‘We love cricket but cannot pay so much to watch’
Sri Lanka Cricket slashed ticket prices for the Asia Cup by up to 95 percent on Sunday after costs were hiked 40-fold and matches were played in near-empty stadiums.
Tickets for one-day internationals in crisis-hit Sri Lanka have generally cost around 250 rupees ($0.78) previously.
That was hiked to 10,000 rupees for the Asia Cup, which is being organised by the Pakistan Cricket Board despite largely taking place in Sri Lanka, and fans in the cricket-mad island country have stayed away in droves.
Barely 7,000 home supporters turned out for Sri Lanka's Super Four clash against Bangladesh on Saturday at the 35,000-capacity R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, leaving the hosts facing the embarrassing sight of ranks of empty seats.
In an attempt to lure them, back Sri Lanka Cricket announced a price cut of up to 95 percent Sunday for all remaining Super Four games, including marquee clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, with tickets now costing as little as 500 rupees.
The stratospheric price hikes had infuriated fans.
Sri Lanka endured months of food, fuel and medicine shortages last year after a foreign exchange crunch, which sparked widespread protests culminating in the ouster of its president.
The 50-over Asia Cup is a precursor to the upcoming ODI World Cup, and most of the matches were moved to Sri Lanka after India refused to tour Pakistan due to political tensions.
"Pakistan have kept the ticket pricing too high and that has kept fans away from the stadiums," a local Sri Lankan official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Ticket costs... are way beyond the reach of a common man," he added.
"This is bizarre. We tried to reason with the PCB but they had their reasons as they have lost out on money, maybe."
The PCB did not immediately respond to requests for comment by AFP.
There were still hardly any spectators Sunday for the India-Pakistan game, for which grandstand tickets were priced at a whopping 64,000 rupees ($200).
And fans were not amused.
"This is not good. We love cricket but cannot pay so much to watch a match," Supun Vijayarathnam, a tea seller outside the Colombo stadium, told AFP.
"I have watched many matches here for just 100 and 200 rupees. But this time I have to watch it on TV and just hear the noise, which of course is less."
Fans travelled from both India and Pakistan for the hotly anticipated clash after their first meeting was washed out in Pallekele.
"We paid 16,000 Sri Lankan rupees for this game. We were there in Kandy as well and had to pay 15,000 there," Arun Kumar Yadav, from the northern Indian city of Lucknow, told AFP.
"The prices are too high from the last time that we came here," added the 35-year-old. "But it's the love of cricket."
A street vendor selling India and Pakistan jerseys and flags said that despite the game being a blockbuster, there were "fewer fans and the buzz is less".