The industrial city of Kanpur is once again in the grips of cricket fever. Green Park is set to host two matches of the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and lovers of the ‘gentleman’s game’ are looking forward to the slam-bang version with star-studded Gujarat Lions taking on Kolkata Knight Riders on May 19, and then the Mumbai Indians on May 21.
Cricket aficionados in the city are all agog with excitement – planning ahead for the big days, toiling hard for tickets, and squeezing their busy schedules to find time for the cricket carnival. Many have cancelled or rescheduled their outstation summer vacation plans, while others have planned surprise outings for their loved ones.
Says Rahul Seth, a resident of Govindnagar, “My son is a great fan of Suresh Raina. After he recently scored 92% marks in his class XII ICSE board exam, I booked two tickets for my son and his friend as a surprise gift to go watch Raina.” Raina will be seen in action for Gujarat Lions, along with other big names like Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo.
Private firms in the city have effected a ‘change’ in their shifts for Thursday. Employees have been asked to report to office by 7 am and finish their work by 2 pm, allowing them to catch up on the IPL matches later in the day. Others have chosen taken leave on May 19 and 21.
Some like Prashant Tripathi, a government employee, have not been as lucky. “I applied for leave, but my leave has not been sanctioned,” he says. But that has not dampened his enthusiasm. “We will watch the match in office. We have decided to complete our work in advance so that we can watch the match without any work pressure and cheer for UP’s son Raina,” he said.
Online ticket sales for the two matches began on Saturday, and sources said that tickets of lower cash denominations kept for online purchase were almost sold out. Demand is now climbing for tickets of higher cash denominations, they said, with huge demand for tickets for the May 21 weekend match.
Although there are no provisions for the sale of tickets from the stadium counters, many cricket lovers thronged the Green Park stadium, which has a 32,000-plus seating capacity, on Monday in search of tickets to watch the cricket extravaganza. Black-marketeers could be found around the peripheries of Green Park secretly asking cricket buffs, “ticket chahiye” (do you need a ticket?).
Obviously, IPL is different from international cricket. Here, we can watch star players from almost all the countries – unlike a typical two-team ODIU or a Test match. Moreover, we’re looking forward to loads of massive sixes and long boundaries,” said Prashant, a university student, almost breathless with excitement.
The district administration, along with security agencies, too is gearing up for a strict vigil across the city to avoid chaos. Last-minute security plans are underway. “We are holding meetings and discussing strategies with our sub-ordinates and senior police officials daily for the successful commencement of IPL matches,” said district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma.
Besides, Green Park is being given the final touches ahead of the matches – on a war footing. “The roads leading to the stadium will be decked with banners, hoardings and huge flexis of all the players of the three teams. It will be part of our welcome gesture,” Premdhar Pathak, director UPCA (Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association) at the Green park stadium told TOI.
Restaurants, city clubs, convention centres and recreational hotspots too are leaving few stones unturned to cash in on the cricket bonanza. Said Anup Bhatia, a restaurant owner in the city, “As both the matches will be played in the evening, I am planning to install big LCD screens at the dining hall with special discount offers for the customers.”
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