Desolate cricket fans points to Kerala Sports Minister V Abdurahiman’s ‘let-them-eat-cake’ stance denying them a sumptuous run feast offered by Virat Kohli and Subhuman Gill in India’s famous victory over Sri Lanka in the third and final one-dayer here on Sunday.

The Greenfield Stadium was a mutate spectator to the controversy raging in the lead-up up to the match, blamed on ‘insensitive comments’ made by the minister in response to fan’s ire over a higher entertainment tax levy. It had been jacked up from five per cent to 12 per cent leaving the tickets beyond the reach of those with meagre resources, Akhil, anardent fan said.

‘Insensitive’ remarks

Abdurahiman suggested those who cannot afford need not watch the match. Where is the need for reducing the tax, he wondered. Irate fans ran a ‘boycott cricket’ campaign protesting high ticket prices. There were only 16,000 spectators on Sunday out of the 45,000-capacity stadium, with 10,000 being the complimentary passes. Akhil was one of them.

Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, an avid cricket fan himself and who watched the match, chose to strike a neutral stance saying irrespective of what the Sports Minister had said, people should not have avoided the match. “People not turning up was a loss. It was not a loss for the minister. He got some headlines. It was a loss to cricket and to those who love the sport,” he said.

Tharoor watches match 

Tharoor said the minister could have avoided saying what he said and the public ought to have not boycotted the match. “I saw some campaigns on social media calling for a boycott of the match. It appears their campaign was effective. I think it was illogical to boycott it. I was fortunate to watch the match, and so were those who came here,” the Congress MP said. 

Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly VD Satheesan faulted the minister for precipitating the issue. He should not have tested people’s self-esteem. But MV Govindan, CPI(M) State secretary, sought to tone down the heat saying the minister meant only to say that those who are poor may not be able to watch the match. It was the media who blew this out of proportion.

More reasons than one

Hosts Kerala Cricket Association said the low turnout may be due to the ongoing Sabarimala season, the Pongal festival and CBSE exams scheduled onMonday. Another reason could be that the last cricket match held here was three months back, and many would have opted to watch from the confines of home.

With India already winning the series could be the reason for a low ticket sales, said Thiruvananthapuram Corporation Mayor Arya Rajendran It is likely that some of the fans gave it a miss since it was an ODI and not a 20-20 fixture. She did not think increase in entertainment tax was the main reason for the empty gallery. The tax rate was finalised after discussions with the State government and the Kerala Cricket Association.