Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cricket chiefs probe ticket farce

GUANGZHOU: Asia's cricket bosses were on Sunday investigating the poor fan response to the sport's debut in China despite claims that all tickets had been sold out. 

Asian Games officials last week said there were no tickets left for the week-long women's competition at the new 4,800-seater cricket stadium in Guangzhou. 

But just a smattering of spectators turned up for China's opening match against Malaysia on Saturday, which the hosts won easily by 55 runs. 

"Frankly, we don't know what happened, but we are trying to find out," Asian Cricket Council spokesman Shahriar Khan said. 

"It is true no tickets were available online, the only way they could be bought. I had many people asking me for tickets, but there was little I could do. 

"It was definitely not a nice feeling to see empty stands for what was a historic moment." 

Khan said he was told the Games organising committee (GAGOC) had bought all the tickets to ensure a full house, but were unable to distribute them. 

Cricket's low-key debut at the Asian Games came even as the sport was fighting to keep its place in the four-yearly event after organisers of the next Games in South Korea wanted it out. 

Cricket was omitted from Incheon's list of events proposed for the 2014 Asiad when it was released on Thursday, but the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) wants it retained because of its TV appeal. 

The issue will now be decided at an OCA executive board meeting in Muscat in December. 

OCA honorary life vice-president Wei Jizhong said there was a future for cricket in the Games since it was "very popular and very influential in Asia, especially in South Asia." 

However, OCA vice-president Shin Yong Suk, who sits on the Incheon organising committee, said that South Korea did not even have a national cricket federation. 

Cricket was last seen at a major multi-sport event at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, but was dropped for the next three editions in England, Australia and India. 

Its Asian Games debut has already been marred by India's refusal to field men's or women's teams due to international and domestic commitments. 

India, whose huge cricket-mad television audiences make them an attractive proposition for any organiser, are currently hosting New Zealand for a Test and one-day series. 

Asia's other big three - Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - sent second-string teams for the Twenty20 tournament in Guangzhou, robbing the event of its star appeal. 

The International Cricket Council, the sport's ruling body, has identified China as one of the major new markets along with the United States for the development of the sport.

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