Delhi warms up to World Cup fever
New Delhi: There are no carpet bombings or the distant drone of gunfire. But it is a war, nevertheless - a battle of another kind on a pitch spelling excitement, rivalry, goodwill, big money and sheer joy all at once.
The buzz is growing off the pitch on the eve of the 2011 Cricket World Cup semifinal clash between India and Pakistan at Mohali in Punjab Wednesday.
"The day should be declared a national holiday," cricket enthusiast Sheeba Naaz, an M.Phil student at the Jamia Millia Islamia, told reporters.
Sheeba, who has followed the series passionately, intends to stay glued to her television on the match day.
Hectic opinion polling is under way at the campuses here on the probable winner of the match.
Net savvy students of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, IGNOU and Jamia Millia Islamia are using social networking sites to post their verdicts and copy links to websites across the world.
"Cricket has unified us - sort of jumped across bars of colours, race, religions and creed," said Anwesha Mohapatra, a final year humanities student at Gargi College.
She has marked her opinion poll mandate to her cousins in the US, who are "more used to watching baseball and soccer".
The campaign, titled "ICC Cricket World Cup 2011", has its odds stacked in favour of India.
Betting has been brisk on campuses. Several self-styled bookies are making a fast buck. The stakes vary between Rs.100 and Rs.1,000, a student in Delhi University said.
However, Rohit Sahani, a young media trainee, has his ear to the ground in order to assess the impact of the hype generated by the media on both sides of the border.
"It will be a very exciting game but the hype is being built up by the media is unnecessary. Everyone will be relaxed as it will be an entertaining tie unlike the fireworks predicted by pundits," Sahni said.
Cricket, if nothing else, promotes a diplomatic dialogue between India and Pakistan each the time the two nations spar on the pitch.
"I am convinced that cricket will again provide the catalyst to bring about harmony, tolerance and good neighbourly relations," former Pakistan foreign secretary Shahryar Khan said in the book "Shadows Across the Playing Field: 60 Years of India-Pakistan Cricket", co-written with writer-politician Shashi Tharoor, who used cricket as a barometric tool to measure the brownie points scored by the two nations post independence.
Agreed leading art promoter and old Congress guard Narendra Bhikhu Ram Jain: "India and Pakistan are the flag bearers of this series."
The ongoing series is "one of the most activity oriented commercial exercise," Jain told reporters.
The business around cricket in the capital has been booming.
Entertainment company MoneyGram has released a "Cricket for Peace" anthem to cash in on the fever.
The Second Sin eatery at the MGF Metropolitan Mall in Saket is wooing cricket enthusiasts with "big screen telecast of the match, endless round of drinks and an array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian snacks".
"If India lifts the cup, the drinks will be complimentary - on the house," a spokesperson for the restro-pub told reporters.
Zazen, a snazzy restaurant in the HUDA restaurant complex in Panchkula, recommends a "World Cup Chinaman Samplers` Platter" for Rs.599.
The not-so-privileged in the capital too are not immune to the excitement.
"I am sure India will win. It has won several of the matches," Shiv Chowdhury, a domestic help in an upscale Delhi neighbourhood, told reporters.
He was echoed by at least a dozen of fellow migrant domestic helps and cooks who watch the matches in a spirit of kinship at a shack after work.
The tele-viewing sessions are followed by a feast of rice, dal, curried vegetables and a dish of spicy mutton -- but only when India wins.