the morning, despite the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) announcing earlier last week that all tickets for the public were sold out. Turns out, a television station had announced that a batch of tickets would be sold at the stadium. The fans turned up in the morning and stood, squatted and loitered around in hope for the entire day. No one moved from behind the ticket window. One of the policemen, just off his shift, told ESPNcricinfo that he was going to change into civvies and join the queue of the hopeful.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab's deputy chief minister, described the semi-finals as a "major" event, and said the entire world would be watching India "fighting" Pakistan. "The level of excitement created [for this match], I think it would [even] be less in the final," Badal said. He assured that police had made all arrangements to ensure there would be proper movement and proper parking available on Wednesday.
With Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani accepting his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh's invite to attend the match, the security was expected to reach asphyxiating proportions. To avoid any chaos and undue distress, Badal suggested that the fans turn up at least three hours in advance. He also indicated that, in addition to the two prime ministers, a bevy of state chief ministers and governors, along with minsters in the federal government, are marching towards Chandigarh for the match. Also attending would be the chairman of the Pakistan senate and the governor of Punjab province in Pakistan.
The police outside the PCA Stadium have already had to deal with one potentially troublesome situation. On Monday, a group of workers from the pharmaceutical industry, who were protesting against a lack of jobs, walked towards the stadium, perhaps in hope of attracting attention from the media, who they knew would be swarming around the ground. The police sent them away, but a stone was hurled at a policeman, leading to a skirmish in which a few protestors were injured. The situation was brought under control in less than an hour.
Reports of Pakistani fans storming through the Wagah border, and wandering around Chandigarh in search for tickets, were unfounded. What remained as unclear was the total number of people crossing the border to witness the semi-finals. "The number is not clear at this moment because the visas have to be given; by tomorrow evening we will know," Badal said.
Pakistani fans who cannot make it to Mohali will still be able to enjoy the match in a stadium atmosphere. As per the directive of Pakistan's government, the PCB will be setting up digital screens under flood lights at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, where fans can come watch the game, for free.
IS Bindra, the PCA head, said the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had originally asked for only 50 tickets, but once Pakistan made it to the semis, they asked for four times that number. Bindra said the PCB was eventually granted 200 complimentary tickets. It is understood that the PCB would distribute the tickets to its own partners and not the public. So the list would include board officials, governing board members, and various personnel working for the president and the prime minister's offices. There is likely to be some corporate presence, too.
According to Bindra, the PCA is the only cricket association which has allotted 14,000 out of the total capacity of 27,000 tickets to the general public. He said those tickets went on sale on March 21 and were exhausted the next morning. "6000 have been given to the ICC. 1800 have been given to the PCA members. 1800 have been disbursed to the various state associations of the BCCI," Bindra said. "The least number of VVIP tickets have been issued in Mohali compared to other venues."