March 2, 2011

An outbreak of bad PR

In which the ICC are wise before the event

Saturday, 26th February Today the ICC’s Director of Understatement, Mr Lorgat, described what happened in Bangalore as “unfortunate”. Unfortunate for whom, though? For the people who were beaten with bamboo sticks and left bleeding on the pavement simply because they had wanted to go to a cricket match? Possibly. Or was he, I wonder, employing the word in the way that evil villains tend to use it, in the sense of a temporary setback but with no lasting consequences for his long-term plans:

“Mr Bond is still alive? That is unfortunate. It will complicate matters.”

More likely, since Haroon is not, as far as I know, an evil villain, he just meant that it was very bad PR. Still, bad PR is pretty serious. It’s far worse than bad karma, for instance. Karma can take a lifetime to catch up with you. Bad PR can bite you on the backside before you’ve finished your breakfast. Only a swift dose of spin can cure an outbreak of bad PR. Mr Lorgat promised that “a centralised ticket system would be something they would look at next time”. So that’s that sorted then.

But this is just standard procedure for the likes of the ICC. The golden rules if you’re organising a major sporting event are:

1. Whatever happens was unforeseeable. 2. Whoever’s to blame, it isn’t us.

Pre-tournament it’s all slick presentations, confident smiles and photo ops. But when it’s underway and entirely foreseeable problems crop up, the men in suits rely on our human understanding. We’ve all organised picnics and forgotten the plates or sent out wedding invitations with the wrong date on, haven’t we? Relax. Take a chill pill. Easy to be wise after the event, they will tell us. Yes indeed. But the job of the ICC in this instance was to be wise before the event. That’s why they fly first class.

Sunday, 27th February Aren’t ties marvellous? No, I’m not referring to those tatty bits of silk that sections of the world’s population are forced to wrap tightly around their necks on a daily basis. I don’t like those ties at all. I mean the good kind of tie, the kind that is a bit like a draw but better, providing of course, it is not tainted by some demeaning contrivance like a Super Over or a Bowl Off or a Groin Protector-Flinging Contest.

Ties put smiles on everyone’s faces. Had England sneaked one more or one fewer run today, there would have been a winner and a loser and the world’s cricket message boards would once again be clogged with post-match one-upmanship, abuse-laden recrimination and every flavour of witless jingoism. Instead, the butterfly of victory flitted this way and that but stayed always just out of reach and for once, we could bask in the pleasure of having enjoyed a game for its own sake.

The only bum notes in this uplifting session of free-form cricket were hit by former England captains. From the Sky studio, Mr Michael Vaughan offered up a noxious concoction, blended from the three worst ingredients in the punditry kitchen: sour bias, bland cliché and a vowel-mangling accent, whilst at the ground, Sir Beefy of Beefhampton could barely suppress his chortling as England began their chase well. The sound of a gloating Botham is not pleasing to a neutral ear, but mercifully England began to throw away wickets just as he was becoming unbearable and he was forced to go back to commentating on the cricket.

He was right about one thing, though. Who says that 50-over cricket is finished?

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England