Sports

Wankhede prepares itself for the historic adieu

Satyanarayan Iyer amp Beena Parmar Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2018

sachinwankhede   -  Satyanarayan Iyer

Sachin Tendulkar playing football during the practice session on the eve of his 200th test match. Photo: K.R. Deepak

Amit and his friends have been waiting for three hours at the Wankhede Stadium without any luck.

The 19-year-old is hoping to get tickets for one of cricket’s biggest showpiece events which kicks off on Thursday. The renovated Wankhede has the capacity to hold 32,500 spectators.

About a hundred others like Amit take their positions outside the Vinoo Mankad gate to get a glimpse of Sachin Tendulkar who, over the years, has come to be revered as the country’s demigod.

They look at the gate with hungry eyes as the Master Blaster takes guard for his practice session inside the stadium which, over the next five days, will become his farewell arena.

The guards outside the gate keep people at bay as luxury sedans carrying the high and mighty of Indian cricket drive in and out. The scene outside, however, is serene compared to the hectic pace of activity inside the Mumbai Cricket Association building within the Wankhede.

People flock to the third floor of the association's office making polite requests for tickets. The offices of the joint secretary and treasurer see crowds swarm in and out to get their seats confirmed for the big match.

Phones keep ringing incessantly while a patient MCA official answers with the standard line, “ Haalat jhaali aahe. Please saha cha nantar call kara.” (The situation is pretty tight. Please call after 6 p.m.)

Vinod Deshpande, MCA treasurer, manages to squeeze in five minutes to speak to Business Line. As he plonks himself on a chair (perhaps for the first time in the day), he exclaims, “The ticket demand is huge this time. We are trying to satisfy everybody.”

When online ticket agency Kyazoonga opened to sell tickets, it got 2.1 million hits together causing the website to crash. “Kyazoonga told us that the hits were five times more than what they got during Olympics,” says Deshpande. Finally it ended up selling less than 4,000 tickets.

Jatin Vakil, a Baroda Cricket Association official, has been drafted in by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to help with the logistics for this “historic match.” “Each and every seat is being sold for all the five days of the match,” he says.

However, MCA maintains it is not as if the tickets are sold only to the rich and powerful. There are 329 clubs associated with the association. Each of them, a breeding ground for future cricketers, has about 30 members.

“We are sitting here because of them. They elect us, so we have to give them tickets,” says Deshpande, adding that such clubs have got 8,250 tickets.

Another 10,000 tickets have been reserved for VIPs and the balance given to corporate houses (like the Tatas and Garware) which helped build the stadium. Sachin himself has taken about 500 tickets for his friends and family.

“We are not hosting this match for profit and that is why tickets are sold between Rs 500-Rs 2,500. We thought the general public should get the tickets,” says Deshpande

According to him, not more than 5,000 tickets have been sold over-the-counter in the past 50-years at Wankhede. And these are special tickets for this big occasion. Printed at Rs 35 apiece, each of the five tickets (for different days of the Test) has different pictures of the little master in action.

“People can preserve them as a souvenir,” quips Deshpande.

Meanwhile, outside the Vinoo Mankad gate, the fans eagerly scan through every car that drives out of the stadium. Suddenly, a police jeep escorts a white Innova out. A wild rumour spreads that it could be Tendulkar inside. A few fans, with the tricolour in hand, give the vehicle a chase as it speeds away.

>satyanarayan.iyer@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 13, 2013

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