The showpiece event of the cricketing world, the ODI World Cup is set to be hosted by India during the months of October and November this year. The 2023 edition of the tournament is supposed to begin on October 5 at Ahmedabad with a game between defending champions England and New Zealand, and conclude on November 19 at the same venue. However, thanks to BCCI’s excellent organisation, we can’t be sure about the dates and timings of any other match even though the tournament is just 9 weeks away.
The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) initially announced the schedule for the biggest tournament in the cricketing cycle at the end of June, just over 3 months before the actual tournament. Such a late announcement of the schedule for such a big event has made it really tough for international fans to come to India for the tournament to support their teams. Planning your holidays, plane tickets, hotels, visas etc at such short notice is a nightmare, as anyone who has ever travelled out of one’s country to watch a tournament will tell you. If that wasn’t bad enough, we have now found out that even that schedule isn’t final. So the ones who have managed to sort out their papers and holidays to watch the tournament – losers!
the schedule is apparently set for a change now. 3 cricket boards have written to BCCI to change their schedule due to the lack of a rest period between some of their matches. Reportedly, BCCI has accepted the request and a new schedule is going to be announced. Changing dates for 3 boards will mean changing dates for everyone as well and the entire thing will have to be reworked. Even that may not be the final schedule as some boards may have a problem with the revised schedule as well and we may see further revisions. A problem that could easily have been avoided by preparing a schedule well in advance. BCCI has known for years that they were going to host this tournament, it wasn’t sprung on them at the last minute.
Another reason why the tournament schedule is going to see a change is that BCCI has suddenly discovered that Gujaratis celebrate Navratri with great fervour. The marquee India-Pakistan clash is currently scheduled for October 15 in Ahmedabad when the Navratri celebrations will be going on. To ease the burden on security forces during their busiest period of the year, now that match will have to be moved to a different date, again having a domino effect on the rest of the scheduling and changing it.
Interestingly, BCCI hasn’t yet realised that October and November are the months of smog in Delhi when even normal breathing is difficult and have scheduled 5 matches in Delhi during that period. Either we are going to see yet another change or we are going to see players coughing for 100 overs trying to perform at the top level while struggling for Oxygen. Delhi pollution has stopped a Test match once earlier, maybe it is the time for a One Day International this time.
One good thing that BCCI has done though is that they haven’t sold any tickets yet. Under normal scenarios, this would have been incompetence but now that the schedule isn’t finalised, at least the fans can be grateful that they aren’t left holding tickets for dates when the matches aren’t going to take place.
Reportedly, the tickets are going to go on sale from August 10, less than 8 weeks away from the tournament opener. However, one can’t be certain of that date as well because how can they sell tickets when even the schedule hasn’t been finalised. Even considering August 10, it leaves precious little time for fans to organise everything if they want to follow their team around India watching all their matches. Another interesting thing is that BCCI has announced that e-tickets won’t be accepted at the stadiums and you have to collect physical tickets and then present them at the stadiums. So, you get to risk a stampede twice, once while ticket collection, and the other time at the stadium when verification of physical tickets will slow everything down.
It all comes down to one thing, BCCI doesn’t care about fans and takes them for granted. They are certain that all Indian games will be full house and nobody will come to see other teams play anyway so why bother with anything that can make a fan’s experience more comfortable? The money has already come from the TV rights and sponsors, and the crowd at the stadium is more of a nuisance for BCCI than anything else. As it is, watching a cricket match in India in a stadium is a poor experience and most stadiums are so unwelcoming. Still, the cricket craze in the country means India plays in front of packed houses, at least in ODIs and T20s. The biggest Test series in India’s calendar, Border Gavaskar Trophy with Australia, was played in empty stadiums earlier this year, maybe that is what BCCI wants for World Cup as well looking at the way how difficult they are making it for fans.