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The 'impossible' task of buying tickets for the 2023 cricket World Cup

Fans complain about the sheer trauma they experienced while trying to book tickets for the showpiece event. Apart from having to wait in an online queue for hours, they allege tickets were 'sold out' even before the sale went live

Published: Sep 7, 2023 09:54:19 AM IST
Updated: Sep 7, 2023 10:12:05 AM IST

The 'impossible' task of buying tickets for the 2023 cricket World Cup(File photo) A view of the crowd during the 2011 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka played at the Wankhede Stadium on April 2, 2011 in Mumbai, India. Image: Graham Crouch/Getty Images

Dharmik Sankhavara, a diehard cricket fan from Ahmedabad, and his six friends sat in a room with their laptops and phones on August 29. Tickets for the keenly awaited India-Pakistan match in the 2023 World Cup were scheduled to go on sale at 6 pm. They knew it won’t be an easy task, but they were prepared in the hope that luck would favour them. They had a strong internet connection, around 11 devices and most importantly, they had logged in well in advance. 

“We had logged in 20 minutes before time, and as soon as the tickets were made available, the BookMyShow site went unresponsive for a few seconds,” rues Dharmik. “I still got to the landing page because I think I was among the first few people to log in. I was redirected to the seat selection page… after a couple of minutes of waiting time, I quickly chose my seats and went to the payment page, but suddenly I was thrown back to the waiting page.”   

Dharmik and his friends were then given a long waiting time—one hour for some, four for a few and even longer for the others. However, that didn’t bother them. They waited patiently, hoping to buy at least one ticket each.   

“I cleared the waiting time and was redirected to the seat selection tab again, where only four seats were available for open stands. All of us tried to book at least one of those four seats, but no one got through. We did this trial-and-error thing for a long time and then, suddenly, the ‘sold out’ pop-up appeared,” says Sankhavara, a banker by profession.  

His friends and he were heartbroken. A 50-over World Cup—held once in four years—is bound to create a ticket frenzy in a country like India where cricket is a religion.  

The fans initially waited for the World Cup schedule, which was eventually announced on July 27, just over two months prior to the event. Usually, a World Cup schedule comes out at least a year earlier, so that all stakeholders, including fans, have enough time to make their travel and accommodation arrangements. The headache only increased after the schedule was announced. A few security alerts were raised regarding the dates and ultimately, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced a revised schedule on August 9 with eight alterations.  

The fans were already upset since the revised dates meant a change in the India-Pakistan game—from October 15 to October 14. Many had booked flights and hotels in advance, and the date change added to their woes.  

Listen: The World Cup ticket chaos

On August 23, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced BookMyShow, an online ticketing service for cinemas, theatre and sport, as the ticketing partner for the World Cup. Tickets were rolled out in two phases: Pre-sale for Mastercard holders and general sale for others.  

A large number of fans alleged that tickets were ‘sold out’ even before the sale went live. “The sale time was 6 pm and I had logged in way before that. At 5.59 pm, BookMyShow showed the India versus South Africa game ‘sold out’… I was shocked. Later, when I clicked on ‘book now’ for the India versus Australia and India versus Pakistan matches, I was able to view and select the seats. However, after I selected the seats, it started showing an error… ‘something went wrong’, and then it said you have reached the maximum limit even when I hadn't booked a single ticket,” says Piyush Nathani, a Bengaluru-based cricket fan. “This went on for 15 to 20 minutes… even after endless refreshes and trying every possible way. And then to my surprise, I saw that I was pushed back in the queue and the waiting time was over five hours. I experienced multiple payment failures as well.”  

The 'impossible' task of buying tickets for the 2023 cricket World CupA large number of fans alleged that tickets were ‘sold out’ even before the sale went live. Image: Shutterstock

Ticket-booking problems aren’t restricted to just India’s matches. People claim they aren’t able to book tickets for other matches as well. Usually, for matches that don’t involve India, the demand is relatively low.  

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Devansh Agarwal, a fan from Kolkata, tried buying tickets for the non-India matches at Eden Gardens. He describes his ordeal as a nightmare and says he was unable to book a single ticket. “I had logged in on my laptop as well as mobile with different accounts. On the laptop, the page showed 'tickets are sold out' and redirected me to the home page after some time. Clicking ‘book again’ would add me to the queue with a five-hour wait time. My turn came after two hours though. Out of tickets on sale for 10 to 12 stands for the public, it showed available for only three stands. However, clicking on any of those stands resulted in a ‘error’ message from BookMyShow and it redirected me to the home page,” adds Agarwal, a sports management student.  

“This faux 'selection' of stands was allowed for five minutes… and when that access was denied, I was redirected to a seven-hour queue. After an hour, BookMyShow officially declared that the matches were sold out and closed the booking flow. I have little hope of getting tickets. I wasn't able to get tickets for the England versus Pakistan match at Eden Gardens during the general sale. I can only imagine the dark pools in place for an India match,” he laments.

Forbes India spoke with at least half a dozen other fans who shared similar experiences while buying tickets for the showpiece event. Numerous fans expressed their frustration and disappointment on social media.  

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Former India cricketer Venkatesh Prasad also took to X [formerly Twitter], urging the BCCI to streamline the ticketing system. “I urge the @BCCI to have more transparency in the World Cup ticketing system and not take fans for granted. Definitely in a stadium like Ahmedabad, for an #IndvsPak clash, more than the sold 8,500 tickets need to be available when the capacity is 1 lakh,” he wrote. “Likewise for all other matches, a larger chunk needs to be for the fans.  

It will be more fulfilling if the diehard fan is kept happy and not deprived of this opportunity instead of reserving a large chunk for corporates and members.”   

BookMyShow on September 1 issued an official statement, accepting that fans haven’t had an “easy time” to book tickets on the platform.

"The love for cricket in our country has always been unparalleled and it has been no different these past few days as several million fans logged onto BookMyShow, all at once, to get their hands on limited tickets for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023. We understand that not all fans had an easy time, experiencing queues and eventually heartbreak in their attempt to book tickets,” the statement read.

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“In a country like India, which is deeply passionate about cricket, the demand is always massive as scores of fans try to book tickets with queues naturally tending to be long. While it is always a race against time to get access to this cricketing extravaganza, we are striving to be able to give you a fighting chance to get access to the tickets,” it said.  

Forbes India reached out to ICC, BookMyShow and BCCI for their comments. While BookMyShow and BCCI didn’t respond, Mary Godbeer, senior manager, ICC media & communications, says, “Ticketing is a host right, so I would suggest reaching out to the BCCI and BookMyShow for your query.”

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