Rarely has any match at this World Cup seen the build-up of the crowd that the India-Pakistan duel, where India’s Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to field, saw since the morning on Saturday.
A crowd of Indian fans in blue lined up 3-4 hours before the game to enter the stadium that is expected to fill to capacity as the day progresses.
At the Railway Station, fans who had been travelling from Mumbai and Delhi for this game, checked in to even the station retiring rooms for a few hours before switching into India jerseys. There were discussions about the combination and where they’d put the luggage as heightened security meant going to the stadium almost empty-handed.
The talk on the road seemed all about the match.
An hour before the game, most fans had taken their seats in the stadium although the ground was yet to reach capacity. Billed as the mother of all battles, the India-Pakistan tie looks a game farthest away from home for Pakistan team even though the distance between Ahmedabad and Lahore is less than 1,000 km.
For there was not even a speck of Pakistan green in the crowd. Barring the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board and an elderly fan, known as Chacha, who turned up from Chicago, besides a few journalists who got their visas the day before yesterday, there was rarely any support for India’s opposition.
The national anthems may just have given them a hint of what is to come and the necessity to block the noise. For while the Pakistani one played, the ground was silent on expected lines and no sooner did the Indian one begin, than the crowd erupted to sing it in chorus.
It was no surprise then that four boundaries, all well executed, off the first 10 balls from Pakistan drew no applause.