The problems surrounding the sale of World Cup tickets in India have descended into chaos, with police in Bangalore conducting a baton-charge on fans queuing up for tickets for Sunday's match between India and England. The 7000 tickets were sold out within three hours, officials said, leaving hundreds of fans - many of whom had queued up overnight - angry and disappointed.
People started to queue from about midnight but soon after that were asked by the police to disperse. The fans regrouped again at around 5 am and were allowed to queue up but within the hour the crowd swelled and the queue stretched from the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, the venue of the match, onto MG road - ironically, to the crossing named after Anil Kumble, president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association - the host organisation.
By 8.30, when the tickets began to be issued, the chaos started to descend and soon the police swung into action. AFP reported that several people were injured and taken away on stretchers as police attempted to control the crowd, estimated at 5000. Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan, ESPNcricinfo's stats analyst, was among those who'd queued up from midnight. "The officials initially said only one ticket would be sold per person but suddenly they started to give two per head. Very soon, they said the tickets were sold out. We spotted one policeman holding ten tickets." He said the confusion added to the general sense of anger and restlessness.
The scenes were an eerie echo of the alarm sounded by the ICC in a letter to Sharad Pawar, where it said the high demand for these tickets created the "potential for chaos and physical injury when the box office sales open".
Javagal Srinath, the former India fast bowler who is now secretary of the KSCA, said 7000 tickets had been sold out, adding that some of the best tickets had been taken by the ICC for their sponsors. However, he said he was hopeful that more tickets would be made available over the next couple of days and would be sold online through Kyazoonga.com, the ICC's official online tickets sales partner.
"There is a limit to how much we can fulfil people's expectations," Srinath said. "It is a big challenge but even our hands are tied. For a match of this stature, even if you double or triple the amount of tickets for the public, it won't be enough. That's the tradition in India and we expected this mad rush."
Srinath explained how they arrived at the number of the tickets sold to general public. "There are about 4500 [KSCA] members, and we have to give one extra ticket to them. So that's around 7000 tickets gone there. We also have corporate commitments, and we had to give tickets to the ICC. For the first time, too, all the state Associations have taken their full quota (25 tickets each) of tickets. But we are also thankful that they are sending back some unsold tickets."
"Some more tickets are expected to be available online. We are getting back some tickets from the ICC and CAB and those will be sold online. They are also willing to sell those tickets on the day of the match. So all is not lost for the fans of Bangalore."
There was some dark humour too. Asked whether selling tickets was more challenging than bowling for India, Srinath said, "I think bowling at the dirt track was the easiest."
Sunday's game was switched in late January to Bangalore because of problems at the Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata where the match, deemed to be the marquee game of the World Cup group stage, was due to be played.
Thursday's incidents in Bangalore follow widespread criticism of the shortage of match tickets for the general public - only 4000 tickets will be available for the final - and shoddy distribution of tickets bought online. The ICC letter to Pawar, who also heads the tournament's organising committee, warned of the problems and the potential fallout - including lawsuits by angry fans and corporate sponsors who have not received tickets.