November 26, 2006

First Test, Brisbane

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Gideon Haigh
Police remove an inflatable doll from the crowd, Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, November 25, 2006
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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?

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

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Posted by Paul_Bris on (November 28, 2006, 4:06 GMT)

Agree wholeheartedly. Went to the Gabba to day 3 and 4 for the first time in over 10 years. Won't be going again. Went with some English friends and while they were embarassed by the score, I was embarassed by 'our' authorities behaviour. They (Cric AUS, QLD and the local media) were taking the p*ss out of the Barmy Army because they were still supporting the losing team even when all hope was lost. Of course not until after they had invited them in the first place and then taken the money off them. I know who the real losers are and my family won't go again.

Posted by Venu on (November 27, 2006, 10:34 GMT)

I agree, great insights - have read quite a bit of your articles over the past year. The problem with the system we live in (i.e Capitalism) is that those who want to excel in it,out of necessity, have to be greedy. Therefore, it is not how badly does Cricket Australia need money, but as long as they can make more money they will do it. The fact that the announcements have been getting louder every year only shows that they try to keep pushing it until people start complaining. The problem with complaining is that they are seldom heard and when they are, it is by someone who can hardly act upon it. My suggestion to everyone who wants to enjoy a good game of cricket - get yourself an expensive set of noise cancellation head phones and listen to transistor radio. Return to the old days.

Posted by Fraggle on (November 27, 2006, 10:13 GMT)

Paddy I appreciate your comments about Old Trafford, I had to endure similar behaviour at Headingley this summer. Surely though common sense has to prevail - it seems CA have gone in with a zero tolerance policy for this Test, let's hope it won't apply to the whole series.

Posted by Paddy on (November 27, 2006, 7:33 GMT)

Having attended 2 days of the Brisbane test as an England fan, I've one observation to make about the security arrangements. Sure, it kept the chanting down, and I can see why people got upset by this, but it also avoided the sort of spectacle I had to put up with at Old Trafford on the 1st day of this year's Pakistan test, where after midday 90% of the blind drunk crowd made no attempt to watch the cricket and spent their time throwing cardboard beer holders, mooning, swearing at each other and trying to start Mexican waves,whilst security did nothing. Frankly, I'd prefer heavy handedness to being subjected to a day like that again.

And one final observation in response to the complaints about being "fleeced". I paid the equivalent of 10 quid for my ticket on one day, and 16 quid for the other. Cost this summer for the cheapest seats at Old Trafford and Trent Bridge? 40 and 50 quid respectively. Cricket Australia may be killjoys, but they certainly aren't ripping anyone off.

Posted by Philip on (November 27, 2006, 4:39 GMT)

I've attended every Boxing Day test at Melbourne now for the last seven or eight years bar one or two (being interstate) - and by that I mean have attended every day of the test, not just the first day. Every year the announcements and advertisements have been amplified louder and louder, to the point that it is actually painful to sit in certain parts of the Great Southern Grandstand (close to bay 1) where the loudspeakers are without wearing earplugs. By the third day of last year's test it was possible to sit as far away as possible in the Northern Stand, but on Boxing Day itself the amplifiers were turned up to such a level that every time the voice of the announcer boomed out everyone within four or so bays of the main speakers would just about jump out of their seats.

This year Cricket Australia made it virtually impossible to buy a general admission ticket for the entire test match, so at least this year my hearing won't be impaired on account of the idiots in charge of the ground announcements, nor for that matter will I be fleeced every time I want something to eat or drink from the exorbitant catering to a captive market. (Frankly, I'm disgusted.)

Posted by The Big Ship on (November 26, 2006, 22:52 GMT)

Spot on Gideon. I blame the Fanatics. We should have locked them in Rod Laver arena after the conclusion of the Australian Open. I recommend an IQ test of sorts prior to being admitted entry to any of our wonderful cricket arenas. Automatic fail if you are a. wearing facepaint and over 9, b. participate in an Oi, Oi Oi chorus or c. consider Lleyton and Bec the First Family of Australian sport.

Posted by Tony on (November 26, 2006, 20:41 GMT)

Absolutely correct! From the constant advertising to the ridiculous contrived songs of Greg Champion Cricket Australia as usual things the cricket watching public are fools. I've watched cricket in India, West Indies and England and my home test, the Gabba has turned into a joke. Give me Chennai any day, alcohol banned, 40 degrees, Buckingham Canal...but the crowd!!!

Posted by Srivaths on (November 26, 2006, 20:29 GMT)

Does Gideon's sparkling writing have to be enveloped by the dullest of gray backgrounds and advertisements for "Monty Panesar's agent"?

Posted by David on (November 26, 2006, 20:10 GMT)

I am so bloody angry. I had the misfortune to be really treasuring my tickets to day 3, but the PA assault was so puerile, the commercialism so rampant and the security presence so threatening, that I gave up just after tea- along with more than half of the crowd I may add. At one stage a gentleman two rows back from me got a bit enthusiastic and dared to stand on his chair and shout a few words of encouragement. Not only was he wrestled down, handcuffed and carried from the ground, but for the rest of the session my area was hemmed in by no fewer the 16 (Sixteen!!!) police glaring suspiciously at anyone who dared to look sideways. "Australian Cricket Family?" Bollocks- I took my family home.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gideon Haigh
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.

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