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The mother of all battles

The semi-final clash in Mohali has drawn immense security measures with Prime Minister Gilani also expected to show up at the venue.

NEW DEHLI: As Pakistan Premier Yousaf Raza Gilani accepted his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh’s invitation to watch the World Cup semi-final between the two countries in Mohali on March 30, excitement had the host nation in its grips.

Several companies, multinational and domestic, have announced they will grant a half-day leave to their employees. Those who stay at work can watch the two countries battle it out on a giant screen put up for that day.

Some companies are offering refreshments, others have asked employees to come dressed in blue to cheer MS Dhoni’s men.

“We have declared a half-day for the employees to watch the match,” said Rids-wear manufacturer Liliput’s Managing Director Sanjeev Narula.

Sports goods manufacturers like Fila and Reebok are using cricket for brand popularisation. Arrangements have been made to create a stadium-like experience with music, orchestrated Mexican waves and every possible element of a match.

There is brisk business to be done out of the India-Pakistan clash. Official broadcaster ESPNSTAR Sports (ESS) is understood to have increased advertising rates five-fold for the game. Ticket prices have shot up 10-fold in the grey market and hotels are full, with a surge in demand at the venue, Mohali, close to Chandigarh.

According to media buyers, ESS is charging between INR1.5 million to INR1.8 million for a 10-second advertisement slot during the match, five to six times higher than what the broadcaster charged last-minute advertisers during the quarter-finals.

A senior executive at a media buying firm said, “The ad rates being quoted for the India-Pakistan match are the highest charged so far for any sporting event in the country. The rates are over 25 per cent higher than those charged for the India-Australia match.”

Hotel rates at Mohali have almost doubled. A budget hotel normally charging INR2,000 to INR3,000 is charging INR4,000 to INR6,000 per room. Ticket prices have shot up 10 times.

A ‘chair block’ ticket at the stadium, which has a seating capacity of 30,000 according to AFP, which was officially sold for INR500 was being traded for more than INR5,500 in the blackmarket.

Around 14,000 tickets were sold over the counter on March 21 and 22, and the rest were booked by the International Cricket Council, the Board of Control for Cricket in India and corporate bodies. Estimates are that over half the tickets sold over the counter are being traded in the blackmarket.