Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Indians invade Lahore ahead of One-dayers

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 20:17 [IST]
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Lahore:It is an Indian invasion of this historic city of Pakistan. They are coming by planes, trains and bus loads - the Indians in their thousands to back their national cricket team when they take on Pakistanis at the Gadaffi Stadium on Sunday and again on Wednesday.

For once, the "invaders" are welcome, wherever they go they are greeted by the Pakistanis with a warmth, which does not betray even a trace of the bitter, and mostly hostile, ties that have bedevilled the neighbouring countries.

The Indian Airlines is running special flights, chartered flights and putting bigger planes on Delhi-Lahore sector to accommodate crazy cricket fans who are also pouring into Lahore by trains and buses. The Airline operated 200-seat Airbus 300 instead of the 144 seater A-320 to accommodate the rush.

A special flight is plying on Delhi-Lahore sector on Saturday, followed by a chartered flight carrying some of the top names in Indian industry and corporate world which will land only hours before the fourth One-day match of the series in Lahore on Sunday. Special and additional flights are also being operated by the airline ahead of the fifth One-dayer, which will be also played in Lahore on Wednesday.

The hotels in this cultural capital of Pakistan have never had it so good. The room rates have gone up very substantially but rooms are not available.

As to the number of Indians, who have come to Lahore for the matches, these vary, depending on whom you talk to. Some put the figure at Rs 10,000, but most estimates point to about 7,000.

It is truly a friendship series. The crowds in the first three One-dayers have been sporting and supportive of good cricket. The Lahore matches are expected to be played in the same spirit.

Shoaib Akhtar has fantastic following in his homeland, which is no surprise but for many a youngster the favourite cricketer is Sachin Tendulkar for his class as a batsman, and for his dignity both on and off the field.

Music stores carry video discs of some of the greatest innings of the Indian maestro. These have been produced in Pakistan and are not available even in India. For once, the "invaders" and the invaded are on the same side. They want to watch great cricket and promote friendship.

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