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600 fans on train to Lahore

March 20, 2004 00:25 IST

The 'cricket special' train left old Delhi railway station for Lahore from platform number 18 on Friday evening amidst chanting of slogans like 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', 'Jeete Ga Bhai Jeete Ga, India Jeete Ga', Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal', 'Har Har Mahadev'.

The compartments of the train were adorned with posters of Indian super stars Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly.

Before the train chugged out, the 600-odd passengers made no secret of their passion for cricket. Abid Hussain of Hyderpora in Srinagar, who was traveling along with four friends, is perhaps the only Kashmiri to be given a visa to watch Sunday's match in Lahore.

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"I will fly the Indian tricolour each time our players hit a four or six or take a Pakistani wicket," said Hussain, who works in an IT firm.

His friends, Amit Kapil, Sondeep Bhinder, Sanjay and Vineet Satija are also going to cheer the Indian team. They said Abid has arranged for their accommodation in a good hotel in Karachi.

Ameet Dominic Xavier flew from Hyderabad to Delhi on Thursday and applied for a visa with the Pakistani High Commission to make the trip.

"I am lucky that I not only managed to get my visa but also managed to be on the train to see India and Pakistan in Lahore. Two of my friends, Stephen and Vishal, are accompanying me on the trip. We are confident that the Indian team will stage a grand comeback in the next match on Sunday," he said.

Sixty-year-old Suresh Purohit from Jodhpur in Rajasthan caught the eye of photographers and television cameramen because of his colourful turban and the tricolour painted on his cheeks. He carried placards, which read 'Chodha Varsho Ka Banwas Toota', 'Do Bhaiyon ka Pyar Choota'.

Parvesh Marwah had promoted cricket for four decades while working in Kuwait and even organized India - Pakistan matches at the junior level.

"I felt that a person like me who has played and promoted the game of cricket should be on the train and travel to Lahore to cheer the Indian team," he said.

Sanjeet Singh and his wife Bharti, both former journalists, were not to be left behind. For the past three weeks they ran around for a visa to ensure they do not miss out on the Sunday's match in Lahore.

"Besides watching the game and shouting for the Indian team, I want to do lot of shopping in Lahore," Bharti admitted candidly.

Manmohan Singh Kohli (58) was there at Lord's when Kapil Dev and his men defeated the mighty West Indies, led by Clive Lloyd, to lift the World Cup in 1983.

Born in Baluchistan, now in Pakistan, he wasn't a bit dismayed by the Indian team's four-wicket loss in the third ODI in Peshawar.

"It is a game; anything can happen. But I am confident that our boys will make a great come back and win the series," he said.

Among the 36 women passengers on the train was Supreme Court advocate, Ms Chandan Rama Murthy and young Amita Verma. Both said they are going to Pakistan to "back their favourite cricketers".

"As far as we are concerned we will be backing all the players of the Indian team, though we like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid the most. We hope our young Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan also excel and win matches for India," they added.

Forty-five year old Ajit Aggarwal and his nine friends got specially designed kurtas depicting the tricolour. Waving a huge Indian flag and shouting 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', they boarded the train as it slowly picked up speed on its way to Attari in Amritsar, from where a Pakistani train will take them to Lahore to watch all-important match.

Onkar Singh in New Delhi