Manmohan, Gilani will watch semi-final at Mohali; security stepped up

India and Pakistan will meet in an eagerly awaited semi-final contest in the World Cup at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium here on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, will be present, investing the occasion with a significance that goes beyond cricket.

In any case, the expectations for the match, which will be the fifth meeting between the traditional rivals in cricket's quadrennial showpiece event, have been strung at concert pitch. A neat statistic adds to the duel: while India hasn't lost a World Cup match to Pakistan, it hasn't defeated Pakistan in an ODI here.

The central battle of Wednesday's game, much like several of the matches between the sides, will pit a formidable Indian batting line-up against a penetrative Pakistani bowling attack. But India will have to win the transpose of this duel, that between its more limited bowling resources and Pakistan's less accomplished batting, if it is to progress to final.

Rival captains M.S. Dhoni and Shahid Afridi were in good spirits when they addressed the media on Tuesday.

Dhoni stressed the importance of the players not getting caught up in the hype preceding the match. “We know the kind of media hype India-Pakistan matches generate,” he said. “All this is part of cricket and we have to accept it. But the key is not to get involved.”

Afridi suggested that the match would draw the countries together. “The relations between the countries should improve,” he said. “Whatever be the result, the cricket on view should be of a high quality.”

Given the significance of the event, the authorities are leaving nothing to chance.

The security at major hotels surrounding the stadium has been tightened, and several approaches to the venue have been sealed. The stadium will have four layers of security personnel including intelligence officials, armed policemen, and elite commandos.

The airspace over Chandigarh and Mohali will be monitored; anti-aircraft guns have been put in place.

The happenings in the lead-up to the match may have distracted the attention, but once the contest gets under way at 2.30 p.m., cricket will reclaim centre stage.

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