Ahmedabad: There will be two World Cups being held simultaneously in India.
The first one on days when Indian team plays and it will be even difficult to get hold of a ticket. Virat Kohli made it clear in his Instagram post that no one should ask him for tickets. The stands will be jam-packed and you will feel ODI cricket is alive and kicking.
The other one is more stark in contrast like the opening game between current champions England and runners-up New Zealand at the Narendra Modi Stadium, which saw the presence of barely 10,000 people at the start. By the time, the sun stopped beating down hard, it increased to around 15 to 17,000.
And then, the number of spectators increased to about 47,000, which is apparently the biggest turnout for an opening World Cup match. The capacity at this stadium is a world record 1.32 lakh, which is a far cry from most venues in England and New Zealand that can accommodate 30,000 to 35,000 people at the most.
The two teams, which played the greatest World Cup match during that epic final at the Lord’s in 2019, perhaps wouldn’t have visualised empty stands staring at them.
Looking dapper in jet black suit, ICC’s Global Ambassador Sachin Tendulkar walked in with the trophy but the greatest ODI batter of all time, even in retirement, wouldn’t be used to this kind of tepid response.
On an ideal day, even in a non-India match, we would have had fans chanting “Sachiiiin, Sachiiiin”. Nothing of that sort happened.
Jonny Bairstow’s six off Trent Boult, the first scoring shot of this World Cup, produced only the thud of the ball bumping onto the empty stands.
So , is it the death knell for ODIs? Perhaps, the answer lies somewhere in between.
Indian cricket fans love their stars as always but not the sport.
The drone camera capturing the top angle shot of the stadium made the emptiness even more visible.
You couldn’t fault the critics if they felt that Australia and New Zealand have made their debuts in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in-front of near empty stands. At least that was the vibe that one got.
Contrary to usual scenes at almost all venues when India play, or even when IPL matches are held, there were hardly any large swathes of raucous fans waiting outside the Narendra Modi Stadium in the lead up to the start of the tournament.
More fans trickled in after sunset as mercury dropped down and the second innings began under lights. Also Thursday being a working day didn’t help matters.
An official from the Gujarat Cricket Association had told PTI in days leading up to the tournament–opener that they expect about 50,000-60,000 fans — from the city and nearby areas in the state to watch the non-India matches — but it remains to be seen if the viewers were at all excited by the prospect of watching last edition’s finalists.
There were also reports of 30,000-40,000 women from the city being given free tickets to watch the game but that did not seem to be the case for the large part of the first innings of the game as empty stands told the story.
“I guess it is due to the heat,” said Viraj Shah from Ahmedabad, who currently lives in Canada and works in the oil and gas industry.
“It was great for me that my trip back home coincided with the start of the World Cup. I booked my tickets online for this match but have yet to find one for the India-Pakistan match,” he added.
“I expect the crowd to build up from say, the 40th over (of the first innings) onward when the sun starts getting down. It is difficult to sit under the sun which is why I left my seat to stand in the shade here,” said Shah while pointing at empty stands.
In particular, the F, G and H stands remained largely empty due to direct exposure to the sun and it was only around 5:00pm local time that there were some number of people taking their seats.
However, the scene would be entirely different a week from now when the biggest game of the group stage takes place here between arch-rivals India and Pakistan on October 14.