Boo to English cricket bosses. And the Aussie ones, too
There’s further evidence today of the growing contempt that modern managers of sporting codes hold for fans of their games, with English cricket managers begging the crowd to be nice to Ricky Ponting when he walks to the middle in the fourth Ashes Test, getting underway at Headingley in a few hours’ time.
For a measure of how patronising and unnecessary this is, look no further than Australian batsman Shane Watson, who says the booing Ponting gets from the crowds is to be expected - and something players enjoy, even thrive on, when playing in England.
Cricket managers in Australia have shown a similar pattern of growing discomfort with what ordinary people consider a good day out. When the Poms were last here, the Barmy Army’s trumpeter was kicked out of the Gabba for playing his instrument, despite getting prior approval to blow it. (He’s been banned from the Headingley Test, too.)
This could be because cricket bosses think the game would be improved if spectators limited themselves to a sherry or two and golf-style claps for boundaries.
But it’s more like they don’t like the general public’s idea of a good day out.
In fact, they just don’t like the general public.
Why would they? They’re just people who support the game, evangelise it to their friends, pay their money at the door, and contribute to their local clubs.
The warning to the Headingley crowd comes in the match program, from England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke. He says Ponting has “earned the respect and courtesy” of the crowd and that the game “may never see his like again”.
The depth of feeling Ponting arouses in English cricket fans when he walks to the middle is a testament to his stature in the game and the threat he poses to England’s bowlers. The way to neutralise Ponting is to try to get him edging one to slips on the drive before he plays himself in, not shout at him.
Goldilocks Shane Watson, who is odds-on to be partnering Ponting at some point at Headingley, has already called out Clarke for his comments:
“You want to play in the middle with big crowds against you,” he said. “If there is more booing that’s the way it is. He is the Australian captain. You would expect more banter going towards him to try and unsettle him. It will keep Ricky charging forward because I am sure he has copped worse a lot in his time.”
At Australian grounds the crowds are banned from making beer cup snakes, kicking around beach balls, and starting Mexican waves at the cricket are over. You can’t bring a flag bigger than a metre square into the SCG. There is also a specific rule against inflating balloons at an AFL match.
The trend is an inexorable spiral of anti-fun rules within stadium jurisdictions by wowsers who - I’ll say it again - don’t seem to like the general public.
If they’re not careful it will be eventually be a better option to keep the price of a ticket in your pocket, stay home and bounce a beach ball around the living room while watching the game on TV with some mates.
The fourth Test starts tomorrow (Friday) at Headingley.
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