By Ross Stapleton

On the eve of the first ODI between Australia and the Rest
of the World XI, the ICC suggested that it was happy
with pre-sales to that point of around 12,000 and was still confident of a
decent crowd walk-up on the day.

Yet at the start of play there were probably less than 5000
in the 50,000 capacity stadium and while the official attendance was
given as 18,435, the vast expanse of empty seats suggested a crowd that
looked closer to 15,000.

The ICC corporate line early in the week also suggested that
it would regard an aggregate gate of 70,000 – 80,000 over the three game series
as meeting its box office expectations. Yet I am sure if you had asked the ICC just a
few weeks ago how many tickets
it expected to sell in Melbourne, an average crowd of something approaching
just 50% stadium capacity would have sounded markedly conservative in a town
that loves its cricket and can ordinarily be expected to turn out in big
numbers.

The ICC steadfastly refuses to accept its ticket pricing
(starting with adult general admission $46 and children $23) is to blame, but
if after the final two matches, the aggregate isn’t more than
80,000, then pricing will become an issue to be looked at.

At this point the ICC has indicated the Sydney Test
sales are well up to expectations with the possibility of some days being sold
out. How the final two ODI games now
play out after the embarrassing flop of the World XI in the first, might yet
determine whether the Sydney Test will help make up for any Melbourne box
office disappointment.

While the live gate is small beer compared to the concept
itself working as a legitimate major
cricket tournament on the field, both considerations will have the ICC
breaking out the worry beads today and praying for an Australian loss to ensure
Sunday offers a meaningful one-day decider, and hopefully a bumper crowd to
make Wednesday’s flop a distant memory.

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Peter Fray
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