Where have all the fans gone?

July 2nd, 2008 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

By K. Hussain
Karachi, July 2 (IANS) After India’s first Asia Cup game here last week, Mahendra Singh Dhoni joked that it appeared he and his players were playing to entertain the hundreds of cops deputed at the National Stadium. That game was against Hong Kong and it was no surprise that only a handful of spectators turned up.

But not even in his wildest dreams would Dhoni have anticipated a near empty stadium for India’s crunch game of the tournament against Pakistan.

India-Pakistan encounters are considered blockbusters. Tickets for such games sell like hot cakes not just in home games but even at neutral venues like Sharjah, Dhaka or Toronto.

But Wednesday’s game between the Asian giants seemed to have dented that tradition.

The National Stadium that can seat around 35,000 fans hardly housed a few thousand fans at the start of the game. Normally, fans pour in and fill the stadium within the first hour of the game but that did not happen.

Even during Pakistan’s Sunday game against defending champions Sri Lanka, the stadium was half empty.

Some experts believe that the popularity of Twenty20 cricket, courtesy the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) season, has caused a low interest in the Asia Cup one-dayers. Others put it to the below-par showing of the Pakistan team that has lost back-to-back games to India and Sri Lanka, and it is almost out of the race for the July 6 final.

Another reason could be the rise in ticket prices. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has substantially hiked the ticket prices for the Pakistan-India game, with a seat in a decent enclosure costing Rs 2,700, almost twice of what was charged in the past.

“Why will I pay that much amount to watch such boring games,” asked Nasir, a medical student. But the die-hard fans say they would keep coming to watch Pakistan and India at all costs.

“I’ve never missed a Pakistan-India match here in 20 years and I’m not going to miss it in the future,” said Ali, a businessman.

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