June 22, 2001

Keen on running on? - Try the London Marathon

Imtiaz Sipra

LONDON. There has been a lot of hue and cry about 'mob rule' in cricket, specifically related to the ongoing Triangular Series involving the contesting finalists, Pakistan and Australia and the bride's maid, England, the host.

None approved the unwarranted pitch invasions by over eager Pakistan supporters, and one and all were right in castigating their intrusions onto the field of play. But while each write-up and corresponding run-down of the errant was full of denouncements, none offered any worthwhile workable suggestion to stall such runs on the field in the future.

Some did, like Christopher Martin Jenkins, who so wrote in the 'The Times' that dogs and horses should be let loose on the errant. Certainly an effective proposal yet one unthinkable in a civilised society, that serves as a role model to the world in behaviour and attitude. Not to mention what the horses would do to the turf.

No, something else has to be done and the only hope one sees, is in the followers being 'educated' to the finer points of sports following. This education is not hard to come by. After all, the migrants, Asians or otherwise, do follow British traditions of line-up, waiting their turn, speaking in low tones and generally refraining from using vulgar or obscene language in public. And even in private, one to one interactions.

Now, this all has been inculcated in the migrants through interaction, teachings and even sometimes through the threat and dread of punitive action. This can also be achieved in cricket grounds.

But for that to happen, a concerted effort has to be made. And this relates to an appeal and approach to the migrants' families, places of education and work. Here it should be brought to the notice of one and all that every society pays a very heavy price to provide sustainable conditions for its citizens to live comfortably and that a sports arena is as much as place in the society and as much one worth visiting and enjoying. Stressed must be the threat of them being denigrated and demeaned in their own social circles as 'street brats' and 'scum of the earth'.

This can be done, for while Pakistan's next tour is years away, India and Sri Lanka are due in the coming year. This gives a lot of time to volunteers to go about educating the migrant supporters of the disgrace and harm they bring about on their countries' of origin.

This will certainly have a very salutary effect, and the writer has personal experience to support this.

At the Trent Bridge, D/N encounter between Pakistan-Australia, the writer, accompanied by Kamran Abbasi of Wisden Monthly, went down to a vociferous, vibrant section of Pakistan supporters, teasing and taunting the stewards at the fence. The request to step back was heeded, though very reluctantly and accompanied by some very choice, unmentionable words but, obeyed it was. Encouraged, some other supporters joined in and that area was more or less cleared quickly.

This is just an example. This was perhaps a stray on the spot initiative, but certainly indicative of being useful, if done properly in the future too. It is not difficult to communicate with these over-exuberant supporters who shout and 'honk' to vent away their pent up frustrations and emotions.

Loudness is looked down upon in England and this, one feels, is another reason some of the Asian origin youth takes to howling and bawling. Conceded, they are part and parcel of a culture that emphasises quietness and serenity, yet it is in their genes to be loud and showy. Their forefathers may have been more 'British' than them, for different reasons in different conditions.

Their elders were struggling, unsure persons, making a new life in a new land and that too, in a new culture. However, this present lot are sons of the soil and with equal rights. I believe it is this legal equality that is one reason for their boisterous, belligerent behaviour. And, here is where that suggested education would help. It must be brought to their notice and forced on them again and again: equality means contesting performance in given situations for better rewards.

Equality does not mean taking turns in being boisterous at the cost of being a teasing pest for others. Equality must be shown to them as emerging moments of worthwhile vocations and comforts of life that the locals enjoy due disciplined hard work and consistent values of life. This has to be ingrained in them; this has to be taught that if they think they are the equals of the locals, then they should be as disciplined and consistent as they are on a cricket field.

It is certainly 'not cricket' the way they invade the ground in a match. If they are all that keen on running, they should enlist in the London Marathon and run to their heart's content