Ashish Nehra, former Indian seamer, recalled the euphoria around the 2011 World Cup semi-final clash between India and Pakistan in Mohali and how Pakistani cricketers in Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar helped him secure tickets for his family.
With fans thronging to Chandigarh from all corners of the world hoping to see the high-voltage India-Pakistan encounter but such was the hara-kiri around tickets and accommodation, Nehra revealed that most of them had to return back.
“Two-three days before that match, nobody knew that India and Pakistan would meet in the semifinals,” Nehra said on Wisden’s The Greatest Rivalry podcast.
”Everything happened very quickly, in 72 hours, everyone came to know that Pakistan is facing India in World Cup semifinals. And I have not seen anything like that. There were not too many five-star hotels in Chandigarh, there was one Mount View hotel and teams were staying in Taj. And I had seen people coming from America or England, you just name it, and they didn’t have tickets.”
Apart from the fans, a plethora of high-profile people like the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, and then Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had also come to watch the match. Nehra explained how after the arrival of the Pakistani delegation, there was no space in the hotels left, so much so that even then chairman of selectors Kris Srikkanth could not get a room for himself.
‘With the Pakistan delegation coming and a lot of tourists, who were staying in the Mount View hotel, left their rooms to go out and when they come back in the evening, their luggage was packed and kept outside their rooms and the hotel management told them that you have been checked out of the hotel, the money has been transferred back to your account … because the whole hotel has been taken by Mr [Yousaf Raza] Gillani and his team. I still remember India selector at the time, Kris Srikkanth, entering the Taj hotel in Chandigarh and there were no rooms for him,” Ashish Nehra added.
‘I got two tickets from him and two tickets from Shoaib Akhtar’- Ashish Nehra
Ashish Nehra, who claimed 2-33 in what turned out to be his final ODI match for the Men in Blue, revealed how he was able to secure some tickets for his family through Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar.
‘Great game for India, pressure game, electric atmosphere as always but the amazing thing was that people were standing outside the hotel and they didn’t even have tickets,” Ashish Nehra said.
“I was the lucky one, to be very honest, because I got a few extra tickets from the Pakistan camp. I told Shahid Afridi that I need two tickets, sort it out. Then I got two tickets from him and two tickets from Shoaib Akhtar. Waqar Younis was the coach, so maybe, out of the 30 players, I had the most number of tickets.” he added.
India eventually went on to win the match by 29 runs, not only extending their record against Pakistan in World Cups’ to 5-0 but also booking their place in the summit clash against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.