World Cup fever grips Ahmedabad

World Cup fever gripped Ahmedabad as the city prepared to host the match of the tournament to date, a quarter-final between co-hosts India and champions Australia.

By Julian Guyer

Ahmedabad: Mar 24, 2011

World Cup fever gripped Ahmedabad as the city prepared to host the match of the tournament to date, a quarter-final between co-hosts India and champions Australia.

“Ahmedabad all set for tryst with history,” read the front page headline in the Times of India, which said the city was in an “anxious” mood ahead of the clash between the cricket superpowers. International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat had predicted a sell-out crowd and just getting into the Sardar Patel Stadium, in the Motera district of Ahmedabad, was an achievement in itself.

Traffic, which included cows and other livestock, choked nearby roads with hundreds of fans desperate for a precious ticket mingling with baton-wielding police and security officials on the perimeter of the ground. Even for those with the correct accreditation or a valid ticket, gaining access was far from straightforward with passes having to be repeatedly produced to satisfy the various staff.

Adding to the excited atmosphere was the fact temperatures, at least in the early stages of this day/night encounter, were forecast to rise to 33 degrees Centigrade (91 degrees Fahrenheit) and beyond.
For Australia fans in a crowd of over 48,000 there was an additional complication in that one of their traditional methods of countering the heat — a cold beer — was denied them as Ahmedabad is situated in the ‘dry’ state of Gujarat, where the sale of alcohol is severely restricted.

A fever-pitch atmosphere was expected by the time the match got underway, all the more so as India batting great Sachin Tendulkar came into this fixture needing just one more century for the unprecedented feat of a hundred international hundreds.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting, bidding to lead his country to a fourth straight World Cup title and fifth in all, had suggested in the build-up the pressure was all on India, whose lone World Cup success in 1983 came while Tendulkar was still a schoolboy. But India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni insisted having the overwhelming support of a passionate crowd was an inspiration, not a handicap.

“It is a big advantage,” said Dhoni. “You have 30,000-40,000 people coming to the ground to cheer for you. If they are cheering for you then it definitely makes a difference.” Thursday’s match was given an added edge by the knowledge that were India to win, they would face arch-rivals Pakistan in a semi-final in Mohali in the border state of Punjab.

However, the Daily News and Analysis paper insisted: “In cricket, India-Pakistan rivalry is no longer in vogue. The real thing is India versus Australia. So, when the teams clash in Motera on Thursday, the world will come to a standstill.” “The world” might be pushing it a bit, but Ahmedabad certainly had.

AFP