Tendulkar practises at the Wankhede on Tuesday. PTI
Police have asked the Cricket Association of Bengal to restrict entry into the Eden Gardens to see Sachin Tendulkar in the nets, fearing a spectator surge if the gates are thrown open.
Unlike the usual pre-match practice sessions that attract a handful of budding cricketers and some diehard fans, Tendulkar knocking a few in the nets before his last Test appearance at Eden would be more than just a sideshow.
Sources said the police feared a security problem if a sea of spectators entered the stadium even before the master walked out to the middle for his 199th — and penultimate — Test.
“There is a possibility that he will start practising two days ahead of the match. We have asked the CAB to restrict entry of outsiders during nets. There are times when the CAB allows people inside the stadium when the players are practising. We have asked them not to allow anyone this time,” a senior police officer said.
The CAB has agreed to abide by the advisory. The two tiers of the B.C. Roy Club House that are generally open during nets will be strictly guarded in the run-up to the Test, the sources said.
A senior official of the association claimed that entry into the two galleries without an accreditation card or a pass had always been banned. But as any Eden regular would testify, fans turning up to watch the top players practise seldom have had to return without a glimpse of their idols.
They might be disappointed this time. The CAB has decided to allow “only people with accreditation cards to enter the clubhouse galleries during practice”. Vendors with passes will be barred. Even journalists, especially photographers, might not be allowed into the clubhouse arena, which is just above the players’ dressing rooms. They are likely to be moved to the adjacent Block B.
Apart from restricted entry during practice, the police have advised the Eden authorities to ensure that the turnstiles don’t allow multiple use of a single ticket. “Given the paucity of tickets, both the CAB and the police fear that many fans might try to sneak into the venue,” an official said.
Of the 67,000-odd seats at Eden, barely 5,000 are for sale. These tickets are being sold online from midnight on Tuesday on www.ticketgenie.in.
Turnstiles are expected to solve the problem of used tickets being smuggled out of the stadium to bring in more people. “Even if someone manages to smuggle out a used ticket, it cannot be used to re-enter the venue, just as you can’t use a token twice at a Metro rail station,” a CAB official said.
What the police are worried about is the possibility of illegal entry when the turnstiles are unlocked for quick dispersal of crowds during lunch breaks.
“We will stamp each ticket being taken out of the venue to ensure that people cannot re-enter illegally when the turnstiles are not functioning. If someone fails to show a ticket that doesn’t bear a stamp, he or she will not be allowed to re-enter,” said a senior police officer in charge of the security arrangements.
The last time there was so much interest in a Test match at Eden was in 1999, when a star-studded Pakistan team had toured the country after a gap of 10 years.
That very Test saw the infamous run-out controversy featuring Tendulkar and Shoaib Akhtar, forcing the police to empty out the stands on the last day.