Mumbai`s crowds vanish from streets to cheer Team India

Mumbai: Mumbai`s crowded th oroughfares shed their vast multitudes as cricket fever gripped the city with passionate fans packing themselves into restobars, pubs and multiplexes to watch the titanic tussle for cricket`s most coveted trophy.

As afternoon approached, the weekend crowds started vanishing from bustling streets and marketplaces, city`s lifeline--suburban local trains--stopped gobbling up and disgorging faceless streams of commuters, as everybody--from a humble roadside hawker to corporate honcho headed to watch the captivating contest.

Cricket lovers who were not lucky enough to secure a place at the Wankhede Stadium, made frenzied attempts to book the remaining seats in multiplexes and restaurants to watch the India-Sri Lanka grand finale, or chose to enjoy the game in the cozy confines of their homes over house parties.

"We will chill out and cheer team India. If they win, we will raise a toast, and if they lose, we will drown our disappointment in the bubbly," said Ratish, raising his mug of beer at a suburban restobar.

According to sources in the hospitality sector, Mumbaikars guzzled over 70,000 litres of aclohol during the Wednesday`s semi-final clash between India and Pakistan.

Sources said most of the 7000 restaurants and bars in the city have been reserved already and owners made a last minute rush to replenish their stocks.

A number of crazy fans were seen blowing vuvuzelas, popularised during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, while getting painted the Indian tricolour on their faces and bodies near Churchgate station. The team India and bleed blue jerseys were much sought after stuff.

After taking the government to task for not providing passes to them, several legislators were granted their wish, but some complained they got just one.

BJP leader from North Mumbai Jaiprakash Thakur organised special pooja at the Hanuman temple in Malad west seeking divine intervention for team India`s victory.

The Maharashtra government has declared a holiday for its staff, while several private sector entities and educational institutions are having half-day.

The Western and Central Railways and BEST have made arrangements for running special trains and buses to ferry the fans back home after the match.

Though the event lacked the high-profile diplomatic sideshow of Mohali that heralded "re-engagement" between India and Pakistan, it had its own quota of dignitaries present at the revamped Wankhede Stadium that included President Pratibha Patil and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajpaksa.

Veteran BJP leader L K Advani, party president Nitin Gadkari, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, former minister Shashi Tharoor, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Bollywood actor Preity Zinta were also there to cheer the Indian team.

"We want India to win and so we are cheering for Dhoni and his men. We will be delighted if they win and disheartened if they lose, but the great game of cricket will win in any case," said Siddharth, one of the lucky few, who had a ticket for the Wankhede.


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