The large number of crowd of cricket fans enjoying the India Vs Pakistan cricket match at Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: ABDUL RAHMAN Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi: “If you don’t have tickets, then please don’t bother to be at the Indian Premier League venues, which will create chaos.”

That’s the message from David East, CEO of the Emirates Cricket Board and Abu Dhabi Cricket Club (ADCC), for cricket lovers in UAE.

East is certain that all the tickets for the Indian Premier League matches will be sold out before the first match gets under way at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders on April 16.

“Tickets for the first two matches at Abu Dhabi are sold out. The demand for match tickets at the other two venues – Dubai and Sharjah – are also very high. There is no question that they will sell out soon.

“Those who have missed out on getting the tickets for the key matches should hurry up and buy the tickets for the remaining matches and try not to miss out on the sporting spectacle,” said East, adding: “All the tickets are barcoded and, if they are copied, then they won’t work and won’t be permitted into the stadium. Also, there will be a security cordon around the ground to prevent people without tickets from coming in anywhere close to the stadium.”

When asked if they missed out on an opportunity of making huge profits by keeping the ticket rates as low as Dh20, East said: “That was never the intention; the intention was to provide an opportunity for the UAE people to watch cricket and it wasn’t about profiting. I think this event is going to be a watershed moment, really. We have hosted so many international matches in the last 10-12 years, but this is a biggest thing to have happened in terms of a single event.”

The Indian Premier League will certainly be giving all the UAE stadia a facelift. With a week to go for the opening match, work is going on in full swing all around the Shaikh Zayed Stadium. A hospitality enclosure with a capacity of around 450 people has already been erected and several merchandise outlets will be built soon. The ADCC also has used this opportunity to tidy up some of the ground areas. There are some enhancements into the mounds and additional catering areas for the spectators. In all the stands, there will be fan areas and the spectators will be given hats, flags, T-shirts and other accessories.

“There will be plenty of entertainment for the fans and there will be a festival atmosphere, but the fans have to understand that this will be different level of cricket. They will have to be patient when they come to the venue. We are upgrading our facilities to meet all the fans’ demand,” said Fahad Akhlaq, Project Manager at Abu Dhabi Cricket Club.

“There will be queues, although not long ones. Security and ticket checks will also be done. So before you arrive at the venue, make up your mind that you are going to go through all that. It will make things easier for us and we will be able to cater them better. The gates open at 4.30pm: Be here early, enjoy the pre-match activities, watch team practice and enjoy the music,” added Akhlaq.

Player security has been beefed up by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), but the venues have very little role to play in that, revealed East. “Players’ details and security are the responsibility of the BCCI. Obviously, we have been liaising very closely with security services here in the UAE, in terms of ensuring the tournament is played successfully and safely,” said East, who was also of the view that IPL might open the doors to renewing cricketing ties between India and Pakistan.

“Yes, an India-Pakistan tournament could happen. What this IPL will demonstrate to the BCCI is that we are fit and ready to be able to stage these matches and this is a good place to come. I would very much like to think this will pave way for further Indian involvement in UAE cricket,” said East.

There has been very little time to work on the wickets at all the three venues after a long season, but East was happy with the progress made by the pitch curators ahead of the tournament.

“Given the time we had to put things together, our groundsmen and support staff have done a brilliant job. We should be able to give sporting wickets and get everything finished as per the guidelines of IPL and the event management company IMG.”