Monday, March 28, 2011

Cricket World Cup - kudos to Sri Lanka Cricket

I had the fortune of landing a ticket for Saturday's quarter final match between Sri Lanka and England. Someone who had 2 grandstand tickets got sick and I was lucky to be asked whether I want it at list price :). At Rs. 4000 each I felt they were pricey but then at the event I met a friend who had paid double that for his ticket! I will comment on the ticket selling process later.

First of all, the stadium atmosphere was just incredibly amazingly fantastically electric and rocking. Being there is nothing like watching at home .. despite being able to see the match poorly, the environment is of course unbeatable. The fact that Sri Lanka gave England a total drubbing was awesome, even though as a result the game became quite non-competitive .. but I'll settle for non-competitive games up to the final and thrilling victory in the final (vs. to have it stolen like the last time).

This post is not about the quarter final match - its about Sri Lanka Cricket, the embattled organization which runs the sport in Sri Lanka.

As most people in Sri Lanka know, the organizers were hammered very very hard in the press before the World Cup started about their preparations, about how the stadiums were completed last minute and about every aspect of team selection to overall management. I'm not an expert on cricket- so I have no useful views on the cricketing aspects and will leave them alone. However, I do want to comment on the overall organization of the event.

I have made it to 3 matches in Colombo - the first was the loss to Pakistan, the second the rained out draw with Australia and the third of course the drubbing of England.

All these were held at the newly refurbished Kettarama Stadium of course- an absolutely AWESOME stadium now! I have been there a few months ago and it was a nightmare to get in and out. Now its a breeze and reminds me of the convenience of getting in and out of Purdue's Mackey Arena (for basketball). Once you are inside, the view is breathtaking. The atmosphere is amazingly electric. Every match was sold out (of course) to a capacity crowd of 35,000+.

I didn't make it to Hambantota for the first match but the news from there was that the brand new stadium there was absolutely amazing as well. The words from a friend (usually a skeptic) was "money well spent".

Same has to be said for Pallekalle in Kandy. That's again a new stadium (or a refurb'ed old ground; not sure) and while its not as built up as Hambantota or Colombo the location is just amazing and all the reports are that the place was fantastic.

There was not a single time in all the matches in Sri Lanka where something went wrong with the logistics. All the comentators have been giving kudos about the venues and the amazing environments offered by them.

I too was caught up in the press vendetta against Suraj Dandeniya (the head of the World Cup organizing team in SLC). While the work was indeed completed last minute it is time to give this gentleman a tip of the hat and acknowledge the amazing work they have done to deliver perfectly for Sri Lanka. Press  stories have a way of finding individuals guilty without judge or jury and this vendetta was played out by most of the newspapers in a merciless manner. Maybe Suraj has refused some passes for the press and their buddies? Who knows.

Yes yes I know there's one more match to be played in Sri Lanka. That's the one where Sri Lanka will whack the New Zealanders home :-). I am confident that too will go off without a hitch! At one level "may the best team win" may apply but, honestly, to hell with that .. Sri Lanka has to win to set up an amazing final in India against (most probably) India. Nothing like that victory!

(The NZ team has done amazingly well to get to the semi-finals and they've always stepped up big at the big occasions. Their country also suffered a massive earthquake recently .. only to be overshadowed by an even bigger one. If they go on to winning the tournament they'll again get some all-important PR for the recovery efforts there. To that extent I want NZ to win. Yeah, treacherous.)

Now about those ticket sales.

Fundamentally, this is a no-win situation for the organizers. 35,000 tickets for the match where 500,000 at least would love to watch in person. So no matter what approach is taken, there will be 465,000+ who will be crying foul!

There have been stories about how people stood in line, bought the ticket and turned around and sold it to someone else. I see no way to stop that - and keeping the ticket price low (lowest was Rs. 50 for group stage matches in Colombo) meant that anyone could buy them without any problem - a good thing in general.

Personally I have no issue with blackmarket sales (and I don't understand why they are banned) - the only problem it highlights is that the original ticket was sold too low! Why doesn't Sri Lanka Cricket sell the ticket for Rs. 10,000 if it can get away with it and make more money? Maybe they should've also set up an auction at EBay or something where people can bid and buy tickets at whatever price above the minimum price. No I'm not suggesting doing that for all tickets but rather for a percentage- you give some on a pure lottery, some for those who stand in line .. and the rest to the best price via auction with batches sold daily. I don't understand why they created a secondary market in the first place when they themselves could've run both the primary and secondary markets. Obviously I don't know enough about market economics.

The real problem is that many tickets seem to have been sold only to "known parties". The Colombo powers-that-be who want to watch the matches shouldn't have been able to buy through back channels. If they don't want to stand in line they can certainly afford to buy the tickets on the blackmarket if they want and let some poor guy make some money. Why should these fat cats be able to buy tickets at list?!

When you are at the match (and I went to A lower the first time (Rs. 250), to C upper the second time (Rs. 100) and to the grand stand for the quarter final (Rs. 4000) its clear that most in attendance were way above average in economic terms. In practical terms, that suggests that a lot of blackmarket sales were happening. If someone's a true fan, there's no amount of money that would make them sell the ticket - so the people who sold the tickets were not real fans. Or they were true fans who felt the money was more economically valuable for them than the experience (maybe they had a sick child or needed some home repairs or whatever ..). Or they were savvy businessmen who stood in line and sold the ticket for a profit. The bottom line is that there's no way to prevent normal capitalism from taking place and the value balance ending up wherever it ends up.

So while I too am frustrated I can't get a ticket for the semi-finals, I am only upset about connected people getting tickets at list price through backchannel means. The rest of the system I have no concerns with - and next time (20-20 World Cup next year) I hope Sri Lanka Cricket does a combination of lines, lotteries and auctions to sell the tickets.

Talking about tickets .. anyone have a spare grandstand ticket for the semi final they want to sell me at list price? :-)


Islander said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To an outsider(Pakistani), Srilankan team is pretty solid, the bowling with murali and the crazy action man malinga, the batting and the fielding, totally superb. Best wishes for the big cup. My bets are on team Lanka!

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