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Nobody wants to see the world champions

Teams coming to India look forward to playing in front of vociferous fans. Some say the noise from the stands lifts their performance a notch or two. But it’s going to be completely different for three-time defending champions Australia, when they begin their campaign against Zimbabwe here on Monday.

cricket Updated: Feb 20, 2011 00:07 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
World Cup

Teams coming to India look forward to playing in front of vociferous fans. Some say the noise from the stands lifts their performance a notch or two. But it’s going to be completely different for three-time defending champions Australia, when they begin their campaign against Zimbabwe here on Monday.

There was nothing to suggest on Saturday that the city was hosting a World Cup match. No hoardings or banners were visible.

There was no evidence of any publicity programme. More disheartening for the players was the fact that there was no demand for tickets or any effort on the part of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) to attract fans.

Tickets priced from Rs 100 to Rs 3000 are being sold from Wednesday but there have hardly been any takers.

In some centres in India, the local association distributes free tickets in schools to fill the stands, but the GCA has not done that either.

As a result, the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium looks set to wear an empty look.

No freebies
“We are not giving free tickets because people will ask for them again when we host the quarterfinal (on March 24)," GCA secretary Rajesh Patel told Hindustan Times. And that game will feature India if they enter the knockout.

"To attract crowds, we have kept the price of tickets low. About 18,000 of them can be bought for Rs 100 and Rs 150.

And we're not doing any publicity campaign because we never do that when we host international matches."
The lack of demand for tickets is also because they are sold only at the stadium, which is located in the periphery of the city. Asked why more outlets were not set up in the central and more crowded parts of the city, Patel said that was not the practice here.

Empty counters
Not unusual then that not a soul was seen at the ticket counters on Friday or Saturday.

High ticket prices and poor turnout, especially for low-key games after India and Pakistan were knockout in the first round, plagued the 2007 World Cup.

This commercial aspect has also influenced the International Cricket Council's (ICC) decision to prune the competition for the 2015 edition to 10 teams.

Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, however, was optimistic: "Hopefully we get some crowd. They always give the players an edge. We saw that during the practice match against India (in Bangalore last Sunday).

"The intensity goes up when you get good crowds. It was just the opposite in the practice game against South Africa (on Wednesday), when the stands were empty."

For Watson & Co., playing ODI matches against hosts India have always been in front of thousands of roaring fans. On Monday, the team from Down Under will experience the other extreme.