NAND Kumar, 23, an unemployed student in Bangalore, struck a deal that would have baffled superstar Sachin. Cashing in on the cricket fever, the resourceful youthobtained 15 tickets priced at Rs 100 each and sold them at a premium. "I will now buy myself a colour television and watch the match at home," he says.
The scenario was much the same in the rest of the country. For the tie between India and Australia in Bombay, only 7,000 tickets out of the total 42,000 were available for open sale on February 27. Says Kerman, a disgruntled cricket buff: "After much haggling, I paid Rs 4,000 for two Rs 250 tickets."
Cricket isn't cricket anymore for the cricket-lover. It is a game played as much out of the field as on it. And the ones who get clean bowled are the ones who popularised the game in the first place. A spectator sport has turned into an elitist affair. "The rich man can always go abroad and watch his favourite cricketers in action. But the young ones can watch Brian Lara and Mark Waugh only on home turf," says Hemant Kenkre, an avid cricket watcher and member or eminent cricket clubs.
Coupled with racketeers, power peddlers too have claimed a large part of the loot. They include chief ministers, ministers, police commissioners, income-tax officials, electricity and water of ficials. The quota for the MCA management was 500 tickets, but 1,300 tickets are said to have been sold privately. "The game has become so bloody commercial, it's not funny. Abroad you have legitimate cricket agents—here the only option is to buy tickets in black," adds the official.
With only 12 per cent of the tickets priced reasonably and a crazed clamour for the rest, it has been easy pickings for those reaping the returns from the racket. "Worse, the earlier distribution system whereby a good quota of tickets were reserved for past, present and upcoming players has been done away with," says noted sportswriter S.K. Sham.
In Bangalore, tickets were priced at Rs 100, Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,500. When the 12 counters opened at 8 am on Monday, March 4, 11,050 tickets were sold within the half-hour. Sources allege that tickets which were not bought over the counter were wrangled with letters of recommendation.
The going black market rate for tickets in Madras were Rs 3,000 and rumours that the TNCA was holding back tickets to oblige a favoured few or selling them at higher rates, are rampant. "If associations had sold the tickets at a much higher price, unscrupulous elements wouldn't have been able to make their money," says Ravi Mandrekar, managing committee member, MCA.