MOHALI: More than 2,000 mounted police and commandos threw a tight security blanket around Mohali on Tuesday ahead of the World Cup semi-final clash between India and Pakistan.
But despite the significance of Wednesday's game, there was only one match consuming interest in Sri Lanka where Muttiah Muralitharan was playing his last international on home turf, the semi-final against New Zealand.
India's last-four encounter against Pakistan will be the first meeting between the two arch-rivals on Indian soil since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Although relations are still tense, the match has become a diplomatic lever with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani accepting an invitation from his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to attend the match.
"We are leaving nothing to chance. The security will be multi-layered," said Mohali's Senior Superintendent of Police G.P.S. Bhullar.
Around 100 commandos belonging to Punjab's Special Security Group, trained by Israeli counter-terrorism experts, will also be on duty.
People living close to the 30,000-capacity PCA stadium in Mohali were left fuming at what they termed was "too much attention just for a game of cricket".
"It has become a nightmare for us to reach and leave our homes," said Vijay Khanna.
"I shudder to think what will happen on match day when the build-up is like this. I am thinking of going on a short trip and escape the madness."
Hotel guests in Mohali and nearby Chandigarh, meanwhile, also complained of midnight security sweeps of their rooms.
In Colombo, Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara admitted that even a half-fit Muralitharan could be risked in Tuesday's semi-final against New Zealand.
The world record breaking off-spinner, who will retire after the World Cup, has been carrying a hamstring injury and also picked up a knee problem in the quarter-final win over England.
But the 38-year-old, who has 800 Test wickets and 532 ODI victims, is so crucial to Sri Lanka, that Sangakkara could be tempted to gamble.
"Murali and everyone is trying to get him fit enough to play, it's no use thinking about the final and saving him for other games," said Sangakkara of Muralitharan who took 4-25 in the group stage win over New Zealand.
Sangakkara said the spinner, who played in the 1996 World Cup winning team, will be crucial to his team's hopes of making the April 2 final in Mumbai.
"This is the crunch game and if he can play that'll be great for us, but if that doesn't work out for us, we've got enough cover to make sure that we are still a solid winning side," said Sangakkara.
New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori believes the semi-final should mark the start of bigger achievements.
The Black Caps have never progressed beyond the World Cup semi-finals in five previous attempts, but Vettori hoped his team move on from their upset quarter-final win over South Africa.
"I think we need to move on pretty quickly from that South Africa game," said Vettori of New Zealand's 49-run win at Dhaka.
"It was obviously a tremendous result for us but Sri Lanka is a completely different prospect. It's a different game so we need a different game plan and a better game plan if we want to succeed." AGENCIES