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T20 World Cup: Eyes on India vs Pakistan as matches in USA fail to fill stadiums due to sky-high rates

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Barring indifferent pitches, half-filled stadiums and sky-high ticket prices have also become a massive issue for the International Cricket Council (ICC), which is trying to carve a space for the sport in the United States.

Ahead of the tournament, USA Cricket chairman Venu Pisike had claimed great excitement and anticipation in the country around the India-Pakistan game in the T20 World Cup.

“In terms of demand, it was huge. I think when ICC advertised for ticket registration, nearly 2 million requests just came for the India-Pakistan game. Unfortunately, it’s hard to accommodate everyone,” Pisike had told The Indian Express.

However, the ground reality is that the game isn’t sold out with just over two days to go. India’s opening match against Ireland too received a subdued reception with most of the stands having a large number of empty seats.

Ashish Kumar Gupta, an IT engineer in Pennsylvania, went for India’s warm-up match against Bangladesh in New York but said he couldn’t get tickets for the June 9 game against Pakistan. “The cost of one ticket for the warm-up match was $118, while the starting rate of the India vs Pakistan match is $300, and it had been gobbled up. At present only hospitality tickets are available, but are fetching between $2500-$10,000,” says Gupta.

Festive offer

By late Thursday, there are plenty of tickets available for the Diamond Club ($10,000), Corner Clubs ($2,750) and Premium Club Lounge ($2,500). The rates of the premium seats during the India vs Ireland tie were $7,500 for the Diamond Club, $950 for the Corner Club and $1,750 for the Premium Club lounge.

On Tuesday, ICC released additional tickets for some T20 World Cup matches, including the India-Pakistan game, following huge demand from fans. And by late Tuesday, the general admission tickets, starting at $300, were not available.

T20 World Cup Hardik Pandya India’s Hardik Pandya greets fans during an exhibition cricket match between Bangladesh and India at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, Saturday, June. 1, 2024, in Westbury, N.Y. The match is a warmup for the T20 Cricket World Cup tournament. (AP/PTI)

The general admission tickets in the resale market are hovering at around from $1200 to $1400 each, which is half the average monthly earnings of lower-income Asian households in the US. To put matters in perspective, the median monthly income of lower-income Asian households is $2,625, and for the middle-income category $9,300, according to a Pew Research paper published last year.

“The cheapest tickets for the India-Pakistan game got sold out in no time. The rest were very expensive, in the $2000-$2500 range. Then you need to find a hotel, air or train tickets to reach New York and other expenses. It could have cost me $4000-$4500 easily. So I dropped the plan,” S Adarsh, an IT professional living in Seattle told this newspaper.

Jamie Harrison, a history teacher, who set up the first American high school cricket team outside of New York City said: “If the American cricket board wanted to take the game mainstream, they should have reduced the prices of the tickets. Suppose a person who doesn’t know cricket wants to get a hang of the game, he has to shell out $200-300. So, he’s not likely to buy a ticket. This way, America would not get new cricket fans. Only those who know the game would bother to spend this much. Even for those who like the game, it’s not affordable for all.”

Long-term view

For ICC, a lot depends on the June 9 fixture in terms of how cricket will leave a mark in the US. In four years’ time, the sport will make its comeback into the Olympic fold at the Los Angeles Games after an absence of over a century. Cricket was last played at the Olympics at Paris in 1900, when just two teams competed: France and Great Britain.

Earlier this year, IOC chief Thomas Bach had said he was a “fan” of the T20 format and wanted to cash in on the popularity of the sport among the Indian community in the US.

Cricket at LA Olympics The sport is set to be a six-team T20 event, with the USA likely to get a direct berth on the virtue of being hosts. This would leave just five spots for other teams from around the world to vie for. (Reuters/AP)

“I’m a fan of T20 cricket. What speaks in favour of the sport is that it has been gaining more and more international representation. With T20, there is a format available that can be played in an Olympic Games. (It) is a format which is of interest to more countries. We see that interest in cricket is not only limited to countries where it is already played but also in the USA, which has a growing Indian community, so you have huge potential there,” Bach had said.

“The sport has a certain representation in all five continents. This is not necessarily true for every sport that we have on the Olympic programme. So this is a good space to develop it further within the continents. If we’re talking about 2028, there is time to grow,” he added.

Joseph O’Neill, who wrote Netherland, a gripping novel in the backdrop of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a cricket-loving Trinidadian as its protagonist, said high ticket rates will always be a barrier for the growth of the game in the USA.

“I wanted to take my daughter to the (India-Pakistan) game, but the tickets were quite expensive, something like $300-$400 for the cheapest ones. So I bought tickets for the Ireland games, which were far more affordable, $70-$80. I don’t know how the majority of the South Asian diaspora in New York would manage to buy such expensive tickets,” said the author.





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