Cricket-India ready for Saturday day-night fever

Mumbai: One billion Indians woke up with pounding hearts on Saturday in anticipation of Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men ending the nation`s 28-year wait for the World Cup title.

Some of the lucky 33,000 spectators who possess a ticket for the all-Asian final between India and co-hosts Sri Lanka headed straight to the Wankhede Stadium seven hours before the first ball is bowled to ensure they do not miss out on even one second of the day`s drama -- which could include Sachin Tendulkar scoring his 100th international century.

In case the Indian team needed any reminders to what the country was expecting from them, they were greeted with newspaper headlines such as "A nation holds its breath".

Those who could not beg, borrow or steal a ticket to the ground, changed the batteries in their TV remote and set the day`s agenda around the contest. Even major hospitals in Mumbai installed large screens so that staff who want to follow the action do not call in sick.

Mumbai has been transformed into a fortress with anti-aircraft guns placed at strategic locations, navy boats patrolling the coastline and elite security agencies completing the dragnet in the city which was targeted by militants in 2008.

The air-space above the stadium has been declared a no-fly zone and International Cricket Council President Sharad Pawar advised spectators to enter the stadium before the VIPs -- including presidents of both the nations -- start arriving.

Fans were having to pass through multiple security posts and were allowed to take in their mobile phones, flags and banners.

However, those carrying cameras, binoculars, radios and even bottles of water on a baking day in Mumbai were soon left frustrated as the items were confiscated due to safety measures.

Similarly smokers trying to sneak in cigarette packets failed to hoodwink the security personnel and could only watch on in disappointment as their loot was tossed into the bin.

Since only a fraction of India`s billion strong population could get entry into the Wankhede, pubs and bars around the city were trying to attract the masses by installing giant screens and promoting day-long `happy hours`.

"We have received heavy booking and in fact can`t accommodate a single request anymore," said Dinesh Naik, manager at a sports bar.

Bureau Report