Only 3000 tickets on sale for Indo-Pak match at #edengarden | | Always at your Services

Only 3000 tickets on sale for Indo-Pak match at #edengarden

So for the first time in over a decade, Eden Gardens is eyeing a full house when India and Pakistan face off in the second One-Dayer on January 3. That should have made everyone - fans as well as officials at the Cricket Association of Bengal - happy. But on the contrary, it has triggered anxiety among CAB officials and fuelled anger among cricket enthusiasts. With less than 5% tickets on sale for the general public, cricket mandarins fear a backlash from angry fans who have been denied a fair chance to watch an Indo-Pak encounter on the green since 1999.

"How can CAB put just 3,000 tickets on the block for cricket lovers like me who are not associated with any sports body? Invariably, touts will come into play. The paucity of tickets for a high-decibel match like this means they will be minting money by selling them at a premium. CAB administrators are aware of this but have taken no positive measures," said Rahul Baidya, a cricket enthusiast who had come to Eden Gardens to inquire about the tickets and left bitterly disappointed.

What then happens with the remaining 63,000 tickets? According to CAB treasurer Biswarup Dey, six types of members - life, annual, associate, honorary, National Cricket Club (NCB) and Society for Sports and Stadium (SSS) - are entitled to 30,000 tickets. Another lot of 30,000 tickets are meant for 37 first division clubs, 57 second division clubs, district sports associations, office sports federation and six universities. In addition, 3,000 seats are reserved for Kolkata Police.

"Each first division team is entitled to 250 tickets and second division team 150 tickets. Each of them can pick up their quota of tickets after making full payment. In the past decade, the entire lot has never been picked up. This time, there appears to be huge interest in the India-Pakistan match, leaving only 3,000 tickets to be sold online. Otherwise, tickets that are not picked up on Tuesday and Wednesday will go into the general pool for sale that begins on Thursday," said De.

What about tickets being sold at a premium of Rs 500-1,000 by clubs? The CAB official washed his hands of the issue, saying the association could not be blamed for the actions of other clubs. "In any case, they do it for developing the sports infrastructure in the absence of any government support," the official reasoned.

Defending the system that is primarily designed to keep various members and sports bodies happy so that the incumbent can bag the votes and perpetuate the tenure at the helm, De argued that it minimized the chance of incurring a huge loss if spectators suddenly lost interest in the match and did not turn up.

"There is no telling what will happen if Pakistan wins the two T20 matches and the first One-Dayer. Spectator interest in a match can be very fickle. They will rally behind the Indian team when it is winning and pay any amount to watch it play. But if it is caught in a web of losses, there may not be so many takers," he pointed out.

While De may have his arguments, there is palpable fear among a section of administrators over what may happen if a large number of fans turn up to question the system in this season of protests. CAB tried to pass the buck to the state government, requesting it to conduct the sales either through lottery. But the latter did not bite the bait, realizing it was a potential minefield.

Old timers recall instances of rioting over tickets during the India-West Indies Test in 1966-67 and again during the India-Australia Test in 1969-70. In the former match, a temporary gallery was set alight by angry fans; spectators had barged into the field and chased CAB officials. West Indies players ran for cover and play was stopped for the day. At the time, tickets for Test matches were sold daily. Later, season tickets were introduced for the entire duration of the match.

Sources said the Kolkata Police top brass advised the CAB to sell the tickets online instead of doing so over the counter to avoid such a riot-like situation. "If Team India gets into a winning streak, there sure will be trouble controlling the fans. We don't want the additional hassle of regulating queues for the paltry number of tickets that will be on sale," a senior cop said.

At the last One-Dayer played at the 66,000-seat stadium on October 25, 2011, only 24,000-odd spectators had turned up, a far cry from the 100,000-plus crowd that had thronged the stands and terraces during the Hero Cup semi-final and final matches in 1993 and the World Cup semi-final encounter in 1996.

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