Mohali, March 27 - It's cricket and only cricket here, everything else has taken back seat, as Mohali prepares for the March 30 confrontation between India and Pakistan in the World Cup cricket semifinal.
Authorities have made all arrangements to welcome guests from across the border as a number of Pakistani cricket fans are expected here for what could to be a cracker of a match at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium.
"The PCA had given 50 tickets to the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) in advance. They can distribute them among their official guests, celebrities and VIPs. Besides, there are many Pakistani cricket fans who have bought tickets on their own. We have made all arrangements to welcome them," M. P. Pandove, PCA secretary, told IANS.
Inquiries from Pakistan were still pouring in, but Pandove said that the PCA cannot provide any more tickets.
"All tickets, which were with the PCA, have been sold. Therefore we cannot provide any more tickets to Pakistan fans; we are helpless," he said.
G. S. Walia, joint secretary of the PCA, told IANS: "We are expecting a very good number of Pakistani guests in the stadium. They will include senior politicians and celebrities. Scores of tickets have been bought by Pakistani fans. We will try our level best to accommodate them and to offer world-class facilities."
With the match fever spreading fast, almost all the rooms in the hotels in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali are already booked by the team officials, mediapersons and cricket fans.
"All rooms in my hotel are booked, but if any Pakistani guest approaches me, then I would certainly make arrangements for him. This is the best opportunity for us to be perfect hosts for our brothers and sisters," Manmohan Singh, who owns a hotel and is a member of the Chandigarh Hotels Association, told IANS.
Singh said his hotel will also offer special Pakistani cuisine at its restaurant.
Mohammad Alim, a Karachi-based businessman, told IANS: "I had come to Punjab for a business trip, but I have extended my stay here to watch the India-Pakistan match.
"I have talked to my friends in Karachi and many of them will be reaching here very soon. We are not concerned about the result as our only aim is to enjoy the company of Indian cricket enthusiasts and their hospitality."
Both Indian and Pakistani teams are at the Taj in Chandigarh, around 10 km from the stadium.
The Mohali stadium is considered one of the most modern cricket fields in India. It has a pitch with a reputation for being lively and supporting to both the batsmen and pace bowlers.
The stadium was built in 1992 and can easily accommodate 28,000 spectators. It hosted two of the league matches in this World Cup.
Top Indian politicians, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with his wife, celebrities, Bollywood stars and leading businessmen will be at the PCA stands to witness the high-voltage clash.
Adding to the excitement, the prime minister has invited Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to watch "a great game of cricket".
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka Gandhi, Reliance industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and various senior leaders from the centre and the Punjab and Haryana governments are also expected for the match.
The Indian government is offering thousands of visas to Pakistani cricket fans.
Asif Ali, a Chandigarh resident and a hard-core cricket fan, told IANS: "My four cousins are coming from Lahore to watch this match. They have already got their visas and will come by bus through the Attari-Wagah border on Monday."
He said they also have plans to visit the various mosques of Punjab and Chandigarh. (IANS)