Most visa applications from Pakistani fans received for Kotla match

While spectator interest may have waned after Pakistan clinched the one-day international cricket series against India in Kolkata on Thursday, the visitors can hope for some crowd support at Delhi as it is the one venue where there was some demand for spectator visas allotted to Pakistani fans.

Belying expectations of a rush for visas, there were very few takers for the 500 spectator visas/tickets offered to Pakistan for the first four matches. Only the last ODI in Delhi — where 1,000 tickets/visas were allotted to Pakistan — had met with enthusiasm; and that too was a touch-and-go situation as the Board for Control of Cricket in India had not sent the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) the tickets until December 25. Visa applications had to be made at least seven days in advance through designated travel agents with ticket and confirmed hotel bookings.

Even for the Delhi match, the number of visa applicants remained under 400 and many may well have dropped out after the Kolkata game. In fact, when asked if reports of President Asif Ali Zardari visiting Delhi for the game were correct, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan — while maintaining that he was not aware of any such plans — quipped that not much interest was left in the match after the series was won in Kolkata.

While the procedures for getting a visa to either country have always been daunting, the venues of the matches — which would entail further travel in India — appear to have been an added deterrent. Of all the venues, Delhi is the only one with direct air connections to Pakistan. Still, the rush for visas seen during the last match between the two countries in Mohali in March 2011 for the World Cup semi-final is missing this time round.

Though the absence of Pakistani spectators may have dried up communication opportunities and conversation, social networking sites have opened up a new forum.

Twitter and Facebook timelines during a match replicate the nail-biting and jeering/cheering on the ground. After feverishly tweeting through the first T20 match and taking pot-shots galore, newscaster Mansoor Ali Khan wrapped up with this olive branch: “Just to end it up, it was all just as a sports lover cheering my team. Nothing personal. Appreciate good cricket.”

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