Mumbai, India – Attending a World Cup is on the wish list of every cricket fan. The opportunity comes once every four years, the wait is long and arduous, it might be expensive – but in the end, it’s worth it.
Many fans in India had hoped to attend the Cricket World Cup on home soil, but the organisers’ delay in announcing the final schedule and a chaotic ticketing process have forced many to give up on their dream.
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The International Cricket Council, cricket’s global governing body and organisers of the World Cup, released the fixtures on June 27; just 100 days before the start of the tournament on October 5, when defending champions England take on New Zealand in the opener in Ahmedabad.
The delayed announcement was met with backlash from fans as schedules for the last two ODI World Cups in Australia and New Zealand (2015) and England and Wales (2019) were put out more than 12 months in advance.
Then on August 9, less than two months out from the start of the tournament, the 2023 World Cup organisers made things even more complicated for fans by releasing a revised schedule.
The dates or start times were changed for nine matches, including the highly-anticipated India vs Pakistan fixture in Ahmedabad, which was moved to October 14 from its original date of October 15. The changes to the schedule were reportedly over security concerns and requests from participating countries.
Match tickets for the general public went on sale in a staggered manner only from August 25, a mere 41 days before the opening match. And the process to book tickets was far from hassle-free – fans had to first register to be able to book tickets and then wait for hours before they could have a chance to buy them.
And for many, the chance never came.
Mayank Batra, a cricket fan in New Delhi, had booked a flight for October 15 to attend the India-Pakistan match in Ahmedabad but was forced to cancel it after the fixture was rescheduled.
The 28-year-old made a fresh travel booking for the new date, but even that was in vain as he failed to get his hands on the match tickets.
“There has been a lot of mismanagement. Several people had already booked their travel and couldn’t get hold of the match tickets,” Batra told Al Jazeera.
Batra said his initial round-trip flight tickets cost him 30,000 Indian rupees ($360), but prices went up after the match was rescheduled, with one-way tickets costing 23,000 Indian rupees ($277).
“Eventually I cancelled my refundable flight tickets and instead booked train tickets. But I couldn’t get match tickets so my plan didn’t work out,” Batra said.
Late changes to the fixture list also led to inflated accommodation costs, with prices for some hotel rooms in Ahmedabad soaring by more than 12 times the usual cost, with rooms as expensive as 53,000 rupees ($637) a night in three-star hotels.
Meanwhile, those lucky enough to get their hands on match tickets can also face huge prices. The cost of World Cup tickets starts from 499 rupees ($6) and goes up to 40,000 rupees ($481) on the official ticketing platform. The prices in the resale market are exorbitant, with the most expensive ticket for India vs Pakistan selling for 25 million rupees ($300,545) on Viagogo, a multinational ticket exchange and ticket resale brand.
The situation is also likely to affect fans travelling to India from abroad. Some fans from the Barmy Army, an England cricket supporters club, are expected to skip the World Cup due to the difficulty in planning the trip. Meanwhile, fans from other countries face visa difficulties – most significantly for neighbouring cricket-mad Pakistan.
Batra, who has travelled across India to watch cricket, said travelling to Sri Lanka last month to watch India play Pakistan in the Asia Cup would have been cheaper.
India faced Pakistan twice in the Asia Cup, beating them by 228 runs in the Super Four clash after their group-stage game was called off due to rain.
“Even a one-day trip to Colombo would have cost me less than travelling to Ahmedabad [as per the current prices],” Batra said. “The match tickets for that match in Colombo were also very cheap and Indians have visas on arrival in Sri Lanka.”
Anish Desouza, an ardent cricket fan from Mumbai, hoped to attend six matches at the World Cup but had to cancel his plans due to the limited availability of tickets and the high expenditure involved.
Desouza, who co-founded the North Stand Gang, a fan group named after the stand they sit in at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, wanted to attend matches in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Kolkata. But tickets were hard to come by, he said.
“The way the ticket sales were handled was very shoddy,” Desouza said. “The waiting in a queue system was very unfair to fans because we had to wait for over four hours only to come to know the tickets were sold out.”
Well-travelled sports fan Vipul Yadav described the management of the ticketing process as “nonsensical”.
“The amount of time I have spent on booking matches … it’s crazy,” Yadav said. “Nowhere in the world, do you have to struggle so much for a ticket. All this has happened because the ticket release has been done too late.”
Yadav will be travelling to Paris for the Olympic Games next year and said the process for booking tickets for that event was very straightforward.
“The process was so good, they [organisers] make it so easy for you. They give you a week’s notice about the tickets going on sale, 48 hours to book and also keep slots open for you,” Yadav said.
The ICC, which is yet to announce how many World Cup tickets have been sold so far, did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on the issues raised in this article.
BookMyShow, the official ticketing platform for the Cricket World Cup, released a statement last month on X, formerly known as Twitter, addressing the issue of “limited tickets”.
“We understand that not all fans had an easy time, experiencing queues and eventually heartbreak in their attempt to book tickets. In a country like India, which is deeply passionate about cricket, the demand is always massive as scores of fans try to book tickets with queues naturally tending to be long,” the company said.
“While it is always a race against time to get access to this cricketing extravaganza, we are striving to be able to give you a fighting chance to get access to the tickets.”
According to BookMyShow’s website, more tickets for India matches will be “coming soon” and tickets for some matches involving other teams, such as England, Pakistan and Australia, are still available on the platform.
Desouza, who attended the 2011 ODI World Cup in India, said the ticketing process was hassle-free at that time.
“The tickets for the 2011 World Cup were available well over a year in advance,” he said. “The process was very smooth. There was no waiting time.”
He compared that with his experience of trying to buy a match at the Wankhede Stadium.
“Tickets were very hard to come by. When a stadium has 33,000 capacity and you release only 500 tickets, that is ridiculous,” Desouza said.
“I am not mincing words because it is surely unfair for fans like us.”
Source: Al Jazeera