July 1, 2008

Michael Jeh

Minority rules

Michael Jeh

Samir, with respect to your generous portrait of Australian cricket fans, I beg to differ.

There’s no doubt that Samir’s 'friends' exist in Australia, as is doubtless the case with knowledgeable cricket lovers from Mumbai to Manchester and exotic places in between. What I’m referring to is the loud, obnoxious minority, who by virtue of their sheer ability to make complete idiots of themselves, makes you think that they outnumber the genuine fans that Samir fondly eulogises.

There’s a pretty clear pattern though. In international matches, the behaviour tends to get progressively worse after the first few hours of play. Any early rowdiness, normally restricted to on-field happenings, becomes increasingly less cricket-centric as the day (night) wears on. The poor behaviour reaches a crescendo towards the end of the day before it easing off into a drunken stupor at the close.

This type of parochial Australian fan (who only care about beer, beer and more beer) are a particularly unedifying sight to those who’ve paid good money in the forlorn hope of enjoying good cricket. The mere glimpse of a $2 beach ball is greeted with a louder roar than the most sumptuous cover drive or delicate leg glance. If not for the giant replay screen, they’d miss all the highlights.

Then there’s the ubiquitous Mexican Wave. What more is there to say about something that is about as amusing as toothache? Round and round it goes, a shower of beer and food scraps thrown to the heavens and proud ‘high fives’ from a thousand oafs who would barely know (or care) if The Don himself had been reincarnated. Their interest in the cricket, marginal to begin with, has now clearly been washed away with the last 12 beers in the hot sun.

It is about now when the really clever ones start to come out of the woodwork! You know, the ones whose ancestors thought that “Hadlee’s a wanker” was our own unique contribution to literary genius. Twenty years on and nothing has changed apart from a few other choice insults to any foreign player who has the temerity to actually field the ball or inhale oxygen. Any foul-mouth hooligan who attracts the attention of the police becomes an instant hero, a modern day Ned Kelly or Robin Hood. Poor old Hadlee’s alleged personal preferences are now attributed to the constabulary and “Hurray for the Drunken Idiot” is adopted as the new national anthem.

Speaking of anthems, no one comes close to us for sheer imagination. “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” is right up there with the great poetic works of all time. When matched by the equally brilliant “Enger-land, Enger-land, Enger-land”, one could be forgiven for thinking that Shakespeare was nobbut an illiterate peasant.

To be fair, I haven’t seen enough international cricket in other parts of the world to know if this is a uniquely Australian trait or not. Perhaps a few bloggers might enlighten us with some salutary tales of national embarrassment from their corner of the globe.

One redeeming feature of Australians though is our ability to readily laugh at ourselves when the joke is reversed. At one of the ODI matches in Brisbane, a burly South African man wearing a Springbok rugby shirt was being mercilessly “sledged” by the local crowd. As the fast bowler was steaming in from the Vulture St end, the fans started beating the advertising hoardings in a frenzied call to arms. When the noise died down, our brave African friend stood up and proclaimed in a guttural Afrikaans accent, “don’t worry about the convicts – they’re just calling for their dinner”.

Once the laughter had died down, he was instantly swallowed up by a sea of Aussie supporters. No need to fear for his welfare though - he was last seen weaving unsteadily towards the Aussie National Pub, arm in arm with a dozen of his new best friends, proudly croaking “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie……..”

Meanwhile, those of us who stayed till the end of the game watched South Africa narrowly beat Sri Lanka. Australia play tomorrow!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Stephen on (April 3, 2012, 4:05 GMT)

Eh, I'm biased.Run gluts are one thing, but it's enhtoar thing when Jayasuriya's cutting loose. I loved watching him bat in the 96 World Cup (even remember skipping bits and pieces of the Ind/Pak QF to watch him flay England all over), and since then became a massive fan. This knock was literally a trip back in time to those days when he'd dominate the bowlers with slashes, cuts and some ferocious timing. It's great to see a legend leave a stage, but it's just as enjoyable to see a legend return to his old golden form for a day or so in his old age.[Then again, I'm a cricket tragic, so I really wouldn't have concerned myself with Wimbledon or the World cup either way.]

Posted by Evan on (July 10, 2008, 16:30 GMT)

Its funny how different stadiums have different crowds and atmosphere even though geographically they are close. Families are a big thing about going to the cricket at Centurion with its large grass banks. Kids start their own games behind the banks on the "open" grass and rush back once a wicket falls. Wanderers on the other hand is much more intense with the crowd "closer" to the field and closer together. People at Wanderers tend to chat with each other while at Centurion you remain mostly insulted within your group. Some stands are worse for drunken behaviour as well - the worst is at a 20Twenty game at Wanderers on the open stand (read cheap) - I once made the mistake of trying to sit their but after the third beer down my back we went home instead. Memorial stand on the other hand seems to always be pleasant and nothing is better than a good chat during a rain break.

