The Modi Stadium Metaverse: Half Full Or Just Empty?

By Sharda Ugra

You know the Ahmedabad summer has turned brutal when mirages begin to pop up on city roads. Horizons shimmer seductively, tricking the mind and the eye, sending them stumbling around trying to separate illusion from what is real. Somewhat like what was built around the first day of the India v Australia Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday. It’s not peak summer yet, but the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) and the Star Sports network worked diligently to ensure that a series of mirages danced before our eyes around this Test.

Desi broadcasters normally don’t quite make an elaborate production around Test cricket. But the presence of two Prime Ministers, India’s Narendra Modi and Australia’s Anthony Albanese on day one of the Ahmedabad Test, required nothing less than the creation of a metaverse. One where while tickets for the first day could be locked out, a parallel narrative was made to emerge about how day one would break all Test match attendance records.

When the news about the locked-out tickets first broke, I messaged cricket-pals in Ahmedabad to check if good tickets were really hard to get. It was true, they said, March 9 had been shut out and everyone seemed to know that crowds “30-40k” were going to be bussed in from outside “because a record had to be created.” The record being chased was the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s 2013 Boxing Day Ashes Test audience of 91,112.

So now, having built the world’s biggest cricket stadium, it was all hands on deck to ensure that Modi Stadium, avec Modi himself, could pull in one lakh people. This morning Gujarati daily Divya Bhaskar reported that the Gujarat branch of the BJP and its many factotums had purchased 80,000 tickets for day one. On The Wire, journalist Deepal Trivedie confirmed with four BJP MLA’s – one each from Surat and Saurashtra and two from North Gujarat – that they had been instructed to buy these tickets. One bought 12,000, another 5000. The world’s biggest cricket stadium and the world’s biggest political party etc …