CHENNAI: Nothing can deter cricket fans in India from getting a glimpse of their favourite stars. Not even Covid. All coronavirus protocols went for a toss during the redemption of online tickets for the second Test.
Fans, scores of them without masks, formed serpentine queues next to the booths to take their physical tickets needed to enter the stadium for the Test, beginning on Saturday.
The queues snaking into arterial roads next to the Chepauk stadium did not observe mandatory social distancing protocols as seen in the picture, even though it was one of the conditions mentioned in the e-mail ID for claiming the physical copy of tickets.
"Wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing are mandatory during the visit for the redemption of tickets," one of the guidelines stated.
Another, in block letters, said: "NO MASK, NO TICKETS." Because most people who had purchased the e-tickets descended on the venue all at once, social distancing seemed not possible.
The chaos — several fans this daily spoke to said they were standing in the queue for several hours — was because scores of them thought tickets could only be redeemed on Thursday. "People did not understand it properly," said RS Ramasaamy, Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) secretary.
"We said that tickets can be redeemed from February 11 for the second Test. We never said it can be only on the 11th. That's why there was an issue today (Thursday). People swamped, everybody wanted to collect it today itself. We thought they will come in batches and not rush like this."
One of the fans said: "Even if they open the booths to get our tickets tomorrow (Friday) or on matchdays, I don't want to take that chance. What if they tell us tickets are no longer available?"
To ensure there is no overcrowding for redemption of tickets on Friday, TNCA even sent out a press release late on Thursday: "This is to confirm that redemption of online tickets will be done from 8.00 am to 11.00 pm on 12.02.2021 (Friday) at Booth No. 6 & 8 located at Victoria Hostel Road for 'C, D, E & F' Stands, at Wallajah Road near Gate 11 & 12 for 'I, J, K & H' Stands'. "On all matchdays, online tickets can be redeemed between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm."
Many of the fans couldn't comprehend why they were asked to acquire a physical copy of tickets. The explanation is simple. It is done to make sure people don't misuse tickets. Anybody with an online printout can enter the stadium.
By handing over the tickets physically after verifying ID-proof, TNCA will be able to keep track of the head count. The second Test marks the return of fans to elite level sport in India.