| A policeman arrests a cricket fan in Karachi on Sunday. (AFP)
Karachi, March 7: For young Ahmad Nadeem, buying a ticket for the first one-day international between India and Pakistan is like “seeking charity”.
Nadeem is among the hundreds who had queued up since morning at Karachi National Stadium to buy tickets for the historic match on March 13.
When the only booth at the stadium selling tickets downed its shutters, the crowd turned unruly, prompting police to resort to lathicharge.
Witnesses said the protesters engaged in a pitched battle with the police. Some of them rushed to sections of the stadium where fibre-glass seats had been stacked. “They pulled out dozens of seats and threw them out while some pelted stones at the police and into the stadium building,” Shahid Soomro said.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had designated a firm called Clickinfo to sell tickets, which were to be made available a week before every match.
But “the board officials are playing a trick by delaying sale of tickets”, a firm official said.
“They are doing this to avoid a big crowd on match day and that’s why they (have) printed a limited numbers of tickets,” he added.
“If you do things alone and don’t take others along with you, such problems must come up,” said a former PCB official, referring to the decision of the board’s chairman, Shaharyar Khan, to abolish the city’s cricket associations that used to be active in managing such events.
The board, however, denied responsibility, saying the number of ticket buyers had “unexpectedly” gone out of proportion.
Rameez Raja, the PCB’s executive director, said: “Tickets were available but an undisciplined crowd made it difficult for the officials to continue with the sale of tickets.”
The stadium can seat 30,000 spectators but the PCB has printed only about 20,000 tickets.
Raja said printing of more tickets would have led to mismanagement and overcrowding.
As war raged in the stadium, politicians and government officials made a clarion call for peace.
“Victory and defeat is a secondary matter; what is most important is that cricket makes a contribution to fostering peace and friendship,” information minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said.
“It’s a qualitative series (and) has lots of political implications and repercussions at the highest level of the governments,” said the PCB chairman.
Khan, the manager of the Pakistani team that toured India five years ago, urged fans to match the spirit of the Chennai crowd, which had given the winning Pakistani team a standing ovation in the 1998-1999 series.
“Both teams have world class stars and fans must enjoy top class cricket like the Chennai crowd. I have never seen such a reception by fans of the losing side in my 55 years of association with the game,” said Khan.
Two special trains will carry cricket lovers to Pakistan on March 20 and 23 from Delhi, railway minister Nitish Kumar said today. Earlier, the plan was to run trains only till Attari.