Thumbs-up for good behaviour

Across The Board
Stabroek News
April 16, 2000

AS WEST INDIES cricket fans applaud the recent on-field successes of their team, they too should take a bow for their exemplary behaviour at matches in the 2000 Cable and Wireless series thus far.

Not a missile has been thrown nor have there been any pitch invasions of the kind that lamentably marred international cricket matches in this region in recent years. In every territory to have hosted a game up until now - Trinidad, Jamaica, Antigua and St. Vincent - Windies supporters have been on their best behaviour.

This does not mean fans have compromised their enjoyment and merriment -just that they have recognised the need to adhere to match rules, regardless of what they think of any umpiring decision or how much they may want to celebrate a milestone by a player.

If fans needed to be tested, well, bowling icon Courtney Walsh, certainly saw to that at Sabina Park when he seized an unprecedented 435th Test wicket in his Jamaican backyard. His compatriots hailed his achievement loudly and exuberantly but, most importantly, properly.

What better assurance could the Caribbean have offered the cricketing world that Windies spectators know how to behave at cricket than thousands of Jamaicans jumping, cheering and, with joyous abandon, sharing in Walsh's record-making feat without trespassing onto the field?

Indeed the statement by Jamaica's Minister of Sports, Portia Simpson-Miller, after Walsh's landmark, summed things up neatly. Speaking during a globally-televised ceremony to mark Walsh's record, she commended Jamaicans for having celebrated with their voices and hands while remaining in the confines of the stands.

Perhaps the decision, in some islands, to attach criminal charges and stiff penalties to pitch intrusions and other lawless acts that disrupt international cricket have hit a sober note with those who were previously inclined to do such. After all, who wants to part with thousands of dollars or spend time in jail because of a flash of stupidity?

However, it is likely that the threat of a larger and - in the perspective of any die-hard Windies cricket lover - much more bitter penalty has had the desired effect: the threat of grounds being blacklisted from hosting international cricket if unruly crowd behaviour persists.

This serious warning from the sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC) - sparked by incidents in Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana during Australia's tour here last year - has echoed across these tropical environs. The thought of not been able to watch live cricket sends shudders through many a West Indian for whom trekking to Kensington Oval or Arnos Vale or Bourda or Queen's Park Oval is a hallowed, annual ritual. No-one wants Windies fans to be deprived of revelling in the spectacle of their beloved bat-and-ball tussles but good sense must prevail if this is to be avoided.

So, as we push ugly memories of past misdeeds by cricket fans to the back of our minds, we look forward optimistically to absorbing the rest of this series and future series without the fear that someone will commit some shameful act that not only embarrasses the West Indies but costs us our cricket, lovely cricket.