Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

India v Pakistan: Did Ranveer Singh have too much access at the Cricket World Cup?

The access the Bollywood star was given during the match has people questioning whether security protocol was overlooked

When two of the worldโ€™s most populous countries - India and Pakistan - duel it out at a one-day international match at the Cricket World Cup, that's a hot ticket.

The match on Sunday evening at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, reportedly had more than 1.5 billion viewers. According to Manchester Evening News, tickets sold at the astronomical rate of £2,500 (Dh11,500) each with more than a million applications for a seat at the 25,000-capacity stadium.

A few Bollywood celebrities, though, managed to get the much sought-after ticket, and the most controversial appearance came from Gully Boy's Ranveer Singh.

Wearing a brown overcoat and chequered bell-bottom trousers, Singh not only made it onto the VIP stands, but also managed to step onto the playing field and take photos with cricketers such as Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag.

Singh then appeared to break the rules and protocol set by the world body International Cricket Council by coming in close contact with the Indian dressing room. He was allowed to chat with Mohammed Shami, the fast bowler who was not in playing XI, but part of the squad.

Following the growing menace of match-fixing in the early 2000s, the ICC has set up strict standard procedures in stadiums, where players and match officials are under tight wraps, and even mobile phones are not allowed.

Singh was representing official broadcaster Star Sports India. Some fans on Twitter saw no wrong because Singh appeared on TV as a commentator, and many presumed he would then have the proper access.

Even the Indian cricket board, the BCCI, posted a video of Singh announcing the start of the match, which India eventually won by 89 runs, as expert commentators would.

But not all commentators get access to all areas: for instance, only one or two commentators are pre-decided by the broadcasters and the organisers to be allowed to step onto the ground for pitch reports. Clearly, Singh was one such person given access, and some viewers did not take kindly to the dumbing down of the importance of the sporting event.

Match-fixing and protocol aside, many also wondered about the choice of Singh as the amateur commentator more generally.

But it may be because his next film is 83, a biopic of India captain and all-rounder Kapil Dev. It is currently under production and the film crew is in England shooting for scenes depicting the 1983 World Cup, which India won as underdogs. They were named Kapilโ€™s Devils.

While Dev himself was absent from the jamboree in Manchester, Singh did have company from Bollywood.

In attendance was veteran actor Saif Ali Khan, son of former India captain MK Pataudi, actress Rakul Preet Singh, whose May release De De Pyaar De did well, Pakistani heartthrob Ali Zafar, Indian singer Guru Randhawa and model-TV host Shibani Dandekar. Actress Anushka Sharma, who is the wife of Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, was also at the match.

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India v Pakistan: 19 of the best fan pictures from Manchester and around the world

Updated: June 18, 2019 09:07 AM

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