Fans desperate for a final schedule

Credit: CAB

The World Cup is less than two months away, and we still don’t have a firmed-up schedule. In a meeting on Thursday, the Kolkata police informed the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) that it would struggle to provide adequate security on November 12 for the England-Pakistan game because it falls on the same day as Kali Puja – a festival that is celebrated with much fanfare in Kolkata. While CAB President Snehashish Ganguly confirmed saying they haven’t yet received anything formally from the police, news reports quoting Kolkata police sources suggest that issue has been informally communicated. Normally for Kali puja Kolkata police deploys 15000 personnel from its total strength of 23000. A high profile match would mean another 5000 police deployment making it a tricky proposition. The matter, sources suggest, could now go up to the Chief Minister for a resolution. The CAB has not formally conveyed anything yet to the BCCI. 

The police are making a valid point. Having lived in the city for four decades, I can say with certainty that it is not the best day for hosting a high-profile game. If I take the north of the city where I live, there are five or six high-profile pujas within 10 or 15 minutes of Eden Gardens. Each puja has more than 100,000 people visiting the pandal in the evening, and huge security is generally deployed to ensure that law and order is smooth on festival day. There are at least 20 or 25 such high-profile pujas in the city, and it can be surmised that the security agencies would be stretched to maintain order on Kali puja day. To have an England-Pakistan game, which could well attract a crowd of 65,000 at the Eden Gardens, could make it impossible for law enforcement to manage things.

Transport will be an issue, parking another, and commutes will be highly problematic. And with Pakistan, there is always the extra sensitivity involved. In such a situation, the police’s concern is highly legitimate.

The question to be asked is this: Didn’t the authorities know about Kali puja before announcing the fixtures? Did they not calibrate local ground realities in advance? Will this result in a further change in the schedule, and if it does, how challenging does it become to plan logistics and travel with so many last-minute changes? If fans are to come into the city, which I am sure is the case with Diwali, how can they make plans with the schedule is still fluid?

Normally, the itinerary for an event of this scale is firmed up a year or more in advance. And it is basic. Fans, who are at the centre of it, can then make plans and the whole ecosystem around the event takes firm shape. For this World Cup, all of this is still fluid, and with less than two months left, it is impossible to make any kind of plans. With each passing day, the costs will also increase exponentially.

One can only hope that the schedule is finalised as soon as possible and the various concerns, especially pertaining to security, are taken care of. Otherwise the worst sufferer will be the fan – the most neglected constituency in Indian cricket. The irony is that Indian cricket is the behemoth that is it because of the fans. And yet, they are considered the most dispensable, and asked to pay the biggest price for this scheduling fiasco.

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