Ahmedabad's subdued anticipation: High stakes, sold-out India vs Pakistan WC tickets, but where's the buzz?
The article explores the contrasting levels of excitement and enthusiasm in Ahmedabad leading up to a high-stakes India-Pakistan cricket match during the ODI World Cup 2023, despite the city's significant cricket culture and sold-out tickets.
Upon landing in Ahmedabad and leaving the aerobridge toward the baggage claim, the first thing that catches your eye is an electronic billboard. It welcomes all the ODI World Cup 2023 teams on behalf of the "Gujarat Titans" with a warm "Aava De". This immediately highlights the immense presence of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and how even a global cricket event as significant as the World Cup must share the spotlight with the local IPL team, which has achieved remarkable success by reaching two IPL finals.
On Saturday, the most eagerly anticipated match of the World Cup between hosts India and arch-rival Pakistan will take place at the Narendra Modi Stadium. However, those who witnessed the Gujarat Titans' victory in the IPL at this very venue in 2022 recall that the excitement in the air during the IPL final far surpassed what's being felt in anticipation of an India-Pakistan showdown. This brings out the intriguing duality of Ahmedabad as a city.
Traversing from the airport to Navrangpura in the heart of the city and then to Motera in the opposite corner, one wouldn't sense the frenzy typically associated with a high-stakes cricket match. Notably, all the tickets for the October 14 match have already been sold out. Initially, there were complaints about insufficient tickets available online, but the ICC and BCCI responded by releasing an additional 14,000 tickets, which were snapped up within half an hour of online sales.
Some die-hard fans are willing to pay up to 10,000 for a ticket, but it's rumored that in the black market, prices are soaring to at least 25,000 per ticket. A senior BCCI official mentioned that obtaining a ticket at this stage is nearly impossible. This raises the question: why isn't there more fervor and excitement surrounding a match of such monumental importance?
"In Gujarat, cricket is immensely popular, much like any other state in India. However, Gujaratis may not abandon their work to visit the stadium before the match," says Suraj Patel, a shop owner to PTI. This lack of visible fervor could be a characteristic specific to the region.
For a person accustomed to the vibrant cricket culture of Kolkata, where large queues snake around Eden Gardens and the Mohammedan Sporting ground and where mounted police sometimes need to intervene to control unruly fans, the subdued atmosphere in Ahmedabad stands in stark contrast. Perhaps, during the cultural event on October 14 or when the public gets to see their favorite Bollywood stars, the atmosphere at the stadium will become more electric.
Regarding the Pakistan team, security measures have been robust, and the arrangements were well in place two days before the match. A substantial force of around 6,000 police and CRPF personnel is expected to secure the stadium's perimeter. The Pakistani team's hotel has been transformed into a fortress, with police personnel deployed even on the floors where players are staying. For security reasons, the players are not permitted to venture out into the city.
The team received a warm welcome with a traditional Garba dance, 'Chogada Tara,' and shawls. While the reception may not have reached the levels of hysteria seen in other cricket cities, the warmth of the welcome was evident. However, despite the warmth and security arrangements, the buzz and excitement that typically surround a high-stakes cricket match seem to be missing in Ahmedabad.