The atmosphere was charged outside the Punjab Cricket Association here on Tuesday afternoon, with fans trying relentlessly for tickets and commandos and officials running last-minute checks ahead of the VVIP visit.
The situation, however, was calmer inside the stadium. Rising above the dialogue din and cross-border tension, captains Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Shahid Afridi insisted that cricket, and only cricket, occupied their minds.
“Some distinguished guests are going to be there. So we would like to prepare ourselves well for a good game of cricket. The hype around this game isn’t affecting us. We are just trying to get ready for an important game,” said Dhoni.
Afridi was more forthcoming. He said, “I’m a cricketer first and focusing on what is going to be a very important game. My role as a diplomat, ambassador, or whatever you call it, comes later. Yes, it's huge for us to be playing this game in India.”
As the build-up to this match is getting hotter, Afridi urged fans on both sides of the border to stay calm.
“People in India and Pakistan are very emotional. They should realise that this is a great occasion because cricket brings these two countries together.”
“Somebody has to lose, irrespective of all the political talk and cricketing hype. At the end of March 30th, one team will lose. It does not happen in cricket alone, it happens in all sports,” the Indian captain said.
Dhoni, however, was reluctant to talk about non-cricketing issues.
“I’m unaware of what’s happening on the political front because I’m not watching TV or reading newspapers. It would be a distraction for me and my side which we don’t want.”
The characters to be seen playing crucial roles in what has already been tipped to be a dramatic encounter between India and Pakistan are apparently not reading too much into the larger-than-cricket label the Mohali semi-final has acquired.