Under a security wrap, Mohali becomes city of detours

Busloads of Punjab Police personnel were rushed in, 1500 of them were deployed in and around the team hotel.

Reuters March 29, 2011

MOHALI: The tiny north Indian city of Mohali has suddenly become a city of detours with thousands of fans streaming in from all over India and neighbouring Pakistan for Wednesday's World Cup semi-final between the arch-rivals.

Strapping Punjab Police personnel, resplendent in their red-blue turban, were busy all day diverting every vehicle which strayed anywhere near the 28,000-seater stadium without a parking sticker.

For a match that would draw, among others, prime ministers of both the countries and a bevy of politicians, industrialists and celebrities, an unprecedented security blanket has been thrown around the venue.

With so much riding on the contest between the neighbours who have fought in three wars since their 1947 independence, the elite Special Protection Group and the National Security Guard have also been deployed in and around the stadium.

Local media reported anti-aircraft guns were being placed in strategic locations, while a water canon was spotted outside gate number four to prevent any potential demonstration, like the one that took place on Monday.

Busloads of Punjab Police personnel were being rushed in and 1500 of them were deployed in and around the team hotel in Chandigarh alone.

"Colleagues told me more than 2000 police personnel have been drawn from all over Punjab," said Gurpreet Singh after frisking a visitor and recovering a cigarette packet which he threw in a basket.

Some 50 sniffer dogs were roaming inside the stadium and the journalists had to vacate the place by 4 pm IST on Monday to facilitate a lockdown.

Before that, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men opted for a light practice session but their Pakistani counterparts surprised many by taking the day off.

Only skipper Shahid Afridi turned up for the pre-match news conference and said the team wanted to take a break.

"We have put in a lot of effort and today's off was absolutely necessary to save ourselves for tomorrow," said the all-rounder.

Dhoni and his colleagues went through their paces, the highlight being Sachin Tendulkar's batting practice using a granite slab.

On the verge of his 100th international century, Tendulkar had the slab placed at short of length where bowlers pitched it and the batsman practised back-foot shots, including the pull and the upper-cut, while some of the police personnel fished out their mobile phones and took pictures.

Visitors continued to pour in and with a considerable number of Pakistani fans crossing over to India through the Wagah border post but Mohali and Chandigarh are struggling to accommodate them.

Some of the hotels have hiked their tariffs overnight even after accepting bookings.



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