Cuttack, Feb. 1: The girls in green and yellow ducked and dived fervently but there was only a smattering of crowd to appreciate their heroics.
The first Group B match of the Women’s Cricket World Cup between Pakistan and Australia at Barabati Stadium here today saw a rather poor turnout, thanks to tight security arrangements.
Though the Odisha Cricket Association (OCA), which is hosting the Group B matches at Cuttack, was expecting more than 10,000 spectators at the stadium for the inaugural game, just about 2,000 turned up.
A large chunk of them, who had queued up outside the stadium, turned their backs on the match, as they were upset with the security checks at three different levels.
While some of them got annoyed on being frisked, others fumed at the ban on carrying cell phones into the stadium. There was yet another disgruntled group of cricket fans that was not allowed inside by the security personnel because they were carrying coins and handkerchiefs.
“We came to the stadium right after our classes to support the Pakistan team. But we were not allowed in because we were carrying bags and books,” said Subhashree Panda, a student of Ravenshaw University here.
Seikh Wasi, 28, who works for a private company here, said he was not expecting such an “intense security bandobast”. “I can understand the problem with carrying cell phones inside but why not allow a handkerchief? I went home to keep both the things and return for the match. The OCA should have put up a big instruction board outside the venue about the dos and don’ts,” he said.
Another cricket buff Sanjay Sarkar said he was looking forward to catching live action at the stadium also returned disappointed. “They have tightened security and imposed restrictions to the point of nausea. There was no facility where we could keep our wallets or mobile phones and watch the game in peace,” he said.
However, OCA officials said the match, despite being a low scoring game, generated good response. Australia thrashed Pakistan by 91 runs. “The crowd turnout was certainly good and because of restrictions, many people could not make into the stadium. But we cannot compromise with the security of players. So, such restrictions will continue for the rest of the tournament,” said OCA secretary Ashirbad Behera.
He hoped that the second match at Barabati between Pakistan and New Zealand on Sunday would attract more people.
The turnout at the other venue, Driems ground at Tangi, where New Zealand defeated South Africa by 150 runs, was better than anticipated. Around 800 to 1,000 spectators, including a large number of students of Driems institute and people from nearby villages, had gathered at this venue.
Security has been beefed up keeping in view the threats from various outfits including Bajrang Dal, who are protesting against the Pakistan team playing at Cuttack in the wake of recent tension at the line of control. Today, over 60 activists of Utkal Bharat were taken into preventive custody while staging a demonstration in front of the stadium.
Yesterday evening, Bhubaneswar police shifted the South Africa, New Zealand and Australia squads from a Saheed Nagar hotel to another hotel in Jayadev Vihar because of problems in availability and of rooms and also for better security management. Over 47 platoons of police have been deployed for the security of the players and support staff of the four teams.