Posted by stanley on (July 5, 2008, 15:50 GMT)

I was once at an ODI in Goa, India. ODI's in Goa are very rare. So going to an ODI is like going to a picnic! Everybody is excited like hell. Keeping this in mind you have to excuse the behavior of the crowds there. To make matters worse, there was early morning un-seasonal showers and it threatened to wash out the entire match. While the ground staff were trying their best to protect the pitch, the excited crowds had nothing to cheer about. Out walks Ajay Jadeja on the field. Now we have a swear word in Konkani (local Goan Language) which rhymes with Jadeja – the word being chadecha, which means Son of a Bitch!!! The crowd desperately needing some entertainment started chanting CHADECH!! CHADECH!! CHADECHA!! Ajay Jadeja hearing it from a distance obviously must have heard it as JADEJA!! JADEJA!! JADEJA!! . It was great fun to see him waving to who he thought were his adorable fans!!!

Posted by Looch on (July 4, 2008, 7:27 GMT)

Ban alcohol at cricket matches! That will stop the idiots from ruining the cricket for the rest of us!

Posted by Marcus on (July 3, 2008, 14:18 GMT)

David

I agree fully about the amount of music played at these venues. Not only for wickets, but for sixes and even fours- and in England, it seems that they use the same music throughout the innings. "8 Mile" is hard enough to bear listening to once, but repeatedly throughout the innings is just ridiculous! They should just do what they used to- a song of the player's choice to be played when they come to the crease. Haven't any of these organisers heard of "less is more?"

Posted by R. Thirucumaran on (July 3, 2008, 13:13 GMT)

The crowds in Sri Lanka must be the least knowledgeble in the world, because only 2 in 100 people come to watch the cricket. The others come to a match for the following reasons: 1. They'll never be found hanging out with their GF/BF 2. They want to play some Papara songs 3. They want to dance to the Papara songs 4. They want to see a foreigner in person.

Though, I have to mention that none of the crowd here jeers at opposition players, just some friendly banter! :)

Posted by David S on (July 3, 2008, 11:57 GMT)

Well said Michael. Your points have not been made by enough people, often enough. The Mexican wave was entertaining - in Mexico City, circa 1986. The morons should let it rest in history. I went to The Oval last Wednesday, for the penultimate ODI against NZ. Moronity has now spraed to the organisers of international cricket. A wicket cannot fall without some form of music being played to mark it - so loud, you cannot have a discussion with your neighbour.

So,the authorities are now actively encouraging the lunatic fringe - at the expense of the traditional cricket supporter. Longer term, it will be their loss.

Posted by balaji on (July 3, 2008, 8:19 GMT)

Another problem is the families are absent from all cricket matches. it is just not a good place to take your children to - they might learn a few unprintable's in the process. another factor could be that very few people in India actually have the time to go and watch a match in entirety. on my way to work, I see people at traffic lights not wanting to move ahead till they see what has happened to the delivery bowled in the match at the side of the street or the ground nearby. anyone who has a spare few minutes will wait by the fences and peep to see a few deliveries and then move on. in our school, we were not allowed to play cricket, so there was no equipment around. I remember smuggling tennis balls into school and then a group of us breaking wooden benches to be used as bats with the rear bicycle tyre used as stumps in the parking lot. i couldn't agree more with SS - usage of flags needs to be banned at the stadias. Its only a game & a cricket team - not a battalion going off to war

Posted by blake on (July 3, 2008, 4:38 GMT)

I watched Australia play India in a test at Chennai a couple of years ago and had the time of my life. Sure the facilities in the Pepsi Stand were way off the mark but thats part of travel, things are different. I met wonderful, friendly, informed fans of both nations and played many a game of street cricket with locals in alleys we wandered into around the land. There was however a couple of embarrassing fans who thought it was funny to wipe the Indian flag on an inflatable kangaroos bum which caused a ruckus among the crowd. We were mortified and spent half the day apologizing for our countrymen.

Sometimes the witty banter and sledging, if its funny and not abuse adds to the atmosphere, would old Yabba have been vilified as a sledger or as a colourful character who added to a days richness.

I agree with never wanting to set foot at an ODI again though.

Posted by Satnarine Maharaj on (July 2, 2008, 15:12 GMT)

WI cricket fans of the distant past were all about cricket;they knew the game and the players from the various countries.Their numbers were small but they were connosieurs of the game. This profile started changing in the 1980's when it was felt that "we" needed to celebrate our cricket and cricketers - in addition,more people were able to attend the matches.The demographics changed and so did the activities at the ground. From my point of view West Indians have been very welcoming of fellow cricket lovers. There may be occasional dissent when there is "disagreement "with an umpire's decision.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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