March 2, 2011

An outbreak of bad PR

Andrew Hughes
A policeman tries to control the crowd after a mini-stampede broke out among people queuing up for tickets for the India-England game outside the M Chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore, February 24, 2011
A beating with a stick? Comes free with the privilege of being able to scrap for tickets to cricket’s biggest event  © AFP
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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

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Posted by srinivas on (March 9, 2011, 21:22 GMT)

sir beefy from beefhampton!! lol!! how do u think all these!! i cudnt stop laughin!!

Posted by Ravi Sharma on (March 3, 2011, 16:09 GMT)

WEll...Welll Well...what are we hoping to accomplish here? To tell the world that India is corrupt....If that is the case then you are on the ball...Amnesty described India as a country where corruption is a fixture and no one have the decency to be bothered about it....It is such a SHAME, being of Indian origin. I hope that the poliltician can take this experience and make some changes...BUT WHO WILL CHARGE WHO???

Posted by Matthew Charles White on (March 3, 2011, 4:43 GMT)

Yes, Neville Cardus was a master of his craft, but Bradman is incomparable.

Posted by Indian fan in SL on (March 3, 2011, 4:32 GMT)

Come to the neighboring island to watch the matches a.k.a. Sri Lanka. great facilities, great atmosphere and most imporatantly Cricket Fans get to see the matches! Well done Lanka!

Posted by Santosh Vernekar on (March 3, 2011, 0:05 GMT)

Very well written.. very true too!!

Posted by IG on (March 2, 2011, 23:16 GMT)

Just amazing isn't it? People getting beaten up with bamboo sticks as if they weren't human!! Would you ever see something like that in the civilized world? You'd think it's some kind of a civil unrest as is being experienced in Egypt or Libya and the dictators/rulers are using force against the protesters. I think its not just the ICC, but also the BCCI who're to be blamed for this shoddy work.They might also be advised to gift the book called 'Laws of Cricket' to MS Dhoni. That'll stop him from talking bollocks. About Beefy....I am not sure if Sunil Gavaskar's gloating sounds more pleasing to a neutral (or for that matter, biased) ear, but you probably wouldn't sound politically correct if you were to lampoon him, now would you, Andrew?

Posted by Senthil on (March 2, 2011, 21:35 GMT)

Andrew, I've been following "The Long Handle" for a while now and I must say your pieces are just awesome!! Instead of just writing a funny or sarcastic piece every time, you write on meaningful issues. The B'lore incident was very unfortunate & could have been totally avoided. Is someone listening?

And the last piece on Botham - he is certainly unbearable at times!! Coming from a group that has stalwarts like Nasser, Gower & Artherton, he is very disappointing...

Posted by salman on (March 2, 2011, 16:19 GMT)

fantastic!

Posted by Sundar on (March 2, 2011, 15:18 GMT)

Did it occur to anyone that the police had to resort to the lathicharge and the beating, because the crowd became indisciplined and did not stay put in their respective lines and jostled about? If the crowd had behaved themselves, it would not have happenned. So instead of criticizing the police action, I think people need to look inward.

Posted by Anurag on (March 2, 2011, 15:07 GMT)

Oh come on, Mr. Hughes, don't be so ridiculous in the name of humour. Don't tell me you haven't seen scenes outside football stadia in England. Practically riot police are deployed all across England (not just one stadium) on every weekend, wherever there is a regional football match (not even an international match). They have to deploy horse-mounted police armed with batons, sniffer dogs, army-style armoured police vehicles, sometimes even tear-gas... Rival fans often get stabbed and beaten. The entire area gets converted into a murky war zone that is off-bounds to the elderly and children.

Why? Because British authorities are incompetent? Because the poor 'innocent' Brits were just trying to watch a match of jolly good football? Haha... No. It's because wherever there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for trouble. Don't poke sarcasm in the name of humour.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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