IND v AUS: Of Durga pujo and the black ticketing market

Amid festivities, a group of blacker marketers sell tickets at lower rates to “fill the stands” for the second ODI between India and Australia at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. 

While the Cricket Association of Bengal insisted that the all tickets were sold, many parts of the stadium remained empty during the day's play.   -  WRIDDHAAYAN BHATTACHARYYA 

“Ticket 500 takaay niye jaan, onek gulo aache (you can avail the tickets for Rs 500, there are many),” said a couple of women, outside Calcutta Sports Journalists Club, a few yards from the Eden Gardens stadium, before the second ODI between India and Australia.

The story of women selling tickets in the black market isn’t new here. At one point, these women ruled the roost outside cinema halls, but today, Sheela (who didn’t want to divulge her full name) said she, along with her associate, were handed a bunch of tickets by “a group of unknown people”.

Why? “Bujhtei toh parchhen, pujo’r bajaar, stadium bhorate hobe toh (this is the season of Durga Puja, and we need to fill the stands),” she chuckled.

When Sportstar tried to interrogate her, acting as a suitable customer, she added that the officials (who she bought the tickets from) had sent them over through an agent in the stadium premises. “This is common here, but the situation is different for this match. We usually buy tickets on the marked price and sell it at a higher rate, but this time, we were given the tickets at a lower rate by a third party.

There isn’t much crowd due to the festivities outside, so the profit-margin is low as well,” said Sheela, who grew up selling tickets outside Metro and Paradise cinema hall at Esplanade.

Her associate (who refused to be named) learnt the tricks of the trade by tagging along. “I have been with her for five years. I also keep a check whether any cop is around in plain clothes,” she described her job profile. 

But who are these middlemen?

There were murmurs that Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), fearing loss, released a few tickets in the black market. But when contacted for a statement, a CAB official said, “We have sold all tickets and the stadium is expected to be full.”

But that wasn’t the case. The gallery beside Club House, B. N. Dutt Stand, Dhan Singh Thapa Stand a few other pockets were a mishmash of cream and green – the colour combination of the seats that were empty. 

This reporter also contacted bookmyshow – the official ticketing partner – for a comment. “The CAB and the BCCI management hold a few tickets for their staff, groundsmen and other officials. Once they meet their quantity of tickets, they release the rest to online. We have no idea of any other medium of buying or selling tickets,” an official said in an online chat.

The tickets that were sold for Rs 500 in black were actually for Rs 650; the ones that were originally for Rs 1,300 was sold for Rs 1,000.

The stadium has an official capacity of 66, 349 and till the first innings, it looked 70% full, which is quite surprising as the stadium is known for its crowd and the trademark Mexican waves. There was barely a wave today.

Durga Pujo is the celebration of the goddess’ triumph over the buffalo demon Mahishasura, but for cricket, this looked like a lost battle.