Hockey maybe India's national sport and Jharkhand's pride, but it perhaps remains the second game of choice among sports buffs.
Unlike the overwhelming response to the upcoming India-England ODI, sale of tickets for the Hockey India League (HIL) in Ranchi began on a lazy note on Tuesday.
When the counters at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Morabadi opened at 10am, things looked bright with a young crowd of 200 in queue. But, the morning didn't show the day. Counters were kept waiting till late in the afternoon, when a bunch of hockey enthusiasts came to purchase their tickets.
"I want to see some quality game. This is a rare occasion, when the best names in hockey from across the globe will come to the capital to play. I could not let go of this opportunity," said Md Javed from Hindpiri. He and his friends bought tickets for the January 18 match that will be played at the Morabadi stadium between Ranchi Rhinos and Mumbai Magicians.
Incidentally, the Rhinos will be playing their first HIL match against Jaypee Punjab Warriors on Tuesday evening in Jalandhar.
Kuldeep Kumar, a youth from Harmu who was in the queue, said he wanted to watch cricket and hockey. "Both games are equally exciting. The first HIL match will be held a day before the ODI. So, I want to watch hockey live and then cricket on television," he said.
Organisers said tickets for the HIL matches in Ranchi had not arrived from Delhi yet. So, vouchers were issued on Tuesday, which could be exchanged for tickets before entry on the day of the match. Around 600 vouchers were sold by evening, though each match has 4,900 tickets.
The lukewarm response on the first day of ticket sale is, however, not worrying organisers.
"There are three more days to go for the first HIL match at the astroturf stadium. Sale of tickets will gain momentum on the last two days. We are certain that all tickets will be sold. In fact, many will come looking for tickets even after they are sold out," said Sunil Goenka, media co-ordinator of Ranchi Rhinos.
Moscow Olympics (1980) gold medallist Sylvanus Dungdung said the hockey league would spur many young men in the region to play the game in coming years. "The matches are important because they will inspire many budding players."