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13 Oct, 2023 12:47

Cricket fans book hospital beds before India-Pakistan match

Accommodation is hard to find as the two neighbors are set to play their first match in India in seven years amid tense bilateral ties
Cricket fans book hospital beds before India-Pakistan match

The first meeting on Indian soil in seven years in cricket between rivals India and Pakistan has led to a rush to book rooms in nearby hospitals due to a shortage of accommodation in the area around Ahmedabad, India, where 130,000 fans are expected for Saturday’s showdown.  

Ahmedabad, the largest city in the western Indian state of Gujarat, is the venue for what is being billed as the biggest game in the 48-day-long tournament. The match will take place at Narendra Modi Stadium, the world’s largest cricket ground.    

The one-day international match, which could last as long as nine hours, is taking on extra significance as it will be the first time in seven years that Pakistan has played in India following years of deteriorating relations between the two cricket-mad countries.  

With accommodation scarce, many cricket-crazy fans went as far as approaching hospitals located nearby for a place to stay overnight.

The match was initially scheduled for October 15, but because the Hindu festival Navratri starts on the same day, the game was moved up by a day to ensure tight security arrangements. The Indian government has beefed up security arrangements for the high-profile match, having deployed around 11,000 personnel for the game.   

According to Indian media reports, hospital authorities have reported an unprecedented uptick in inquiries from cricket fans, many of whom will be Indians coming from out of town and seeking a one- or two-night stay at their facilities. The daily cost of a stay in the private hospitals in the vicinity varies between 3,000 Indian rupees ($36) and 25,000 Indian rupees ($300), inclusive of food and a comprehensive medical examination.    

At a conservative estimate, Ahmedabad has around 5,000 rooms in the five-star category and 3,000 in the three-to-four-star category, besides other options such as AirBnB, and heritage and home stays. However, this is insufficient for the thousands of cricket fans who will be descending on the city over the weekend. Prices of hotel rooms in Ahmedabad for the day of the match have risen more than 20-fold, with costs now exceeding 59,000 Indian rupees ($709).   

Similarly, the prices of domestic air tickets to Ahmedabad have also gone through the roof – by anywhere between 100-400%. 

Meanwhile, in September, resellers were offering tickets for the match for as high as 5.7 million Indian rupees ($69,000).  

The cricket frenzy, which coincides with the Hindu festive season of Diwali, is likely to give a temporary boost to India’s economy as consumers splurge to enjoy their favorite sport. Spending related to the 45-match tournament could add up to 200 billion Indian rupees ($240 million) in the third quarter of this year, which ends December 31, Reuters reported.    

Many Pakistani cricket fans who bought the much in-demand tickets for the grudge tie have yet to get Indian visas but may not be eligible for a refund for their ‘no-show’ on Saturday.  

Meanwhile, the Pakistan cricket team received a rapturous welcome when it landed in India’s Hyderabad on September 28 for the first time in seven years.  

The two countries’ head-to-head cricket series has been on hold since 2013. India’s last tour of Pakistan was for the Asia Cup tournament in 2008.   

India, one of the pre-tournament favorites to lift the cup, has defeated Pakistan in all seven World Cup encounters since the two teams first clashed in Sydney, Australia, in 1992. The host nation has won the trophy twice — the first time in an upset win against the mighty West Indies in 1983 and then in 2011, when the tournament was last played on home soil.   

Pakistan lifted the trophy once in Australia in 1992 under the captaincy of its cricketing hero-turned-embattled politician Imran Khan. The final of the tournament will be played in Ahmedabad on February 19, where many expect a repeat clash between India and Pakistan.