THE TELEPHONES have been ringing off the hook, and the inbox filling up with hate mails at the headquarters of the Indian cricket board in Mumbai. For a while now, anxious tour operators and fans have been calling to ask when tickets would be made available for the T20 World Cup starting March 8.
With just 10 days left for the teams to start arriving and the warm-up to start, there is no clarity on tickets for fans, who also have to book hotels and organise transport in India for ICC’s second-biggest event after the 50-over World Cup.
Last heard, the ticket sales will finally go online on Monday, but even this hasn’t been advertised to fans. Then there are those who say the date could be pushed further.
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For an event of this magnitude, this is not the ideal promotion but it was chaos over the eligibility of Delhi as a venue that worsened the situation. This uncertainty has thrown tour operators and fans off guard as tours are usually planned as a package comprising tickets, hotels and possibly a mini-holiday during a break in matches.
“This is not a usual delay, this is an alarming delay,” said a BCCI source. “Fans, operators and sponsors call us daily but we tell them that it will get sorted out soon. Many of our officials have been receiving hate mails from fans across India and abroad,” the source said.
Although the World T20 is an ICC event, it is the host — BCCI, in this case — that takes care of ticketing and pricing. But the dilly-dallying over the venue has meant that the board is in no position to start the sale.
“To start the sale of tickets isn’t a simple switch-on process. It takes time. We need to fix pricing, pay entertainment tax, get clearances. All this takes time. This is unprecedented and it’s all because of Delhi,” said the source.
Delhi was approved as a venue only on February 11 after a lengthy hold-up caused by the inability of officials to obtain an occupancy certificate for the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium from South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). There were also dues worth crores owed by the DDCA to civic authorities.
Last December, the venue was able to host a Test match against South Africa only after the SDMC issued a ‘temporarily’ clearance for the Kotla. Subsequently, the SDMC insisted on about 60 structural changes to the stadium. With modification work still on, the DDCA is expected to get the local authority’s all-clear only by February 29.
And yet, as early as last November, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur had warned the DDCA that if they failed to successfully host the South Africa Test, they wouldn’t be allowed to host T20 World Cup games. But nothing much happened.
The Barmy Army, one of the oldest travelling fan groups in the cricketing world, are “glad in some ways” that they don’t plan to come to India for the World Cup. “We generally travel for the Test matches and such, but travelling to India has always been a nightmare,” Andy Thompson, travel manager for the group, told The Indian Express.
“I remember, in 2011, we had booked for Kolkata but that venue was changed to Bengaluru. And travelling in India isn’t like getting from Nottingham to Birmingham. It’s tough to plan. Tickets to India, even via Dubai, are nothing less than 500, 600 pounds and obviously, the later you book, the costlier it gets,” said Thompson.
“For us (Barmy Army), since we are a big group, we have the luxury to make last-minute changes but it isn’t the same for individuals. I know many of my friends have been hurt by this uncertainty over venues and lack of match tickets,” he said.
Thompson has just returned from a seven-week tour of South Africa and said he would have made it to India had his partner not put her foot down.
“If things were easier, we could have made an official tour as the Barmy Army and you could have seen thousands of English fans in the stadium. But administrators across the world care only for television, and ignore the fans who come to the stadiums,” he said.
Then again, the patient wait for Delhi to get its act together stands in stark contrast to how quickly the Indian board cold-shouldered Chennai, the bastion of ousted BCCI supremo N Srinivasan.
Like the DDCA, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), too, has a problem with stands — there is a “lock and seal” notice on three stands which have a collective capacity of 12,000. And with Chennai having trouble in getting an NOC (No Objection Certificate), the board was quick to dump them, only allotting four women’s games that won’t even be telecast.
However, the same board gave a lifeline to DDCA, first extending the deadline to get a compliance certificate for hosting matches.
Some of the state associations have now expressed their displeasure over the issue. “If you can give it to Delhi why not Chennai? They have similar problems where they need to get their stand issue sorted out with the local authority but they were just given women games,” said a state association official.
Even before the 2011 World Cup, Kolkata was dropped from the itinerary, months in advance as there were fears that it wouldn’t be ready because of renovation work. This latest delay has only shown that internal loyalties continue to sway major decisions in the BCCI, even as the fan ends up paying the price.