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Great concern this summer attended the arrival of the Barmy Army, whose songs, chants and general bonhomie, it was feared, would drown out Australian fans, and render Tests inhospitable – or, at least, interfere with time-honoured parochialism and partisanship which Aussies regard as the natural state of things.
In fact, both the Army and their antipodean rivals have here been kept well and truly under a pretty coarse thumb by the police, administering the Killjoy Act with the help of CCTV. Only Pat Buchanan is more hostile to the Mexican wave than the potentates of the Gabba. Yet Cricket Australia is poorly placed to be pointing the finger at anyone – it is looming as a far more exasperating noise polluter than any group of fans.
Those at home moaning about the ad breaks and Greig-o-grams on Channel Nine are actually getting off lightly; I have hardly known a noisier Test match. Even the first morning, when one might have expected a breathless hush in the close, was punctuated by deafening advertisements and pointless announcements on the public address system. No cricketer on the field has been celebrated so lustily as ‘the lovely Sheree and her team from 3’, the corporate nymphs and dryads distributing the main sponsor's bounty, while the loudest voices have been of Talking Boony, Talking Beefy and Talking Bollocks – the bonehead at the microphone who lets us in to such milestones as Ricky Ponting’s 9000th Test run, of which he informed the fact-starved masses in the middle of an over on the third afternoon.
Pop songs begin playing at 8am every day – or to be precise, they’ve been playing when I’ve arrived at that time, and they may well be on an endless 24-hour loop, deafening the cleaners as well. At various intervals, the crowd has also been serenaded by the troubadour Greg Champion. His rendition of a puerile anti-Pom jingle to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight – ‘They whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away, they whinge away (repeat * 445) – at least drew an apology from Queensland Cricket’s CEO Graham Dixon. The rest of it has been beyond sorry, and into the realm of unforgivable.
How badly does Australia cricket need the cash, that they should be have surrendered their temple to the money-lenders? Before the Test, patrons were invited to report to the authorities anyone noisy and uncouth enough to interfere with the enjoyment of others. The trouble is that, at the Gabba, the authorities have been noisiest and uncouth of all. Is it too late for me to dob in Cricket Australia?
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Born in London of a Yorkshire father, raised in Australia by a Tasmanian mother, Gideon Haigh lives in Melbourne with a cat, Trumper. He has written 19 books and edited a further seven. He is also a life member and perennial vice-president of the South Yarra CC.