20 February 2004

Indo-Pak cricket: Seats reserved for Indian fans

20 February 2004
The Times of India

Berths reserved for Indians

Siddharth Varadarajan

LAHORE, Feb 19: When Tendulkar goes out to bat during the forthcoming Indian cricket tour of Pakistan, he is likely to be greeted by the sight of the 'Tiranga’ being waved by spectators in the stands.

Under an innovative plan being worked out by the Pakistan Cricket Board for the three Test matches and five One-day games to be played, a minimum percentage of seats in each of the stadia is to be set aside for Indian spectators who will be sprinkled across the stands rather than being confined to one or two enclosures.

PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan told Indian reporters here at the Gaddafi stadium on Thursday that fans in India will either be able to book tickets online or purchase them through the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in consultation with whom the PCB will finalise the ticket allocation plan. One proposal is for as many as 15 to 20 per cent of the seats to be reserved for Indians.

"Even if we manage to reserve 10 per cent of seats, that means some 4,000 Indian fans will be able to see the fixture in Lahore," said PCB media manager Saimul Hasan. In smaller venues like Peshawar or Multan, which seat a maximum of 20,000-25,000, the PCB is confident of accommodating 1,500 to 2,000 Indians.

These will be in all category of seats: VVIP, VIP, First Class and Ordinary. As for visas, the Pakistani foreign ministry informed the Indian delegation which visited Islamabad for talks earlier this week that a plan was being worked out to ensure every ticket-holder got a visa. In practice, however, this promise seems a difficult one given the current level of staff strength at the Pakistan high commission in Delhi.

On its part, the PCB is anxious that the BCCI confirms the tour itinerary without further delay. "The logistics are going to be difficult," said Hasan.

"We have to find fivestar hotel accommodation and suitable flights for some 100 people if we count the two teams and all the officials and support staff. The sooner we know the better."

Asked what would happen if the BCCI refuses to play any fixtures in either Karachi or Peshawar, PCB officials said they were confident such a situation would not arise. "Both of us have been flexible. Some compromise can be worked out. It will just not be fair to bypass these two venues."

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