Mumbai: India ground to a halt on Saturday as the country prepared for one of its biggest days, with cricket fans willing the team to overcome Sri Lanka and lift the World Cup trophy in Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium.
The Times of India summed up the mood among the country's 1.2 billion inhabitants with its front page headline "A Nation Holds Its Breath."
In a city struck by terrorism in 2008, security was tight, especially around the downtown stadium where 32,000 fans were due to watch the game. More than 3,000 police officers and paramilitaries were on duty to prevent a repeat of the November 2008 attack by Islamist militants on several targets in the western city, which killed 166 people.
Both teams were staying in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, rebuilt after it was partially destroyed in gun fights involving the attackers in 2008.
Police with bamboo sticks were patrolling with armed paramilitaries around the stadium and newspapers reported a no-fly zone had been imposed over south Mumbai.
Local media reported tickets, sold out for months, were selling on the black market for more than $3,000.
The tabloid Mumbai Mirror reported that International Cricket Council officials bringing a silver replica of the World Cup trophy to India were allegedly stopped at Mumbai Airport by customs officials who demanded tickets for the final in exchange for a waiver on taxes and duties. With the real trophy safely already at Wankhede Stadium, the story continues, the unnamed ICC official reportedly told the customs officers the trophy would be collected on departure.
The leaders of both countries were expected to attend Saturday's final and most businesses closed for the day.
Any roads around the stadium that weren't closed were teeming with fans by 10 a.m., more than four hours before the start. Many were wearing India shirts with the name "Tendulkar" on the back after India's most famous citizen, batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Confidence is high among the team's millions of fans that India can end its 28-year wait for a World Cup win.
"India will win, no doubt," said Shanelle Irani, a 21-year-old law student from Mumbai. "Why? Because it's Sachin's home ground, it's his last World Cup. We've got to win it for him."
ICC president Sharad Pawar on Friday warned spectators that they should arrive at the stadium in plenty of time before the game, which begins at 2.30pm local time.
Panin Shah, a 32-year-old stockbroker, spent five hours on the train traveling to Mumbai on Friday before queuing at the stadium for another four hours to pick up the ticket he had booked online.
Then on Saturday morning, he, like everyone else, had to negotiate multiple and very hands-on security checks before finally getting inside the stadium.
"I don't mind the security at all," he said as he put his shoes back on following the latest check. "It's necessary."
At 64, Kesarichand Bhura is old enough to remember the last time India won the World Cup in 1983. Then, he watched on television at his home in the northeastern state of Assam. This time, he has traveled the breadth of India to Mumbai to see if Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men can emulate Kapil Dev's team.
"This win will be bigger," he said, "because the standard of cricket these days is so much higher."
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