Kerala Sports Minister defends self against criticism over poor turnout for Ind-SL ODI

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 16 (PTI) In the wake of widespread criticism against Kerala Sports Minister V Abdurahiman over the poor turnout for the recent India-Sri Lanka ODI, he defended himself on Monday citing a slew of reasons, including the low ranking of the opposing cricket team, for the stadium being half empty.
     The India-Sri Lanka cricket match on Sunday was played in a half-empty stadium here for which the Congress and the BJP have blamed the Kerala Sports Minister's recent controversial comment on the ticket rates, while the ruling CPI(M) contended that he did not say anything wrong.
     Abdurahiman said his comment regarding the ticket prices was misinterpreted and circulated by the media and some political opponents probably with an aim to "whitewash" the real culprits and blame the government for the lack of spectators.
     The minister, in a long Facebook post, said that when his response was sought by the media regarding the high ticket rates, he had said that the Kerala Cricket Association probably did not want the poor to be able to watch the game.
     However, it was misinterpreted as the minister saying that starving people should not watch the game and was widely circulated, he claimed.
     Amid criticism from various quarters that ticket rates for the ODI were exorbitant, Abdurahiman had sparked off a major controversy by saying, "What is the need for reducing the tax? The demand is that the country is witnessing the phenomenon of price rise so that the tax should be reduced. Those who are starving need not go to watch the match."
     Abdurahiman said that the media was more interested in giving publicity to those blaming him for the drop in ticket sales and was not interested in the arguments by him and the government in favour of reducing the ticket prices.
     The minister said that besides the high ticket rates another reason for the poor turnout was that Sri Lanka was a weak opponent, which was ranked eighth in the ICC rankings, and its players were also not well known.
     Sri Lanka's performance in the match also indicated the quality of the team and since it was a weak opponent, the crowd was less, he claimed.
     The other reasons he gave were -- the lack of interest in the third match as India had already won the series, the hot weather, the incompetence of the organisers and ODIs do not attract crowds like the T20.
     Regarding the ticket pricing issue, the minister said that in other states, where cricket matches were held in big metros, the lowest fare was in the range of Rs 650 to Rs 850.
     On the other hand, the KCA, without taking that into account, fixed high ticket prices for the match, he said.
     He also said that ticket prices are fixed by the respective state cricket associations and the government was only responsible for providing the facilities and systems required by the organisers.
     The minister said that the cricket association alleged that the high entertainment tax was the reason for the ticket prices going up, but the same was incorrect.
     According to the law, 24 to 50 per cent entertainment tax should be paid to the corporation for matches held at the stadium in Kariavattom here, but this time it was reduced to 12 per cent, he said.
     This was done to reduce ticket prices so that everyone gets an opportunity to watch the match, the minister said.
     Abdurahiman said making allegations only against him and ignoring all the other reasons indicates that something is amiss.
     Following the poor turnout for the match, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Sunday had said: "People not turning up was a loss. It was not a loss for the Minister. He got some headlines. It was a loss to cricket and to those who love the sport."
     Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan, too, laid the blame at the Minister's doorstep by saying that Abdurahiman ought not to have questioned the self-esteem of Malayalis with his remark.
     BJP state president K Surendran had also criticised the minister by saying that his statement was an "insult" to sports lovers.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)