"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting." - George Orwell
Back in the day, I remember that I had studied about “Pressure” in physics class. A quick google tells me that Pressure is defined as the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Trying telling that to Dhoni’s boys or for that matter Afridi’s boys!
Tomorrow, when the 22 men from either side of the border square off, the pressure they would be under would defy all definitions. If the pressure resulting from the cumulative expectations of a billion Indians wasn’t enough, our Prime Minister wasted no time to deflect the focus from other pressing National issues through the latest Cricklomacy coup – invite his counterpart from across the border. Thus Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani will be among those scheduled to watch the encounter, along with Bollywood celebrities and corporate czars. AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi and chairman of the Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani are also expected during the match.
It would be absurd if the two teams imagined even for a nano-second that the match would be a Sunday knock-about. The following viewership numbers (in terms of reach of the India matches in World Cup 2011) offer a quantifiable illustration of the pressure on the two teams:
Being a working day, the reach of the Australia quarter final match remained at modest 53 million (ESPN + Star Sports + Star Cricket + DD), lower than the India-England match which was played on a Sunday. But tomorrow is guaranteed to be virtually a national holiday and the viewership number may cross a 100 million. Our billion-strong population will be calling in sick to work, shutting shops early and even cancelling doctor's appointments to make sure they watch Wednesday's much-hyped World Cup semi-final match against arch rivals Pakistan. On social networking site Facebook, more than 100,000 people voted a resounding "yes" to a poll on whether March 30th should be declared a national holiday in India, while another 40,000 said they were just going to "bunk" work. Even Bollywood, the world's biggest film industry is cancelling shoots and heading to Mohali to watch the match live. SRK and Aamir are reportedly at it again throwing special parties for the match.
With productivity threatening to dip considerably, even the bosses have given in. The TOI reports that “work will take a backseat at India Inc when the cricketing world's arch-rivals India and Pakistan face-off in the World Cup semi-final at Mohali tomorrow. While some companies are considering half or full day leave for employees on the day of the match, others have installed TV screens across office premises or made arrangements for special screening of the match for employees. Employee friendly companies such as FMCG major Dabur India is reported to be “weighing a holiday" on Wednesday. The company had declared a holiday on the day of the T20 final between India and Pakistan in 2007. Other firms such as PepsiCo India are mulling allowing half-day leave for employees! A spokesman for Reliance Industries, India's top listed firm, said employees would be allowed to watch the match in conference rooms. (Well if the top cat is away in Mohali, the mice will play, no?)
While just about everybody may be looking for an inventive excuse to bunk work tomorrow and watch the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final, the Mumbai Mirror reports that some of the busiest doctors in Mumbai’s private hospitals have no such problems. They are, in fact, happily accepting requests from their patients to postpone their surgeries which were scheduled for that day. Such is the frenzy around the match, that some patients don't mind paying through their nose for deluxe rooms which come with attached televisions - in case the surgery cannot be rescheduled. At Hiranandani hospital in Powai, doctors said that so far 15 surgeries slated for Wednesday have been postponed on the request of patients. Of these, six are hip and knee-replacement surgeries.
The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium at Mohali - which would host the historic semi-final on March 30 - has made arrangements to accommodate 27,500 people and has claimed to have sold more than 15,000 tickets over the counter on March 21 and 22. PCA stated that the association had already sent 50 tickets to the Pakistan Cricket Board. The town expects more than 200 fans from Pakistan and has also made elaborate arrangements for receiving the guests. However, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi's younger brother Mustaq Afridi won’t be amongst the “guests” – he was stopped at Attari immigration office as he did not have proper documentation for his match-ticket!
Tickets for the semifinal - dubbed as the mother of all clashes (methinks it should be the Grandaddy of all clashes!) - have been attracting offer prices up to twenty times the original rate. Prices of all tickets for the big match have soared in the black market. On 25th March, a Rs 250 ticket was being sold on the sly for Rs 2,000 and even more, Rs 500 tickets are available for Rs 4,000. And a Rs 1,000 ticket could only be bought, believe it or not, for as high as Rs 6,500-7,000. Tickets priced at Rs 10,000 are being sold for about Rs 50,000. The tickets worth Rs 15,000 are attracting bids of about Rs 1 lakh each. A die-hard cricket fan even wanted to sell his kidney for India-Pakistan semifinals match ticket!
