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More police than fans at Test

Travel light and turn up early — that’s the message from securitymen to spectators at Eden Gardens.

Every cricket fan entering Eden on Friday will be frisked and photographed. Once inside, their movements will be monitored by cameras placed at various points of the giant stadium.

A special control room has been set up on the ground floor of the Club House, from where senior security officials will keep an eye on the crowd.

Every vehicle parked near the stadium will be scanned with metal detectors and checked by sniffer dogs.

“This time, since the security concerns are very high, each spectator will have to go through various rounds of checking and this will be timeconsuming. So, we appeal to everyone to arrive early and avoid carrying bags to facilitate smooth entry,” said Vineet Goyel, the deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).

Securitymen at Eden Gardens on Thursday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh

“The gates will open from 7.30am, for the 9am start, to make things easier for us,” he added.

The one thing that can make things easier for the police on Friday is the lukewarm response to the Test from cricket-crazy Calcutta.

The stadium can seat around 88,000 spectators, but less than 2,000 fans turned up for daily tickets on Thursday at the Mohammedan Sporting ground. “Since Sunday, we have sold only 4,000 season tickets (for all five days) and on Thursday we hardly sold 2,000 daily tickets,” said Pradip Das, at the lone ticket outlet in town.

“I can’t recall such low ticket sales for any international match at Eden,” he rued, adding that many of the 42,000 complimentary and membership tickets distributed directly by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) have also not been picked up. “So, large sections of Eden will be empty on the first day of the Test,” he warned.

Mahendra Singh, a Maidan veteran, arrived at the same conclusion based on jhaalmuri sale — or the lack of it. “In 35 years, this is the worst turnout for tickets I have seen. I usually sell muri worth Rs 800-900 on the day before a Test, but today I will barely manage Rs 200,” he grumbled. “Policewaale zyada hain, log kum (There are more policemen than fans).”

As the police carried out yet another security drill on the Maidan, Hinnan Chowdhury, selling patties in a box, complained: “There is no excitement about this Test.”

But Nilanjan Pal, a student from Silchar, wasn’t complaining. “I thought I wouldn’t get a ticket as I could only make it to the Mohammedan grounds today, but I was pleasantly surprised to find just one person ahead of me at the counter,” he smiled.

CAB vice-president Rusi Jeejeebhoy, however, remained hopeful of things picking up over the weekend. “Pakistan is a depleted side and if India starts dominating, then people will naturally be drawn to the ground.” But he admitted that the crowd response would have been different if this was an ODI or a T20 match.

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