School student Fenil Patel spent nine hours online in the desperate hope of securing a precious ticket for the World Cup blockbuster between India and Pakistan before being offered one hiked up to seven times its value.
Undeterred, he still hasn’t given up hope of finding a spot inside the 132,000-seat arena for Saturday’s marquee match-up between two of cricket’s fiercest rivals and their first in India in seven years.
On Friday, the 17-year-old joined hundreds of others outside the world’s biggest cricket stadium named after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a final attempt to realise his dream.
“I really wanted to watch this match, just this one, and tried online on multiple devices for nine consecutive hours but failed to get any ticket,” local student Patel told AFP as he waited in crushing 35-degree heat.
Patel said that he’d already asked dozens of fans outside the stadium if they would sell their tickets. He was quoted up to $180.
“Some offered but it was from the topmost stand at seven times the selling price but I want something closer to the ground with a better view for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will even try tomorrow,” he added.
Security personnel said dozens of disappointed fans had approached them since early Thursday to check if some tickets were still being sold, or available anywhere.
The showpiece tournament, hosted by the world’s richest cricket board in a country where millions of diehard fans lap up any cricket game, has surprisingly opened to only partially filled arenas in the first few games.
Some have blamed it on pre-event scheduling and ticketing chaos with delays and itinerary changes but others say that the appetite for the longer white-ball format has waned since the rise of the shorter T20 game.
Atul Gaikwad (27) defended the organisers and said that Saturday’s game between the arch-rivals was “the biggest sporting event in the world, bigger than the NFL, football, or any other game, so ticketing was expected to be crazy”.
“There is nothing anyone could have done about it,” he said.
Gaikwad arrived in Ahmedabad from western India’s Pune IT hub Friday with Rohit Kamble (22) after the friends successfully used eight mobile devices to procure two match tickets for about $96 (8,000 rupees).
Elsewhere, tens of thousands of ticket-holders have already reached this western Indian city from all over the world.
Some are even staying overnight in local hospitals, a cheaper option than hotels.
One prominent hotel usually charges $72 (6,000 rupees) for a deluxe room but on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the price for a day had been hiked to $841 (70,000 rupees $841), a source told AFP.
However, by checking into a city hospital for a health check, the cost is $84 (7,000 rupees) a day.
Sandeep Bijawat (29) a pub owner from Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, was already anticipating the game.
This “is like a dream and I hope it will be a high scoring game with over 300 runs per side but India should win it”.
Bijawat will watch the match with his father and said that procuring tickets for the game was “just as difficult and crazy as booking for the football World Cup games”.
“My pub will host a special game screening for about 200 Indian and Pakistani fans tomorrow” but “I am one of those lucky ones who got two tickets within three hours”, he added.
While the stadium will be packed Saturday, there may be virtually no support for the visitors as fans from across the border are still awaiting visa for travel to India.
Pakistan journalists only this week received visas to travel ahead of the big match.
Basheer Bodazai, a Pakistan superfan from the United States, told AFP that “I haven’t yet met any other Pakistan supporter in Ahmedabad”.
“It has been smooth for me, I have received all the love, but it would have been good if other fans were also here,” he said. “Even if I am all alone I will cheer for Pakistan and hope it’s good game,” Bodazai added.
© Agence France-Presse