SCORES of people were queued by the ticket sales counters all around the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here, but there were hardly any available for the city’s opening fixture of the ongoing World Cup between Pakistan and Australia.
Many were just clueless and requested accredited personnel busy with the match-day preparations to do some jugaad for free passes or any other ways that would help them get some tickets.
As the Pakistan squad would arrive for their training sessions, fans desperate to see the likes of captain Babar Azam and pace sensation Shaheen Shah Afridi would be left disappointed to know their access is limited to the stadium’s gates.
There would be nearly as much excitement among the cricket lovers to have a sneak peek at Australia’s training session earlier in the afternoon as they narrowly avoid the police’s baton charge to get the closest view.
So was the case when the team’s entered and exited the stadium.
The World Cup has truly arrived in Bengaluru. Located at the centre of southern India, the country’s IT hub is known for its pleasant weather, in which there’s a part played by the serene Cubbon Park, the so-called “green lung of Bengaluru”, with one of its ends neighbouring the M. Chinnaswamy.
Not very far from the arena are the diverse neighbourhoods of Richmond Town and Shivaji Nagar, from where a good number of fans are expected to come in to cheer Pakistan.
Josh Hazlewood and Glenn Maxwell — who represent Indian Premier League side Royal Challengers Bengaluru — will have the crowd’s backing as well.
Just like its weather, the people of Bengaluru are pleasantly mild, and chances of them being partisan are low.
As one of the fans — standing outside the venue’s gates a day ahead of the match still looking for tickets — would say about the spectators’ inclination: “It will be equal, equal.”
Another fan, Dinesh — who bowled in the nets to help the Pakistan and Australia teams during their respective practice sessions — believed Pakistan’s first appearance in Bengaluru since 2007 will make Babar’s men a more demandable prospect.
The tickets for the match are not only scarce but priced a bit too highly. While a part of the stands has tickets worth Indian Rs1,000, others range from Rs5,000 to Rs25,000.
“Since it’s not going to be India’s match, I believe it won’t be a full house,” said another fan while speaking to Dawn on the eve of the fixture.
The stadium here is an intimate facility. While the areas designated to officials, broadcasters and journalists are somewhat cramped for space, the stands are very near to the pitch.
That would ensure that even a smaller crowd wouldn’t make much of a difference as players would be more than exposed to their chants and cheers.
It wouldn’t be as intimidating for Pakistan as it was in Ahmedabad against India, where the home fans thronged a 132,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium.
For the crowd, Dinesh said, “It would be an entertaining match”.
The small size of the ground and a typical Indian playing surface were the rationale behind Dinesh’s prediction.
Good vibes, cool weather and entertainment, therefore, will make up what will be India’s “Garden City’s” welcome to the World Cup.
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2023