November 9, 2015

How to prevent bottle-throwing in cricket stadiums

A clear-headed and incisive analysis of the problem and potential solutions

Why not get creative instead and try to make a giant bottle snake to prod the boundary fielders with? © Associated Press

It was with a very heavy heart indeed that I read reports of bottle-throwing at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack during the India-South Africa T20.

My heart was heavy for more than one reason. First of all, I was bitterly disappointed that this happened in Cuttack. Odisha is by far the most chilled-out state in India. It was in engineering college in Tiruchirapalli, aka Trichy, aka Groan, that I first came across people from this state. And what friendly, splendid, calm, composed people they are.

Let me illustrate with an example. Let us say that a devastating fire has broken out in the hostel.

Typical Tamil response: "Oh, bloody north Indians are again burning furniture for Lohri festival. Truly fed up, machaan. We can't use Chinna Senthil as stumps again…"

Typical North Indian response: "!@£$$$£££&&&&&@!@£$$£%%@^^!& HARD DRIVE BHOOL GAYA YAAR !@£$£!@£@£"

Typical Malayali response: *silence* (Malayalis have gone to Kodaikanal for study tour in retail management of ethanol and ethanol-based products.)

Typical Odiya response: "Wait for 20 minutes till mess opens for lunch bey…"

That the tranquil people of Cuttack would stoop to such acts as bottle-throwing is heartbreaking.

Secondly I was sad and angered by this recurring problem that plagues Indian cricket. What nonsense is this? How juvenile of cricket fans to respond to sporting setbacks with such destructive tendencies. Just because things are not going your way does not mean that you ruin the game for everybody else.

As Sachin Tendulkar rightly read out in a statement to NDTV: "We are all passionate about the game. We all love the game, so we get disappointed and frustrated at times. There are ways to express that, but what happened in Cuttack is certainly not the way to show your emotions. Say this in a calm voice and don't get involved in any questions. - Boria."

The BCCI immediately asked for a report from the Orissa Cricket Association, which will be combined with responses from the ICC match officials, and then presented to the ICC's CEC, which will then consider the LOL that will be taken by the BCCI and further communicated to the OCA for their ROFL.

In the interim I would like to suggest some strategies that the ICC or the BCCI could use to mitigate bottle-based disturbances during cricket matches.

1. The Samson Uncle Method
Samson uncle is my mother's older brother. (For real.) My mother's name was Diliala. (Really. I am not making this up.) Uncle was a busy man who worked long hours and had little time to waste on niceties or pleasantries. But because he had two sons who were prone to naughtiness, Samson uncle soon came up with an excellent method of disciplining them. Each morning he would wake up, walk over to their room, scream at them for a few minutes, spank them both on the bottom, and then go to work.

But what is the point of punishing kids first thing in the morning? Samson uncle explained as follows: "Anyway they are going to misbehave at some point during the day. Might as well pre-empt it."

Later in the evening he would come back home and top-up as required.

Why not equip security guards, outfield players and stadium staff with bottle-shooters? As soon as a spectator flings a bottle, a security guard must shoot one bottle back into the crowd

The BCCI could take a similar approach. Not spank people, but before any cricket match, they can randomly select a few dozen spectators for questioning and/or extraordinary rendition as a "pre-emptive anti-bottle-throwing measure". Eventually audiences will understand the pattern and stop attending T20 and ODI matches altogether.

Thus, this is beneficial to international cricket in many different ways besides mitigating disturbances.

2. The Other Sports Method
This one is less controversial and has less potential for legal action.

Now as we all know, crowd trouble usually takes place only during the second innings of a cricket match, when crowds realise defeat is imminent.

So why not release some of that anger and tension during the innings break?

The idea is to use the innings break to organise demonstrations of unpopular sports. Faced with a three-innings game of baseball, or 30 minutes of the Indian football team facing off against the Sri Lankan football team, or a ten-over game of women's cricket, the crowd will spontaneously erupt in disturbances. By the time the second innings has started there will not be a single plastic bottle left with the spectators. Allowing the second innings to unfold in a classy fashion.

3. The Second-Amendment Method
A popular suggestion is that there be a strict ban on bottles being taken into cricket grounds. But as we all know very well, if you outlaw plastic bottles, only the outlaws will have plastic bottles.

So why not equip security guards, outfield players and stadium staff with bottle-shooters? As soon as a spectator flings a bottle, a security guard must shoot one bottle back into the crowd. Might this bottle potentially hit an innocent spectator? Of course. But eternal violence is the price of liberty, etc etc. Within moments, crowds will stop disturbing. Allowing the cricket to resume and Kohli's wicket to fall immediately.

So. Much. Win.

Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and editor with Mint, and the author of the Dork trilogy. @sidin

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