Kolkata: When it’s India versus Pakistan, that too in a World Cup, the fans can go to any extent. The long-standing rivalry between the two neighbours has made cricket a way-out for the enmity which the citizens of both countries carry within themselves.
From angry demonstrations to ransacking of a makeshift counter for issuing tickets to members, the iconic Eden Gardens ground is witnessing unprecedented scenes with fans willing to purchase tickets at even 20 times the printed price to watch tomorrow's highly anticipated clash between India and Pakistan in the World Twenty20 match.
Tickets priced at Rs 500 - the lowest denomination - are being sold near the stadium for Rs 7000 - Rs 10000. The higher priced tickets of Rs 1000 and 1500 are changing hands at astronomical sums. For instance, tickets worth Rs 1500 are being sold for anything between Rs 15,000 and 20,000.
"The craze seen this time is unprecedented. May be, decades back, scenes close to this were seen on some occasions, but not to this extent," Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) Trustee Board chairman Goutam Dasgupta said.
On Friday, angry Society for Sports and Stadium gold card members staged a demonstration at the Salt Lake stadium alleging that they were not given their quota of tickets.
These members had shelled out huge amounts to buy the gold cards for construction of the Salt Lake stadium in the early 80s. In return, they were promised life long access to Eden Gardens for cricket matches.
A day before, all hell broke loose at the Netaji Indoor stadium - where a makeshift ticket counter had been set up for the CAB members.
Despite reaching the counter after patiently waiting in the queue for hours, many of the members were told all tickets were exhausted.
The members burst out, some even ransacked the counter. Finally, police had to be called in to restore sanity.
On Friday, an IANS correspondent encountered blackmarketeers roaming close to the stadium posing as street vendors.
Asked whether they could provide tickets, one of them said: "You want some? Come this side," and led the correspondent to a secluded corner.
He showed a Rs.500 denomination ticket. "But you have to pay at least 7000".
"We have received complaints about tickets being sold at a premium near the stadium. We have been conducting raids since yesterday (Thursday). We have detained a few," said a senior Kolkata police officer.
Rohit Seth, a resident of Simla, was peeved for a different reason.
The 30-something youth had purchased a Rs.2500 denomination ticket for the India-Pakistan match, that was originally slated to be played at Dharamsala.
"But when I went to the exchange counter, I was given a Rs.1000 denomination ticket. The person at the counter could not give me any plausible reason about why I was given a lower denomination ticket," said Seth.
With everyone seemingly looking for tickets, many of the CAB officials have gone underground. Some have even kept their mobile phones switched off, and got a new connection for co-ordinating the organisational efforts for the match.
"Earlier, we had a crowd capacity of nearly a lakh. Now this has been brought down to 67,200. Moreover, the tickets prices are also very low for a match of this stature. May be we should have fixed the lowest denomination at 5000," said Dasgupta.
While arrangements were made for over-the-counter-sales for 20,000 CAB members, there were only provisions for online sales for the public at large through bookmyshow.com. But the number of tickets sold through the online window was only 6,000.
"Apart from our members, We have 121 affiliates, various category of current and ex players, coaches, present and former umpires, various committee and sub-committee members, the state government departments, police, utilities and agencies who help us in organising the match, and other stakeholders. We have to provide them a mix of complimentary and priced tickets,' said Dasgupta.
"We were more hard pressed because we had to set aside a part of the tickets for those who did not cancel the tickets after the Dharamsala match, and instead opted for a transfer," said a CAB official.