New Delhi: India's leading film stars, politicians and industrialists are at the head of thousands of fans going to South Africa for next week's cricket World Cup semi-final clash with Kenya, officials said.Liquor moghul Vijay Mallya, who is also a member of the upper house of parliament, is laying on his Boeing 727 and Gulfstream private jets to ferry India's glitterati to the Durban fixture.India clashes with surprise package Kenya in the tournament's second semi-finals at Kingsmead, Durban on Thursday.
Most fans believe Saurav Ganguly's men already have one foot in the finals."There will be about 23 of us in the Boeing. We will be cheering all the way, with special T-shirts on -- the works," Mallya said in comments published Friday.Former Miss India Nafisa Ali, Kashmir's charismatic former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, his son and former Foreign Minister Omar Abdullah and Paris-based designer Ritu Beri will be on Mallya's plane, nicknamed "Cricket Express."Actresses Preity Zinta, whose thriller "Soldier" played to packed houses in South Africa, and Bipasha Basu will keep the ground cameras roving during the match, along with former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and film star Manisha Koirala, newspapers said.
Cricket legend Kapil Dev, who captained India to World Cup glory in 1983, has already arrived in South Africa and will soon be joined by a number of Cabinet Ministers, MPs and top officials.According to Indian immigration officials, some 10,500 fans flew to South Africa for the start of the World Cup. Some 2,000 witnessed the big games, such as the March 1 match with Pakistan, which India won."And now it seems another 5,000 to 6,000 fans will be flying across for the sizzling final lap of the 14-nation tournament," an official said.Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is among those who will miss seeing the semi-final first-hand.
The avid cricket fan has cited Gulf tensions as his reason for not flying.Some two million of India's blue-coloured cricket shirts have already sold nationwide and market sources said fans travelling to South Africa were carting bundles of gear to give to people of Indian origin there.Official sponsor Sahara will send out a Boeing to bring the team back and has already planned a monstrous celebration in South Africa's Sun City if India was to go on and win the title.South Africa airways, which put on extra flights for the Pakistan clash, will be using bigger planes for its India flights, a spokeswoman said.The first semi-final will be played on Tuesday at Port Elizabeth, where Australia will meet the victorious team from Saturday's last Super Six clash between Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.Copyright AFP 2001