India vs Bangladesh: Haze lifts just enough for first T20I to be held
All’s well that ends well. The Delhi and District Association (DDCA) president Rajat Sharma could afford to smile as the first T20 international between India and Bangladesh neared the start after hours of speculation that it may have to be called off due to the heavy air pollution.
About 90 minutes into the match, the spectators began flashing their mobile torches, giving an idea to what extent the stadium was filled, with most seats in the lower denomination ticket stands occupied.
However, the picture had been pretty gloomy in every sense at 3.30 pm with talk of the match being called off on. The Air Quality Index (AQI) at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium, closest to Ferozeshah Kotla where AQI can be measured, reported levels of around 700 at that point. “It all depends on the ICC match referee (Ranjan Madugalle),” said a top DDCA official as a thick haze hung over the city, leaving people struggling to breathe and eyes watering.
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Some fans turned up to seek refund but that request couldn’t be accommodated. The match, as is the norm, was insured so in case of abandonment without a ball being bowled, DDCA would have been compensated. But even one delivery bowled would have spoilt the fans’ plans and may have made life tough for the officials. There was suggestion to deploy extra police personnel to counter any unruly fan behaviour, a top official said.
Madugalle was slated to arrive at the stadium at 4.45pm and an official announcement on the match was expected at 6.15 pm, just before the toss. The hour before that, and 40-45 minutes after that leading up to the start of the game, was going to be crucial.
As luck would have it, the wind picked up, and by 6.30 pm, the AQI levels at the National Stadium had dropped to 370, which is still “very poor” but not life threatening.
“It has become clear now thanks to the rain in the morning. It had looked slightly worrying in the afternoon,” said Rajat Sharma, before the match began.
Fans then began to trickle in. Though some stands were empty when the first ball was bowled, the stands for lower denomination tickets began to fill before the powerplay overs were completed. DDCA officials had expected the fans to turn up. But what the pollution spoiled was revenues that would have come from the sale of high-end tickets.
A top DDCA official said around 3.30 pm, “We had a few people asking for refund but we could not give as it is not our policy. Most of our revenues suffered due to a lack of sales of high-end tickets. The low denomination tickets were mostly sold out. But the corporate boxes, marquee section and the bay area (all prime areas) were not. We suspect it was because of the pollution levels over the past few days. We expected about R3.5 crore in tickets sales but couldn’t sell even R1.25 crore worth of tickets… It is the rich who kept away.”
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The official confirmed that match day did not see the sale of a single ticket and that less than 50% of the tickets in the three prime sections were sold. The top-tier tickets in those sections were priced at R10,000 and R12,500. Many tickets in corporate boxes were given as complimentary. There are fewer than 3000 top-tier seats, but they are the ones that bring the chunk of the revenue from tickets.
Delhi got the match at this time of the year when the Capital struggles due to pollution, because of BCCI’s rotation policy. The reason, according to Board officials, is that December-January would be too foggy in Delhi and no India games are scheduled for February-March.
The cricket officials would also have heaved a sigh of relief that no player showed signs of unease or breathlessness in the game, which Bangladesh won by seven wickets.