Since April 2012, when it was established, the MCA International Cricket Centre in Gahunje has hosted 22 matches including key international fixtures. It will be 23 matches old on Wednesday, when the eliminator of IPL season 8, between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals, is played. The stadium that adheres to international standards and boasts a rich infrastructure, however, has a burden to bear. It is plagued by the poor habits of some of the spectators, and impacted by the “pass culture”, says Ajay Shirke, President of the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA).
The stadium is supposed to be packed for Wednesday’s battle royale, but Shirke is almost certain that many will gain entry as VVIPs, a trend observed since the stadium was opened. “We receive many calls every day from top government and corporate officials asking for ‘free passes’. The demand is usually in bulk. Someone asks for 22 passes, someone asks for a dozen. They don’t feel ashamed or indebted either. Their demand is as if it is their fundamental right to get free entry,” said Shirke.
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Sometimes, the demand is made keeping necessities of the stadium in sight. “It is like indirect blackmailing. Last time, a day before the match, MSEDCL stopped power supply to the stadium. We have our own power source. But the office electricity usage needs MSEDCL’s supply. They cut off electricity to Gahunje a day before the match, saying there was some glitch. Later, supply to the village was resumed, but not the stadium. When we approached them, a top official asked us for four passes in return of recommence. There have been many incidences apart from this. Is it not (holding us) to ransom? We can’t raise a voice against them because they hold the keys to our survival,” said Shirke.
Shirke also added that in Delhi, there was a match in which 55 percent of the tickets were given away as passes, a record. “We, despite being trustees of the MCA, pay for tickets to watch the matches. Because of the VVIP culture, many people don’t get tickets; and even if they do, it is an injustice to them as they stand in long queues, whereas these people get in without any trouble. In foreign countries, I have hardly observed this pass culture. It is impossible to sustain a stadium if tickets are not sold,” he added.
The BCCI has earned a big ticket revenue of around Rs 2 crore from the Gahunje matches this season. However, MCA has to bear any loss to the infrastructure. “In the second match of this season, we lost 156 chairs. Each chair comes for INR 2200. We’ve installed good quality chairs everywhere because we want to give the same comfort to everyone, whether the person is buying a ticket of INR 500 or 3000. But people just don’t seem to care. They jump on the chairs waving at cheerleaders, and spit. After the match is over, the toilets are choked, taps are broken. Bringing back the stadium to normal is big task in itself,” Shirke said.
For the eliminator match, MCA has not made any big changes. They are working in association with the police to avoid the parking woes that were witnessed during the last three matches.