Small hotels score big as pitch fever soars in capital

It is sixer season for budget hospitality business in Ranchi.

The state government's wicket may have fallen, but outstation cricket-crazy fans are thronging the capital for its brand-new ODI innings ' the maiden India-England ODI on January 19 ' for which tickets will be up for grabs for four days starting Thursday.

Wednesday morning saw a huge surge of people, mostly from Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh, Calcutta and Cuttack, reaching Ranchi in the hope of buying the coveted tickets for the match and putting themselves up in budget hotels.

Of the 35,000 seats at International Cricket Stadium, Dhurwa, Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) is selling tickets for 19,000 ' the rest will be reserved ' which explains the mad scramble.

Tickets, priced at Rs 1,200, Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000, will be sold between 9am and 2pm from January 10 to 13 from 10 counters at the stadium complex in Dhurwa, 12km from the city.

This has heralded a festivity unlike any other witnessed by the capital so far. Call it the treasure hunt for the ODI ticket.

This has several steps, as groups of eager-beaver students, small-time businessmen and executives who have arrived in Ranchi on Monday morning, small overnight bags in tow, know well. One, catching the train, bus or own vehicle to the capital. Two, putting up in a budget hotel. Three, being the early bird in reaching Dhurwa stadium on Thursday and hoping to get the precious ticket within budget ' a student for instance who has saved up Rs 1,200 may find it difficult to get Rs 800 extra if the cheaper option runs out.

Step two spells a windfall for budget hotels ' around a dozen each near Ranchi station and Kanta Toli bus stand ' all chock-a-block with guests. Prominent ones such as Hotel Rajdhani, Maa Shree, Beena Inn, Swastik, Raj Palace, Ranchi Inn, Hotel Satkar and Bhagwati Lodge, with single and double rooms, AC and non-AC, can put up 30-35 guests. Price ranges between Rs 200 and 500-plus.

From the normal 50 per cent occupancy, the hotels are now bursting at their seams.

"We are full. In some rooms, we even agreed to squeeze in extra beds. But now, we have exhausted that option too," said an executive at Raj Palace Hotel.

"From the business point of view, this is the best time for us," said Rakesh Singh, an executive at Mata Shree Hotel. "We gave room bookings on first-come, first-serve basis. We don't know if rooms will be booked for a day, as people who don't get tickets on the first day will extend their stay," he pointed out.

"We have been turned away by three hotels near the station as none has a single room. We are students and can't afford posh hotels," rued Jamshedpur undergraduate Sushil Sharma, with five friends at Ranchi station around 11am.

Before reaching Ranchi, their plan of action was getting up at the crack of dawn on Thursday and heading to Dhurwa for tickets. But now, they are not sure whether they will get a hotel bed on Wednesday night.