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Questions have been asked over the scheduling of the ICC Cricket World Cup after the tournament opener was welcomed by thousands of empty seats.
For the first time since the 1996 World Cup, the host nation did not participate in the first match of the tournament, as England and New Zealand faced off in Ahmedabad.
The match lacked the buzz of a World Cup opener, with thousands of seats inside the 132,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium vacant as England came out to bat.
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It prompted former England captain Michael Atherton to pose a question while on commentary.
“Do you not think it’s sensible the hosts should start?” Atherton asked co-commentator and Indian great Ravi Shastri.
“Because you’re guaranteed a full house and an immediate lift for the tournament.”
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“Absolutely, especially on a ground like this,” Shastri replied.
“I understand you want one of the finalists to play or the former champion to play, but at all costs (you should) have a home team play.
“If this was India-England, you’re guaranteed a full house (or) at least 70-80,000 people, even on a working day.
“It just kicks off the tournament, gives it a buzz, there’s a build-up.”
Shastri and Atherton weren’t the only ones to notice the empty stands either, with fans on social media critical of the match being played in Ahmedabad as opposed to a smaller stadium elsewhere in the country.
After being sent in to bat, England finished its 50 overs on 9-282 with Joe Root (77 off 86) and skipper Jos Butler (43 off 42) leading the way.
Matt Henry (3-48 off 10 overs) and Mitchell Santner (2-37 off 10 overs) were the pick of New Zealand’s bowlers.
India, the sole host nation of this year’s World Cup, will not be in action until the tournament is three days on when it hosts Australia on Sunday night.