Lukewarm response to crucial third ODI

Lukewarm response to crucial third ODI

It was the semifinal of the World Cup, and it brought the two fiercest rivals in international cricket face to face as India and Pakistan went hammer and tongs with more than just a place in the final of cricket’s showpiece event at stake.

The build-up to the match had been long and nerve-wracking. The teams landed in Chandigarh a good five days before the March 30 clash, and every move was scrutinised, every act dissected. If the players were nervous, they didn’t show it at all, at least not until match day, when the Pakistanis put down Sachin Tendulkar an incredible four times!

The atmosphere during the match was electric. There was no doubt who the packed gathering was rooting for, and even the prime ministers of the two countries occasionally set political correctness aside, Manmohan Singh’s clap of approval after the last delivery had been bowled and India’s place in the title round sealed flashed over and over again on television screens.

How vastly different the atmosphere has been during the ongoing India-England one-day series! It took the fans a long time to fill up a majority of the seats in the opening one-dayer in Hyderabad, while at the Feroze Shah Kotla on Monday, at no stage was the stadium more than half-full. That both matches produced home victories made it even more difficult to comprehend the fans’ apathy, though the absence of several big names, not least Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and player of the World Cup Yuvraj Singh, has been a massive contributing factor. The PCA stadium is one of the smallest international grounds in the country with an official seating capacity of just 26,000. The demand for tickets and passes during the India-Pakistan World Cup encounter was, as is to be expected, humongous. By contrast, ticket sales for the India-England clash here on Thursday have been lukewarm, even though the home side is sitting on the cusp of another series victory on home soil.

Of course, for the first time in a long, long while, the usual local flavour will be missing. Neither Yuvraj nor Harbhajan Singh is in the squad, the former out injured and the latter dropped following patchy recent form. The only Punjab representative in the 15-man team is Rahul Sharma, the uncapped leg-spinner who is unlikely to play on Thursday.

The smaller capacity will help mask gaping unoccupied seats as were on view at the Kotla, but whether they will ensure a full house in a series that has failed to trigger spectator interest remains to be seen.

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