Hyderabad, Oct 14 (IANS) Too much cricket appears to be not only taking its toll on players but also killing fans' enthusiasm. The usual frenzy around the sport was somewhat lacking during the first One-day International between India and England at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here Friday.
There was neither the huge demand for match tickets nor the fanfare associated with one-day cricket.
Usually, the 40,000-capacity stadium is jampacked even before the first ball is bowled, but it was half empty when the day-night match began at 2.30 p.m. Fans began to trickle in after a few overs but plenty of seats were vacant even after two hours.
Though the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) made available 29,000 tickets for sale through a bank and e-seva (citizen services) centres three days ago, the tickets were available even after the match began.
'I hardly miss any match in Hyderabad but this time I have decided to skip it as I believe there has been an overdose of cricket,' said Ravi Kumar, a young cricket fan.
The absence of key players Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag also dampened the people's enthusiasm.
The HCA officials put the turnout at 26,100 at 5 p.m. when the Indian innings was almost at the fag end. The officials were hopeful of more people turning up as the match progresses. An official attributed the poor turnout in the first half to the oppressive October heat of the Deccan plateau.
Though the crowds were sparse, there was no dearth of cheering for India, who were playing their first match in India after winning the World Cup. There were loud cheers every time an Indian batsman hit a four or a six. Indian flags were flying high and the fans, most of them clad in the team's blue, were dancing when Suresh Raina provided some fireworks.
When a cricket match is played in Hyderabad, tennis star Sania Mirza can't keep herself away from the stadium. A cricket enthusiast, she was present to cheer for India, though she had undergone an arthroscopic surgery on her left knee Saturday. She had torn her meniscus at the US Open last month and she will be off tennis courts for a few more weeks.
Another attraction at the stadium was a huge replica of the Indian team's newly-designed outfit which was being displayed and moved in the stands. The Indian players were wearing newly-designed jerseys with three stars just above the BCCI official emblem on the T-shirts. Each star denotes the success story of the Indian cricket team in the 1983 World Cup, the 2007 T-20 World Cup and the 2011 World Cup.
Lack of public transport due to the ongoing general strike for a separate Telangana state also had its impact on the turnout. Though buses were plying in central parts of the city, there were few vehicles connecting sprawling Greater Hyderabad to the stadium, located at suburban Uppal.
Due to the month-long strike, no buses are plying from neighbouring districts also which deprived the cricket fans of some live action. Some enthusiasts from coastal Andhra region still managed to make it through private buses and trains.
Unlike in the past when threats by some Telangana groups forced organisers to shift some IPL matches out of Hyderabad, the agitators made no such attempt this time, leading to speculation of a secret understanding between Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the match organisers. A small group of students had threatened to disrupt the match, but the TRS dissociated itself with the call for fear of losing the support of cricket enthusiasts for separate Telangana.
The Cyberabad police did not take any chances. Tight security arrangements were made all around the stadium. Over 1,500 security personnel were deployed. Director General of Police Dinesh Reddy himself visited the stadium to see the arrangements and to ensure fool-proof security.