Lot riding on India’s American dream

All-Stars  Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne

CASH IN Indian Board pins hopes on expats as it taps into a market with huge potential

PORT OF SPAIN: Experiments with cricket have taken the game to quite a few non-traditional venues — UAE, Singapore, Nairobi, Toronto and Malaysia, to name a few. But none of those matched the level of planning that has gone into the two-match T20 series between India and West Indies to be played in Florida on August 27 and 28.

The BCCI came up with the idea of having the series only after India landed in St Kitts for the just-ended Test tour but unlike previous hastily-arranged tournaments, this one has a lot riding on it, for the BCCI in particular.

If the two games at Fort Lauderdale prove to be a huge success, it could prompt the board to stage more tournaments in this untapped outpost.

 

READY MARKET

The approach hasn’t changed over the decades — tap the interest of expatriates and sell cricket as a sustainable package of entertainment. Sharjah led the way three decades back but then the cricket boards were not investing.

“The US has always been a sports loving country. If we successfully introduce cricket as another option, especially to the Indians, it could open many avenues,” said a BCCI official involved with the organisation of the matches who requested anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Even before the action moves from the West Indies to the US, BCCI already seems to be raking in the moolah.

“Both matches have been sold out. The ground has a capacity of around 16,000 which means around 30,000 tickets have been sold out in just under seven days,” the official claimed.

The number of tickets may not be eye-popping, but the price sure is. Tickets for a basic ground seat costs $75 (approx ` 5,025) and it goes up to $250 (approx ` 16,760) for a VIP stand seat, which includes meals and drinks. Combined tickets for both matches range from $150 (approx ` 10,050) to $450 (approx ` 30,170).

 

HUGE INTEREST

To put that into perspective, the cheapest ticket for the Caribbean Premier League matches held in Fort Lauderdale in July was $23 (approx ` 1,542), less than one third of the price of the cheapest ticket for the India-West Indies T20s.

“From the day we announced the series, we have been flooded with calls for tickets so we knew people won’t hesitate to pay. But we didn’t anticipate tickets would be sold off so quickly,” said the official.

Organizing the series wasn’t easy though. “Event rules in the US are far stricter than any other venue. We had to be particular about the documents that were to be submitted to get permission in time. A US based event management company too was hired through tender to manage the two matches,” he said.

 

BIGGEST HURDLE

The biggest hurdle, however, was visa approval. If visiting the US for sports-related activity, one has to apply for P1 visa, an athletic performance permission that normally takes at least a month to process.

To make it further complicated, US visa can’t be given offshore. It took some persuasion from BCCI president Anurag Thakur through diplomatic channels to ensure an exception was made.

“The players applied for visa in Jamaica and got it after arriving in Port of Spain,” said the BCCI official.

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