The Indian government's recent demonetisation drive seems to have hit cricket where it hurts: The fans are staying away. The first Test of the ongoing England tour of India at Rajkot saw meagre attendances, and indications are that the second Test at Vizag will fare no better.
According to a report by Times of India, the sale of tickets for the second Test, scheduled from Thursday at Vizag's ACA-VDCA Stadium, have been hit due to the demonetisation drive. The official capacity of the ground is 27,000, but only 12,000 of these have been put on sale. And only a pitiful 10 percent of them have been sold so far.
"Unfortunately, the sale of tickets is not very encouraging. Definitely (it is due to demonetisation). People are wary of buying tickets right now. They prefer keeping the cash with them rather than spending it," said a stadium official, when asked by the Times of India. However, he added, "Generally ticket sales for a Test are slow, and pick up only towards D-day. I am sure we will have a decent crowd at the weekend."
This will be the first Test match being scheduled at Vishakhapatnam, and low attendances might hurt the argument being put forward by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that having smaller venues host Test cricket would be better for the growth and development of the sport. The move seemed to work during the New Zealand Test series, where crowds in huge numbers turned up for the Indore Test, even on weekdays. But Rajkot and Vizag have turned the other way.
"The demonetisation drive has had a big impact on the attendance," SCA secretary Niranjan Shah had confirmed in an earlier interview. "The window sale of tickets has been hampered, as people have been trying to hold on to their Rs 100 notes," Shah had said.
"The announcement came on the eve of the match and there was nothing we could do to avoid it," he added.
However, following the low attendances in Rajkot, it was thought and hoped that Vizag would be an improvement.
But if customers aren't willing to part with their precious Rs 100 notes, neither are stadium officials. A report in Deccan Chronicle has quoted a ticket vendor as saying the demand is fairly high, but people are trying to buy tickets worth Rs 100 and Rs 200 using high Rs 2,000 denomination notes.
"I have sold only 50 tickets of Rs 100 and Rs 200 denominations since morning, as I was not able to manage the crisis for change. Many of the purchasers came to the counter with Rs 2,000 currency notes to purchase tickets worth Rs 100 or Rs 200. I had very few Rs 100 notes and so refused to sell the tickets for such high-value denomination notes," said J Kumar, who's selling the tickets for the second Test.