Cricket security must keep up with times

Trinidad Express
April 27, 1999

THERE was no outright winner in the enthralling, hard-fought 1999 Cable and Wireless series between the West Indies and Australia which finished in Kensington Oval, Barbados, on Sunday. At the end of it, after sharing the four Tests two-all, the adversaries were appropriately locked at three-all in the seven One-day Internationals with one match in Guyana tied.

There was, however, at least one loser: West Indies cricket. Despite managing to overcome the massive handicap of a 5-0 whitewash in South Africa, the current West Indies cricket administration has again had the reputation it has worked so hard to burnish after a series of recent setbacks tarnished by the behaviour of its crowds.

Moreover, the Board itself, through its member organisations, stands accused of providing inadequate security for the Bourda match even though it might argue that there was no pitch invasion in Kensington.

For all this, however, victory in the 1999 World Cup in England will go a long way towards deflecting attention away from the blemishes that now stain the image of the game in the region. Which is why it is no less important that the behaviour of the Barbadian crowd on Saturday may also have been responsible for precipitating the premature-though, for some, welcome-retirement from international cricket of Carl Hooper.

We have made the point before but it bears repetition. The success of limited-overs cricket at the turnstiles owes much to the modifications to the longer version which make a definite result likely at the end of the day. In that, the game of cricket, famous for its glorious uncertainties and the stiff upper lip of those associated with it, is brought closer to football-with the near certainty for obstreperousness that that must imply as far the spectators are concerned.

Let it be clear that we are no more condoning the throwing of bottles on the Kensington Oval field than we approved of the inopportune encroachment on the pitch by unruly elements in the Bourda crowd last week.

What, however, it is important to note here is that the psychology of the cricket crowd has changed over the years-although there is a remarkable resemblance between the reaction to the Charran Singh run-out in Trinidad 30 years ago and the rain of bottles that ensued on Campbell's controversial dismissal on Sunday.

As the team prepares to head out for its next test, this time on foreign soil, we need to consider what steps have to be taken to make sure we do not jeopardise the safety of our cricketing guests when we are on our home ground.