We are 12 days from the start of the qualifying round of the ICC World T20 tournament. Tickets only just went on sale on Wednesday and even then there are still three venues - Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi - where you cannot buy tickets. This comes after the announcement of fixtures and venues for the event being delayed until December, giving those wanting to travel to the event real issues in making arrangements.
Added to the fixture and ticketing issues there is still uncertainty over Delhi as a venue just a matter of weeks before it hosts its first game. To top off the issues with organisation of the event it has emerged that, as things stand, there will be no television coverage of the event in Australia, and possibly none in New Zealand.
There are plenty cricket crazy fans in India, so the chances are the games will be well attended, but this isn’t an Indian event, it is a global one. That the fixtures took so long to be announced was disgraceful, that it took so long for the tickets to go on sale is nothing short of scandalous. While it is often the case that tickets go on sale late in India -- it was just a few days before Sachin Tendulkar’s last Test that the tickets were available -- that cannot be acceptable for a global tournament.
It appears that games will go ahead in Delhi, but that was far from certain until a few weeks ago and even now it has not been given final sign off. A dispute between the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi and District Cricket Association means uncertainty lingers. Where that leaves those wanting to watch the games, or indeed those looking to cover them, is up for debate.
For previous events the fixtures and venues have been known close to a year before the start of the tournament, here it was a matter of weeks. At every other World T20 the tickets have been available to purchase three to six months ahead of schedule, here it is a matter of days. A member of the organising committee told ESPNCricinfo that it has been hard to arrange the tickets due to the complexity of the event.
“As much as it looks like a T20 format, look at the complexity of the whole tournament. This is the first time we are doing women's and men's matches together, and we have double-headers," he was quoted as saying.
This sounds like a great excuse, but the last three events have had exactly this format without any of these issues. The official goes on to suggest that having eight venues has made things more difficult, but the idea that the BCCI and ICC find it hard to arrange tickets going on sale in venues numbering in single figures is nothing short of laughable. This is the governing body for a global sport and its biggest and most important member.
That same organising committee official went on to say that the hardship this has caused to travelling overseas fans wasn’t a big issue. "Look at this way, India as a destination … it has always been local sale which chews up into the entire volume than people coming from outside. That's not a reason [for the delay], but it's a comfort in some way.”
It is doubtful that those that had wanted to support their team and have been unable to arrange to do so will find any comfort in those words.
Last month a BCCI official told ESPNCricinfo that there was still plenty of time and then made a telling comment about not wanting to be bothered by those wanting free tickets. “The anticipation in the public only builds up closer to the event, but if the tickets are made available well in advance, those asking for complimentary passes make your life difficult.”
Yes, of course. It would be just awful if making tickets available for those outside India, and for those regular fans in the country itself, made it socially awkward for officials to have to say no when asked for freebies, wouldn't it?
Moreover, a lottery system is in place for India matches the semi-finals and final, but it appears that only three stands in Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium will have tickets for sale to the public, online at least. One can assume that the rest will be given to sponsors and members of the local association. Fans in India have voiced their displeasure at this whole mess as well.
It will be very hard to get into the ground to see these games, but not as hard as it will be for those in Australia to see matches.
As things stand no broadcaster has purchased the rights to show the games in the country and it appears that no one is interested in doing so. Australia’s games at the World T20 are on the list of matches that must be shown free to air, but no network is compelled to purchase the rights.
The issue is one of money. The price that has been requested by Star Sports, the global rights owner for ICC events, is one that Australian broadcasters are unwilling to pay. Overseas T20 Internationals have never been a big draw for TV audiences in the country and the timings of the games mean they will be on during the night. It will not garner a big audience so the large fee and the addition of a surcharge to cover taxes in the ICC’s base in Dubai means it is not economically viable. If no free to air broadcaster buys the rights a pay TV company can do so, but there seems little interest in these quarters either.
So we head into the second biggest event in the cricket calendar with the organisation still in an absolute mess and TV coverage uncertain. There is every chance that the cricket will be compelling, that fans will fill the stands and the global TV audience will be impressive. While all of that is taking place it is worth remembering that the sport deserves so much more than this. The way this tournament has been arranged is nothing short of shambolic.