If ever a URL contained an entire saga in its few words, it had to be the one that thousands of World Cup ticket buyers found themselves facing on Monday: http://www.icccwc2011.kyazoonga.com/Tickets/ Error/. The ICC World Cup 2011 is currently defined not by its month-long group matches, the presence of the game's much-abused fringe element, the Associates, or its extremely malleable home advantage quarter-final round, but instead by its ticketing errors.
The ICC is understood to be working with the host boards - which are responsible for ticketing - on resolving the issue. The options include taking the tickets off sale and instead distribute them through lots. The hosting agreement gives the hosts the responsibility for distribution, stamping and printing of gate tickets and hospitality tickets; it also says the hosts "will exercise strict control to conduct efficient orderly production and distribution and hospitality".
The most prominent errors took place on Monday afternoon when the servers of Kyazoonga.com, the ICC's official ticketing partners, were overwhelmed with the load as the site went 'live' with sales for the final and semi-finals at 1pm India time. The website received close to ten million hits in a matter of minutes - half a million at any given moment - many of those people refreshing the site. It would have needed, a Kyazoonga staffer said, a server farm the "size of a football field" to keep up with that kind of demand. The site crashed by 1.05pm and the few people who had got into the system and begun purchasing their tickets found their plans hanging somewhere in cyberspace.
The website went online again around 9.30pm IST with a statement that no tickets for the finals & semi-finals had been sold on Monday due to the system issues and that updates about the ticket sales would follow. So, all the tickets allocated for online sales will still be available once the Kyazoonga network teams in India, Europe and the United States get their servers up and running again. Kyazoonga were not willing to reveal an approximate time when that was expected to happen.
A Kyazoonga spokesperson said while the surge in traffic had been expected, the site had not anticipated its scale. When ticket sales for World Cup group matches first went live on June 1, 2010, there had been no issues over server capacity. The firm had expected the demand to be several times over for the knockout games, "maybe five to ten times over but not 100." There were even people knocking at the door of the Kyazoonga offices in New Delhi asking to purchase World Cup final tickets.
What has also infuriated World Cup fans - whose angry comments on ESPNcricinfo hit the newswires all day - is not merely the fact that it has been impossible to buy tickets for the final online, but that there are so few tickets available to the general public at a venue with a very small capacity by Indian standards. The 33,000-seater Wankhede Stadium is one of the two smallest Indian grounds hosting World Cup matches. Only Mohali with a capacity of 27,500 is smaller. The rest are as follows: Eden Gardens - 63,000, Motera - 54,000, Chepauk - 45,000, Ferozshah Kotla - 42,000, Nagpur - 45,000, Chinnaswamy - 37,000. Among the 33,000 seats in the Wankhede, only 4000 are for sale to the public - the rest will be distributed to the ICC and the Mumbai Cricket Association's member clubs - which is a disproportionately small number for the biggest event in world cricket. All previous finals have been held at larger venues except for the 2007 final in Bridgetown and the first three editions. Those were played at Lord's, which at the time had a capacity of 28,000, but the number of tickets made available to the public was still somewhere around 14,000.
The ticket pricing at the Wankhede, according to the ICC's official ticket guide, is the most expensive across the World Cup. The price-range for the first match at the Wankhede on March 13, New Zealand v Canada, is between Rs 2500 to Rs 3750. The March 18 match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka ranges from Rs 5000 to Rs 7500. The World Cup finals tickets are priced between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000.
The other issue surrounding tickets that has affected grounds in India is that ticket sales are heavily dependent on the host team's presence in any match. India are hosting most of the neutral games while co-hosts Bangladesh are staging only the six group matches featuring their own team and two quarter-finals, and Sri Lanka are hosting 13 matches, five featuring the home team, six as stand-in hosts for Pakistan, and one quarter-final and a semi-final.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo