Friday, February 18, 2011

Let the games begin!!

Last year after Sachin’s 200 vs South Africa, I was convinced that the 2011 was going to be India’s year as Sachin HAS to be a part of a world cup winning squad. I think he has been saving himself in ODIs with the sole aim of being a part of a world cup winning squad which has been one of the motivators that has kept him going in the last few years. It strikes me as surprising that he played just 2 ODIs last year and I think I will stand by what I wrote last year, that if India wins the World Cup then Sachin will announce his retirement from ODI cricket.

Since then, an additional factor that will make this an interesting world cup to follow from a personal point of view would be to see Sachin score his 100th international hundred. I was lucky enough to witness his 50th test hundred in Centurion and to witness the 100th international hundred would be another pilgrimage ticked off in support of the only god I have believed in.

Since making this plan in March last year, I bought tickets on 1st June 2010 ,the day the tickets went on sale at, for all of India’s matches (except for the game vs Ireland in Bengaluru on 6th March) till the quarter final. So starting from tomorrow, I will be travelling to one of the venues every weekend (except the weekend of the 6th) to watch India keep its date with destiny on 2nd April 2010. I travel to Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla stadium to watch the opening game of the 2011 world cup tomorrow.

The organizers were kind enough to help me organize this itinerary by scheduling all of India’s matches over the weekend so that taking time off from work is not a variable to worry about for the group matches. The only India game on a weekday is vs Netherlands, which in the worst case scenario would mean missing one inning of the match if I cant take the day off. However, this is where the kindness of the organizers stopped for me. I have visited various other sporting events such as the 2007 T20 World Cup, 2006 and 2010 football world cups, the Euro 2008, US Open etc but I am yet to come across a more mismanaged tournament from a spectator point of view.

Which other ‘global’ tournament would have:

1. Tickets for the semi final and the final not go on sale by the start of the tournament. Yes the tickets for the semi final and final are yet to go on sale and the organizers have not seen it fit to inform the public on when they intend to. From what I read in the newspapers just 4000 tickets for the world cup final would come on sale, but there doesn’t seem to be any transparency on when and how would the sale take place.

2. Matches rescheduled a month before they take place. I (and 10 other friends) had bought tickets for the India vs England game at the Eden Gardens and made our travel and stay arrangements only for the game to be shifted a month before the start of the world cup. The organizaers have been kind enough to let me exchange my tickets for the game in Bangalore but with just a week to go I have no information regarding the stand I would be seated in. I would also need to get in a collection queue on the day of the game to get my ticket as there isn’t enough time for the tickets to be couriered. Given the number of people who would have had their tickets transferred in this manner I predict major chaos on the day of the day.

3. De-centralization of printing of tickets. Each venue/state association is printing its own tickets and sending them to Kyazoonga, the ticketing partner, as per their own timelines. With the world cup starting tomorrow, Kyazoonga is yet to receive tickets from Mohali, Chennai, Nagpur, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Ahmedabad etc. Due to this for people who booked tickets for matches at multiple venues on Kyazoonga the tickets can only be dispatched once all of them become available. I had to personally go to the Kyazoonga office near Defence Colony to collect my India vs Bangladesh match tickets. The rest of my tickets will only be couriered to me once all state associations can get their acts together and print tickets for all the matches taking place at their venue. While this is still not a game changer for me, I shudder to think of the pain that overseas visitors, some of whom would probably have left for India, would be going through to track their consignments as Kyazoonga’s customer care is permanently on hold given the high number of queries they are getting. Already there are reports coming from Dhaka and Bangalore about the high number of tickets available for sale in the black market, I am sure a significant chunk of that is ending up in the pockets of those running these associations.

4. Absolutely no on-ground activation to build excitement among the general public. There are no banners, hoardings welcoming teams anywhere in Delhi (South Africa and West Indies are probably based in Delhi right now), all I see are some ESPN Star Sports world cup hoardings outside their office HQ in Gurgaon and Stumpy (the mascot) countdown watches at some malls. While the world cup is all over the media, it could for all practical purposes be taking place anywhere else in the world rather than the cities we live in. I recently travelled from Delhi to Ahmedabad, both host cities, and was surprised at the lack of any world cup posters welcoming the 15000 odd travelling coming over to India for the Cup or merchandise in airport shops.

I can’t think of a more backward looking organization than the BCCI to be at the forefront of internationally administering a sport on the basis of their financial muscle. However, in spite of all these challenges we, the people, would continue to throng the stadiums to be pushed around (if you are luck, lathi charged if you are not) by the police at all venues and spend the entire day packed in like sardines in stadiums having dirty bathrooms, unhygienic food and water. It is this irrational support that makes the India fan the creature he is who then vents out all his frustration by burning down the stadiums when India lose a la Kolkata 1996.

The lucky Indian flag I bought in South Africa before the India vs England (Yuvi 6 sixes!!) game in Durban, that was my constant companion as I watched India take out South Africa, Australia and Pakistan to win the T20 World Cup, has been packed along with my lucky Indian jersey (the old light blue one) as I travel to Dhaka tomorrow. I don’t know if we will end up yet again (1987, 1996) as the (semi-finalist) bridesmaid at a home world cup or if we will go one better than 2003, but I do know that it will be a roller coaster 6 weeks that I plan to make the most of.

PS: Just saw this article on rediff about the absence of the buzz i spoke about in Delhi, Mumbai

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