Mumbai: Atul Bhagwat is a regular at cricket matches—or at least he used to be. He says since 2006, it has been difficult to get tickets to matches in Mumbai because not enough are available for fans, so he has had to skip some games. He is now obsessing about getting a ticket for the India-West Indies Test in the city next month.
This match, to be played 14-18 November at the Wankhede stadium, is extra special because it will be Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test and his last after 24 years in international sport.
Bhagwat, a 42-year-old IT professional, has covered all the bases to make sure he gets a ticket or a pass to watch it—he has got in touch with politically connected friends and members of cricket clubs and is keeping a close lookout for any other information that can help him procure one.
Bhagwat is not alone in the quest for tickets to an event that’s being built up as “historic”—a common enough term in cricket, but perhaps less hyperbolic this time—on social media, in the mainstream press and in discussions on local trains and trading rooms.
Already, the host Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) has been flooded with requests for tickets and passes. The MCA has received an average of 50 telephone inquiries a day since the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) allotted the match to Mumbai, said an MCA official who didn’t want to be named. “We also have over 200 emails from all over the world asking for tickets,” he added.
The MCA has not decided on the sale of tickets yet because it’s still too early—the Mumbai match follows the first Test of the series in Kolkata starting on 6 November. More importantly, the MCA general elections are on Friday—in which Sharad Pawar is likely to get elected unopposed as president—so a new committee will be formed after that to decide within 48-72 hours on when tickets will go on sale, said another MCA official.
That’s when the rates will also be fixed, he added. Tickets to the north stand during India’s Test match against England last year, for instance, cost about Rs.600 a day.
Fans’ concerns about getting tickets for the match are not without basis. Even former India and Mumbai batsman Sanjay Manjrekar tweeted on Tuesday: “Humble request to MCA to release more tickets for public sale this time. Let this be an affair more for the fans than the patrons.”
Since its renovation in 2011, the Wankhede stadium’s capacity has come down from around 39,000 seats to 32,000, thanks to its ergonomic bucket seats and a stadium design that leaves space for the sea breeze to blow through the grounds.
From these, about 6,000 seats are reserved for members of MCA’s Garware Club; 6,000 for the gymkhanas—Bombay, Hindu, Islam, Parsee, Catholic; 6,000 for the over 300 club members; some 2,000 for the BCCI; 3,000 complimentary tickets; 3,000 for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, police, ward officers and other government agencies, besides friends, families and sponsors. This leaves about 5,000 (to a maximum of 10,000 at a stretch) tickets for the public.
These are usually sold online (through agencies such as Bookmyshow.com or Kyazoonga.com) and at the Wankhede counter, the dates and prices of which will be decided by the MCA at a later date. “We have to oblige our members and partners; we cannot ignore or bypass any of the agencies mentioned. So irrespective of the demand, we are unable to do better,” said one of the officials.
“We all want to witness this occasion with our employees and partners, and want to land as many tickets as possible, but they are not on sale yet,” says Manish Pant, managing director, Luminous Power Technologies Pvt. Ltd. The company has been associated with Tendulkar since 2010 and renewed the contract early this year for the next three years.
Irrespective of how high the interest in this Test is, Tendulkar’s 200th is unlikely to break any attendance records, given Wankhede’s capacity. Even at Eden Gardens for the first Test, only 5,000 tickets are estimated to be sold of the approximately 68,000, according to a report in The Telegraph.
In the past, Kolkata has been credited with seating 465,000 people over five days of the 1998-99 Test against Pakistan in the first match of the Asian Test Championship, according to the website Cricinfo.com. There were an estimated 100,000 people there on each of the first four days. The site also cites a figure of 350,534 for the six-day third Test between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1936-37.
But, as is usually the case, what’s a stadium’s loss would be television’s gain. Media buyers say broadcaster Star India is expecting a premium of 50% on advertisement rates for the series. However, advertisers may not be willing to pay such a premium and are expected to beat down rates to a “10% premium at the most”, said one media buyer on the condition of anonymity.
Pant adds that their company will launch a limited edition series of inverters to commemorate Tendulkar’s 200th Test match and will increase their advertising spending on television, social media and print. Tushar Goculdas, brand director of Adidas-India, says the sportswear maker will start a new campaign called SRT Forever even as Tendulkar mania slowly picks up.
For Bhagwat, who has been a regular to Mumbai’s stadiums since 1977, and his friends, though, the struggle will continue over the next few weeks.
“Getting a ticket is a mission. They allocate public tickets only on the east and west stands. If you want to enjoy watching Sachin bat, you should be on north or pavilion stand. Only then can you see the grace, him following through. This situation is always messed up and I am sure more tickets will be sold in black,” he said.
Ravi Krishnan contributed to this story.