It was a very early rise to a Sunday. Its cause was inevitable and deepened with a traditional rivalry that goes down the history books of cricket. At stake was a single entry ticket to gaze at the greatest spectacle of cricket between two fierce cricketing teams. But the long journey back home was fruitless with shattered hopes and extreme anguish.
I was aware that my country’s cricket administration was horrible, but never had I imagined to the level of how much I had to experience it today. It was a long queue as expected. Street platforms became the place of stay for the night for hundreds of locals at Chepauk. At ten past ten in the morning, the counter opened to issue tickets for the India-Pakistan ODI match to be held on 30th December.
We started to rise and sway along 2-3 inches for every 15 minutes. People kept mumbling all about cricket. The sun’s heat began to soak us up minute by minute. The shocking news of Tendulkar’s retirement from ODI’s began to spread like forest fire. The rage was unstoppable. Few men took oath never to watch ODI’s again. Another few had already disappeared. Anger and frustration drew upon the faces of young men which was visible with the sweat dropping down their faces in this winter. Some still thought Krish Srikkanth was the chairman and he was dealt with brutal blows. In the words of Bill Lawry “it was all happening right there”.
The counter was nearing. All of a sudden, my knee rejuvenated and I was on top of my heels looking everywhere. The anticipation that drew thirst and hunger had eventually fell silent. Out of nowhere then, the police barricades began to fall apart as the crowd flooded upon to the roads in huge numbers. To my greatest disappointment, all tickets had been sold right from the entry level ones of 500 to 1000 to 2000. What followed was the realization of the acts of horrifying treachery by those administrators.
“Sir, we are here waiting from 3 am in the morning for an India-Pakistan match to be held here after 13 years and how can you say tickets were sold out when hardly there was movement in the queue”. A man from the slum raised above all as we circled the police. The police replied after giving a nasty look at the man’s dressing “Yes, it’s been 13 years, so why don’t you go and get a 7500 rupees ticket there”. When a woman claimed of reservation of tickets for the local police, the answer we got was “Yes, we have 10 tickets for each of us, so what can you do?”.
There was just a single counter for such a long queue. A bunch of 20 people would be let in to get their tickets and immediately the counter closes for another 15 minutes. They wanted to show their punctuality only during the lunch time. All it takes is a 2 minute walk to estimate the size of the queue. It would be very easy to determine how much could be sent back home by telling us well in advance.
The I,J,K stands were given clearance to be used by the High Court for the India-Pakistan match. They claim that they had never been notified. While some others said that even that was sold out. The A,B,C group and I,J,K group along with the lower tier stands constitute to more than 15-16 thousand seats. Not even half of them could have been sold out. There is always a concern for crowd not turning up for matches. The root cause lies here as to where the other half seats have gone missing.
With a capacity of 30k seats, the remaining 14k seats fare cost 1000 or more. Nobody has a problem with seats being reserved for members and sponsors. Our cause is for those 500 rupees tickets which are being sold out in black on the day of the match. There are people selling a 700 rupees IPL ticket for 1500 just besides the counter and the stadium authorities don’t give a damn about that.
There can be new stands built or the press box can be given a royal welcome or dressing rooms adjusted to be comforting, but the hunger and passion for the game always remains the same throughout generations despite the changes. Yes, we don’t come in suits and get a pass to enjoy the air conditioned room with television sets and enjoy the regular snacks being offered in the stands. We sweat all the way down to the stands and gaze at our outfielders and often hailing the cameraman to grab his attention, so that the joy of watching the team on the field overshadows the pain we had endure to get to that stage.
These administrators talk about rotation policy when it comes to venues in Test cricket. I have numbers which baffles me. Chennai has not hosted a single test match since 2008. 19 home test matches were played since then. You don’t try to argue that there is a test match coming up for the Australian series because of the 19 played Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Nagpur have shared 3 a piece with Banglore and Hyderabad having hosted 2 test matches and Mohali,Kanpur and Delhi having hosted one match each. Chepauk not featuring in that list atleast once is horrendous. More to it is that the TNCA had requested for substitutes for Test matches in the form of a single ODI or a t20. What justice are these administrators doing to loyal fans of the purest form of cricket?
I know that half of those longing faces who returned home along with me would never turn up again for the quest of a match ticket and one cannot blame them either because the emotional pain and grief was the least we could carry with ourselves. But to me, the love and admiration for the game will prolonge forever. I will have the same determination and enthusiasm to end up in another long queue for the India-Australia test match next February. If you ask me for a reason, I don’t have one, but what I do know is that is what my heart keeps telling me to do and will always do.
I know that my Indian cricket team is at crossroads today. There are so many things happening off the field. All I want is just to be there in the stands somewhere for the guys out there in the green field. I want to stand up and keep waving just to let them know for my own moral satisfaction that even at desperate times there is support that can comfort them. There are people out here for whom a match is worth fighting for till the very end, and for such people to whom even losing with grace gives happiness and makes them feel proud.