The student block tickets priced at Rs 250 are commanding a price of up to Rs 5,000 while the huge demand has escalated the chair block tickets worth Rs 500 each to Rs 10,000. Those who bought tickets earlier are trying to sell them in the black market since people are ready to dole out "an unprecedented" amount for tickets. Yesterday, Chandigarh police claimed to have arrested a Mohali-based software engineer for black-marketing the tickets of the high-octane cricket World Cup semifinal between India and Pakistan. The cyber cell of the city police found the accused, identified as Mandeep Singh Bhangu (27), selling the Rs 250 ticket at a whopping price of Rs 30,000 through online shopping website e-bay.com, police said in a statement. The accused was offering five tickets of Rs. 250 each at an exaggerated price which was around 100 times more than the actual price of the ticket! Bhangu’s message on ebay read: "Life time opportunity to watch the Clash of Titans in World Cup Semifinal. This is it, the best match ever to happen in history of Cricket. 5 Tickets for Chair Block Entrance Gate India Vs Pakistan . Would you dare to miss this match? And curse yourself for your whole lifetime. 5 Tickets for 1800 Pounds, 3000 Dollars, Rs. 120,000. Individual ticket to be sold at a price of Rs. 30k per ticket, please send me a message." After learning about the offer, Police swung into action and made a bid of Rs. 95,000 for all the five tickets and left a contact number on the website. Within minutes, the accused contacted the police, and a deal was struck and he was asked to reach a coffee joint in Sector 11. Bhangu reached the joint and a police officer was sent to negotiate with him. After negotiations, one ticket was purchased from for Rs. 24,000 and he was caught red handed. The four other tickets were also recovered from him, police said. Good going – my question is what is the police going to do with the tickets?
Ironically, the newspapers have reported though police authorities claimed they would check black marketing of tickets, cricket enthusiasts revealed a large number was actually being sold by cops - some of whom are on security duty in and around the stadium. Representatives of some corporate houses, who were ready to pay “any amount”, were seen outside the PCA Stadium in an effort to get tickets for the corporate boxes.
An India-Pakistan match is almost always a big money-spinner, and a World Cup semi-final clash is as big as it gets. Bookies and punters across the country are gearing up to run a show that is estimated to rake in Rs 5,000 crore on the betting circle as India takes on Pakistan in the semi-final at Mohali on March 30.
One thing is for sure – come tomorrow, daily life in both countries will grind to a halt as fans from all walks of life settle down to watch one of the sport's most intense rivalries. Since the two teams set-up the clash last week, all other headlines have been pushed off the front pages of newspapers and a minority few believe the hype is too much. The bedlam in Bharat is on full swing already – “top” astrologer Bejan Daruwalla (our desi version of Paul the octopus?) has reiterated that India will indeed beat Pakistan and also go on to lift the World Cup, fans across the nation have been seeking divine intervention through the power of their prayers (TOI reported that cricket crazy fans in Mysore offered puja at Anjaneya Swamy Temple, Vontikoppal; similar invocations were held in Jaipur and on the banks of the Ganges!) and the news channels have bored the viewers to death with the coverage blitzkrieg featuring myriad “experts” (the most ridiculous of the lot has got to be “Professor Deano” on NDTV). There is just no escaping the media mayhem surrounding the showdown, with channels running a constant stream of analysis and news, scrutinising every move and analysing every decision taken by the two teams!
Pandemonium and Pakistan are often synonymous – this time their Interior Minister’s infamous statement has added a bizarre twist to the events. Interior Minister Rehman Malik triggered a controversy warning Pakistan players against indulging in match-fixing, comments that did not go well with the country's former players and administrators, who criticized him for his statement. "I gave a warning that there should be no match-fixing. I am keeping a close watch. If any such thing happens, we are going to take action," Malik said two days ahead of the game! Well done sir – as if there wasn’t enough pressure already?
And then there is the pressure of history – for those who were in a coma since 1992, here’s how the results stand as of now… 5-0 to India:
I wouldn’t want to be MSD’s shoes. All I hope is Sachin gets his hundredth 100 and India wins – the latter being more important for now. The super ton can wait till Wankhade :) when India lifts the Cup of Joy.