At any given time during the Duleep Trophy semifinal between North Zone and Central that concluded here on Wednesday, a handful of fans tried to enter the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in order to get a glimpse of comeback hero Yuvraj Singh, only to be turned away. A bizarre directive issued by the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) instructed security personnel to refuse entry to anyone who did not have express permission to do so from one of the association’s officials.
HCA president, G Vinod, predictably denied the allegation. “There are no tickets. People are welcome to come and watch if they want to,” said Vinod. “Just that, with so many matches, including IPL and T20, the culture of watching Ranji and Duleep Trophy isn't there anymore.”
Quizzed about spectators being denied entry, he said, “They’re not allowed in from the pavilion side because of security issues, since the players use the same gate. Entry for the general public is from gates on the northern side.”
However, upon trying to enter through Gate No 7 on the northern side, one was told that entry was restricted to construction workers (a canopy is being built for the VVS Laxman Pavilion) and redirected to Gate No 1, the high-security entrance for players and VVIPs.
Going around the complex, one noticed that eight of the 12 gates were locked. At the ML Jaisimha Gate (No 3), one was told, “There is no entry for the public. If you have any questions, go ask them at Gate No 1.” But with India being the land of jugaad, there’s always a solution. An elderly gentleman slipped into the guard’s hands a R100 note, and was allowed to go watch the action.
Upon quizzing the guards at the main gate, one was told, “We’ve been instructed by the HCA not to let anyone in because of the construction work.” A more plausible explanation was the association fearing a repeat of the last Ranji season, when pro-Telangana activists waved banners and shouted slogans from the stands. Whatever be the reason, at a time when spectator interest in domestic cricket is at an all-time low, courtesy the T20 revolution, HCA has some explaining to do.