Over the next two months, the Indian cricket board’s organising skills will be really tested. Staging a World Cup in India is not new. BCCI with other cricket boards on the Indian subcontinent co-hosted the event in 1987, 1996 and 2011.
But this is the first time that the entire event is being hosted by one country. And the scale of the operation will be double that of the last World Cup held in India in 2011, said Prof Ratnakar Shetty, who was its tournament director.
Coordinating with the central and state governments on security, dealing with ticket sales in a country where the demand is never satisfied and managing logistics will stretch the organising committee.
“It’s a massive operation for the BCCI team compared to the previous World Cups because in 2011 we (India) hosted only 29 games. Compared to that, the matches are almost double (48); in that sense it is more work,” says Shetty. “Because it’s a round robin league, the travel has also increased.”
BCCI is well equipped to handle logistics as it organises IPL every year. Where the World Cup throws a different challenge is in dealing with security arrangements. Passions run high in the cricket-crazy nation and any untoward incident can be a blot on the host board. In the 1996 World Cup, the India versus Sri Lanka semi-final at Eden Gardens showed how things can go wrong when the crowd, upset by India’s batting collapse, set off fires in the stands and threw water bottles at fielders, forcing match referee Clive Lloyd to call off the game, awarding it to Sri Lanka.
“Organising a World Cup in India, the main issue is security because Australia, England and all have issues about security in Asian countries. That is one major issue where the government (union home ministry) plays an important role, plan every detail of how the event will be organised so far as the security at venues, hotels and travel is concerned,” says Prof Shetty, who was tournament director at the 2006 Champions Trophy as well.
The India-Pakistan game attracts scrutiny like no other encounter. Prof Shetty recalled his experience from 2011. “That’s the biggest challenge in terms of security. In 2011, we had only three days to organise that (semi-final) match. Security is of the highest order, for the teams as well as the spectators. Once Pakistan reached the semis, they had to be given tickets for their fans who wanted to come to Mohali – 500 tickets were assigned to them on condition that they will come via the Wagah border and return the same way. So, that was taken care of,” recalled the former head of BCCI administration.
“One of the added challenges for us was that both the prime ministers were to attend the match, which means the security level changes drastically. It was difficult as even the teams couldn’t get their food items before the start of the match because of the security established near and outside the stadium. They stopped all vehicles, not bothering to understand that the catering vehicle was important to be released. These types of issues came up at the last minute, but everything went off well. These matches bring about a lot of pressure and tension for the organisers.”
In fact, ICC was not sure of hosting the 2011 final in Mumbai in case Pakistan made it because of Shiv Sena’s opposition to hosting the team.
This time, the India-Pakistan match is set for October 14 at Ahmedabad. Attendance at the 1,32,000 capacity Motera Stadium is going to be almost five times that of what Mohali had in 2011. Given the tense relations between the neighbours, the timing of the game is important. Any untoward incident at the border can cast a shadow on it.
Prof Shetty said it adds to the challenge as far as the government is concerned. “Then they have to plan security, deployments, all these things are not in the hands of BCCI. It is the home ministry which takes over the security.”
What about the fans? “We didn’t have any problems that way. The security agencies keep track of the number of tickets that are issued, number of people that are coming. Those areas are all covered by the home ministry.”