HYDERABAD: A day after they wrecked mayhem, badly dented Brand Hyderabad cultivated for years assiduously by youth icon K.T. Rama Rao, and broke the hearts of thousands of fans and made Hyderabad appear in a terrible light in front of the country and the cricketing world, Hyderabad Cricket Association and its chieftain, disgraced former India cricket captain Mohd. Azharuddin, had only three words to say: Not My Fault.
This even as the promise of the HCA to treat those injured during the stampede and police lathicharge did not materialise, with most of those injured and their families saying they had to pay a steep bill at a corporate hospital nearby, which did not trust Azhar and his gang to keep their promise.
Keeping promises was also hardly on the mind of Azharuddin, who was decades ago banned from all forms of cricket for match fixing and corruption. The only thing the HCA was keen on was to find someone to shift the blame.
The HCA is not responsible for anything going wrong during the sale of offline tickets for a cricket match to be held in Hyderabad being organisation by the HCA, seemed to say the president of the HCA, in his characteristic, non-committal under-the-breath evasive response.
During a press conference at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Uppal, Azharuddin, no stranger to controversy and shame, did not have the minimum courtesy to apologise.
Meanwhile, across Hyderabad, common people burst out in anger on social media, seeking the firing of Azharuddin and all office-bearers at the HCA and demanding their arrest for Black Thursday, when over 30,000 cricket fans were made to scramble for a mere 3,000 tickets for the T20 international match between India and Australia, which resulted in a massive stampede and a police lathicharge that left eight people injured.
This was the first international game in Hyderabad in three years. The city had even been starved of IPL action for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The enthusiasm of fans was understandable. What was inexplicable was the indifference and lack of preparation or minimal transparency from the HCA or the police.
The city police played the blame game, and pointed accusing fingers at the sporting body. The sports minister V. Srinivas Goud after initial sounds of fury, evaded any direct response.
A police officer said: “Blaming us even after controlling the situation and averting a major damage is unfortunate. People have seen how our constable performed CPR on an injured woman in order to save her life. The probe will bring out the facts,” the police officials said.
Hyderabad police commissioner C.V. Anand said that investigations were ongoing and that appropriate action would be taken against those responsible for the stampede, once the probe findings are out.
The HCA chief did not give any account of the tickets being sold, or respond to the allegations on social media of largescale black marketing of tickets. The data presented by Azharuddin appeared wishy-washy, and has been contested by various sources.
Azharuddin did not clarify on how many tickets had been given out as complimentaries. “Lot of complementary tickets are being distributed,” was his only statement on the matter.
Azharuddin said that 11,450 tickets were sold online by Paytm by September 15. The company left 4,000 tickets for corporates, 2,100 were allocated online and 3,000 allocated sales on September 25 at the HCA box office. Another 6,000 complimentary passes were issued, he said at about 4 pm on Friday when ticket sales had been reportedly completed.
That brought the total to 26,550 tickets. The stadium has 38,000 seats. There was no answer regarding the remaining 11,450 seats.
A breakup of the stadium and different categories of tickets is important. The South Pavilion Block of the stadium, the most important, has the players’ gallery and cabins for the BCCI and VVIPs. There are 38 corporate boxes, each seating 20, along with seats at the ground level, first floor and on the terrace. The North Pavilion Block has 20 20-seater corporate boxes, first floor and terrace seats. The West Pavilion and the East Pavilion each have 3,500 seats. Then there are the galleries.
Sources in the HCA revealed that seven corporate boxes in the South Pavilion had been given to the police along with 2,100 complimentary tickets. Other departments connected with the stadium would be getting their share, they said.
Politicians, bureaucrats and GHMC would get their separate share of tickets. Each of the HCA’s 221 clubs would get 15 tickets, totalling 3,315, at the South Pavilion ground floor.
It was clear that the HCA gave out free VIPs passes to the richest and most powerful people, while the average cricket fan, who pays money, was left to nurse injuries. For which, the HCA, according to the HCA, has no responsibility.