Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cricket Frenzy grips India

India’s Cricket World Cup final against Sri Lanka tomorrow in Mumbai has created a thriving black market with tickets selling for as much as $10,000 each.
One fan, said he’s sold 10 seats through a website for 65,000 rupees ($1,460) each, including one to a supporter from Canada. The day before, tickets were being sold for 45,000 rupees, a price that climbed to 100,000 rupees, he said. The face value of the tickets in the Sachin Tendulkar
Stand is 15,000 rupees.
“I’ve taken about 150 calls in just a few hours,” a 34- year-old said in an interview. “Every hour, the prices are going crazy. The whole world is going bonkers.”
Cricket is India’s most popular sport, and thousands rushed into the streets to celebrate the national team’s March 30 semifinal win over archrival Pakistan with impromptu firework displays and motorbike processions. Tomorrow’s match at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium is the 32-year-old event’s first all-Asian final and both teams are going for a second title. India is the 8-13 favorite to win, according to U.K. bookmakers William Hill Plc and Ladbrokes Plc.
The cheapest seat for the match at the 33,442-seat stadium was listed at 1,100 rupees, in a country where the average monthly income is about 3,000 rupees. The country also has the world’s fourth-highest number of dollar billionaires, according to Forbes magazine.
Organizers defended the decision to play the game in a stadium with the second-lowest capacity of the eight Indian grounds used for the 14-team competition, which is co-hosted with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The International Cricket Council’s chief executive officer said it would provide a “fairytale” backdrop to record-setting batsman Tendulkar’s attempt to score his 100th career century for India.
“Can you imagine a more fairytale ending with Sachin Tendulkar getting a hundred in the final and India winning at the Wankhede, which is his home ground?,” Haroon Lorgat told reporters. “And no matter what the number, we do not have sufficient tickets.”
Ayer, who works for a marketing company, said the tickets he sold were extras purchased by relatives who will keep the proceeds. He said he’s spending most of his life savings, about $10,000, to get a seat close to the pavilion where the two teams will sit.
“I have to pay that, there’s no option for me,” he said. “It’s going to be Sachin’s last-ever World Cup match and for someone who’s watched him for 20 years it’s a historic moment.”
About 20,000 tickets have been distributed to clubs linked to the Mumbai Cricket Association. Many of these are being sold on the secondary market, Ayer said. Vinod Deshpande, secretary of the MCA, didn’t respond to calls seeking comment. ICC spokesman Colin Gibson said ticketing was a matter for the local organizers.
Other matches in the tournament’s knockout phase also failed to satisfy demand.
At Sri Lanka’s sold-out quarterfinal victory over England in Colombo last week, 50 S.L.-rupee (45 U.S. cents) seats were being offered for 2,000 rupees outside the ground.
That mark-up was nothing compared with the prices paid for India’s meeting with Pakistan, played at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali, the smallest tournament venue in India. The match brought both countries to a standstill and was front-page news in local media from the day the teams were drawn together.
One ticket-seller,  said she sold four tickets for 50,000 rupees each, 10 times the face value. She declined to be identified because her sale breached rules on re-selling tickets. An Internet advertisement offered four 1,000 Indian-rupee tickets for “minimum 25,000 per ticket.”
Security has been increased for the final, with a fortified ring of armed police surrounding the stadium. The facility is about a mile from where Pakistani militants killed 166 people in a 2008 attack.
Troops behind sandbags have blocked the entrance to the road leading to the two teams’ hotel -- one of the sites targeted in the attacks -- and the country’s Rapid Action Force has patrolled outside the ground in armored vehicles. Air space over the stadium has been declared a no-fly zone.
“All the tickets have been sold,” said R.R. Patil, the home minister for Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located. “I appeal to people not to crowd outside the stadium unnecessarily, and to cooperate with the police.”

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