HYDERABAD: Snubbing both Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s global success in leading an electronic payment and commerce revolution in India, and Telangana state IT minister K.T. Rama Rao’s projection of Hyderabad as a potential rival of California’s silicon valley, former Indian captain Mohd. Azharuddin-led Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) scripted a needless offline fiasco, leading to a stampede, seriously injuring seven people, including police and fire service folks, after thousands of cricket fans assembled to buy a few offline tickets made available for sale.
In a macabre mayhem no sports fans in the world deserve, and indeed have to face at events like Wimbledon or French Open, or Olympics or F1 or PGA tour, HCA reportedly sold out over 38,000 tickets online (which many fans felt they had difficulty buying), out of the supposed total of 55,000 seating capacity at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium (Uppal) for the match on September 25.
More than 30,000 cricket fans scrambled for a mere 3,000 offline tickets, according to reports, belying claims of clean, transparent or fair sale of 38,000 tickets to cricket fans. The fans, some waiting in queues patiently for over eight to 10 hours, at the only two counters set-up for tickets sale from 10 am to 5 pm at Gymkhana grounds, had to face a nightmare, scripted by the insensitivity of the HCA.
What are the advantages of selling tickets offline and not online? Lack of accountability, black marketing, siphoning them off to friends and powerful people without letting commoners have a chance to buy it. The stampede also proved that the cops deployed in big numbers were inadequate. As the mad rush and jostling and pushing began to create a scenario of a stampede and things began going out of control, police, forced to use force, canned the innocent fans, whose only fault was the love of cricket.
At least seven persons, including cops and fire personnel, and women, were injured in the incident. They were taken to a nearby private hospital at Secunderabad.
Luckily, they are reported to be out of danger. The upcoming match brings back cricket, after the pandemic, and a total gap of over three years. It did not create an experience worthy of any decent society.
G. Naresh, a techie from Miyapur, said he came to the venue at around 5.30 am, but had no clue on how many tickets would be issued.
Another fan, Christy Lobo, said, firstly there was no information about the tickets at the gate. There was no drinking water or toilet facilities for fans, given the long waits. Many fans, including women, started reaching the ticketing venue in the early hours of Thursday.
A cricket fan asked furiously, “Why could they not sell the tickets at the Uppal stadium instead?”
Gradually, thousands gathered outside the Gymkhana gate. As the gates opened for sale, fans scrambled inside. Within minutes, the crowd began to go out of control, despite police efforts to control it, and the stampede began. The cops said they were forced to use force to disperse the crowd.
Fans alleged that cops lathi-charged them without giving any warnings, even as thousands of other fans still stood in lines. Some of them even managed to get tickets even as the stampede and lathi-charge raged on.
Fans shared pictures of cops allegedly getting tickets, even as people hopelessly in queues, which went viral on social media platforms.
City police officials said the news of a woman dying in the stampede was false.
Later, the situation was brought under control, after which police said organisers set up extra counters for selling tickets.
Meanwhile, all routes leading to the Gymkhana stadium witnessed traffic jams. By afternoon, all roads were barricaded by the traffic police to avoid any further congestion. The traffic congestion continued till late evening and movement became normal only after the counters were closed in the evening.
The fans who got the tickets were happy. But hi-tech Hyderabad deserves better than what the HCA offered. It was not just cricket.