“Bhaiyya, AAP media se ho kya?” Vikas Kumar asks with an apologetic look on his face. As you nod in the affirmative, the 27-year-old goes on to narrate his sob story. Kumar says he has purchased a ticket worth Rs 1,500 for the upcoming T20 fixture between India and West Indies to be played at Lucknow’s newly constructed Ekana International Cricket Centre.

Having made the booking online, Kumar lands up at the premises with the print-out of his ticket on match-eve. But to his angst, stadium officials tell him that this print-out is not valid. “Get a proper ticket, only then will I let you in for tomorrow’s game,” he was warned. Kumar, a Lucknow native, looks around, desperate for help. He is not alone.

There are others like him facing a similar predicament. Before bookings for this match was officially opened last week, there were reports on how certain shady online portals were duping people by issuing fake tickets without proper barcodes. It’s possible that Kumar is a victim of this malicious fraud.

“These tickets don’t have proper barcodes. If I let him in tomorrow, I will lose my job,” the stadium official adds, pointing to Kumar. As Lucknow gears up to host its biggest cricketing extravaganza in more than 24 years, instances of such confusion over tickets sale reigned supreme.

High drama

Similarly, there was high drama last week, after Chetan Chauhan, Uttar Pradesh’s sports minister announced that around 1,000 seats in the stadium would be exclusively reserved for students at a subsidised rate of Rs 450. When hordes of students landed up in front of the stadium, they were duly turned away by officials. Pandemonium ensured, and cops had to be deployed to calm the situation. Following that incident, the state government decided to put those tickets on sale at select schools and colleges across the city. Barely 24 hours later, these tickets were sold out.

Despite the chaos, the reason for this frenzy over this match is understandable. That’s because the city of Nawabs and Tehzeeb has been starved of international cricket for some time now. The last time Lucknow hosted an international match was in January 1994, when India played a Test match against Sri Lanka at the KD Singh Babu Stadium. Since then, all action in the state, including the Indian Premier League, was shifted to Kanpur’s Green Park.

Now, this plush 50,000-seater vicinity, situated on Shaheed Path and overlooking the Gomti river has piqued Lucknowites curiosity levels. Not surprisingly, the impending festivities, and the absence of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, India’s two biggest cricketing superstars from India’s playing XI, has had little impact on ticket collections. Gaurav Singh, the media manager of Ekana Group, says despite all hiccups, he is expecting a sell-out crowd for the game. “All tickets have been sold out,” Sinha says and adds that he along with some of the other stadium officials were skeptical before booking officially opened last week.

“See, the match is scheduled a day before Diwali. It’s an auspicious time for most, so we were apprehensive about the turnout. But the new stadium, and having an international match in 25 years has got the city excited.”

So, even the relatively higher ticket rates have not turned these fans away. The average ticket cost ranges anywhere from Rs 1,000 to Rs 4,000, which is nearly double the rate of any IPL match ticket at a top-tier centre. Even the cost of corporate boxes and the VIP and Platinum Lounges are in the range from Rs 10,000-Rs 25,000.

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