This Sunday, as many as 300 million viewers are likely to be glued to their TV sets to see arch rivals India and Pakistan battle it out in Adelaide, in the most keenly contested match of ICC World Cup 2015.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland says Sunday's tie is expected to be among the most watched matches in cricketing history. STAR India, the official broadcaster of the World Cup, says it expects the match to be the second-most watched cricket match in history, after the finals of the 2011 ICC World Cup, played between India and Sri Lanka in Mumbai, which attracted about 400 million viewers.
Sanjay Gupta, chief operating officer of STAR India, says, "We expect about half the cable and TV households to watch the match."
Tickets for the match, to be held at the recently upgraded Oval (which has a capacity of about 50,000), are available online through particular channels at stiff rates (higher than official rates): Tickets cost up to a staggering Rs 35,000 apiece for box seats, which can be booked only in multiples of 10. The cheapest tickets for the India-Pakistan match at available at about Rs 3,500 each.
In the official sale of tickets, held many months ago, these were sold out in minutes. However tickets for other matches India will play are available with ICC Travels, the hospitality segment of ICC, at A$70-210 (inclusive of city pass and, in some cases, a one-night hotel stay). Tickets for the finals are available for A$250.
Australia has used the opportunity to push tourism from India. The South Australia Tourism Commission expects Adelaide will see about 60,000 tourists, both from other states in that country and abroad, during the World Cup, which would lead to A$31 million of expenditure on tourism.
During his visit to India last month, Australia's trade and investment minister, Andrew Robb, had invited officials of corporate houses to travel to Australia for a mix of business meetings and cricket.
Travel agents say ahead of the India-Pakistan match, travel bookings to Australia have been brisk. "We have contracted 11,000 room nights (the number of rooms booked multiplied by the number of nights) across Australia and New Zealand during the World Cup and have bookings from several corporate groups," said Rakshit Desai, head (India) of Australian travel firm FCM Travel Solutions. Demand for tickets is high, especially for the India-Pakistan and India-South Africa matches in the league stages, and the semi finals and finals.
"We have bookings from a few individuals who are travelling for a month to watch all of India's matches. Packages are available for four-nine days, including tickets for one-two matches, hotel accommodation, and ground transport; these cost Rs 1.25-10 lakh a person," says Mayank Khandwala, founder of Cutting Edge Events, an official travel agent of the World Cup.
For Sunday's match, STAR India has roped in a record 70 brands as partners; the company expects to make about Rs 40 crore from just that match alone. To address a larger viewership, the 2015 World Cup matches will be televised across six STAR channels and in six languages - Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, English and Hindi, a first for sports broadcasting in India.
STAR India is charging a staggering Rs 25 lakh for a 10-second spot during the India-Pakistan match. On an average, a 10-second slot during the World Cup is worth Rs 5 lakh.
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has been roped in as a commentator for the India-Pakistan match.
The STAR network will provide viewers a chance to watch the matches in high-definition (HD), with Hindi commentary, another first. STAR India has launched two new HD channels in its sports bouquet - STAR Sports HD 3and STAR Sports HD 4.