Hazards of running a cricket match in India

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns

An ODI in Jaipur. Suddenly the air-conditioning of the VIP areas and the players' area goes off. Throws everyone into a tizzy. It is then discovered that a panel has been made to malfunction by a PWD engineer upset at not being given the category of complimentary passes he had hoped to get. We mollify him (with a few passes of course). Air-conditioning is restored.


6 hours to go before an ODI in Jaipur. Suddenly the water supply is cut off. There is frenetic running around by the staff. It is discovered that a major line has been broken. Takes a herculean effort to repair it before the game. It transpires that disgruntled Sports Council staff had done it on purpose. Reason: They had got only 400 passes instead of the 1000 they demanded.


In another match, orgnisers in Jaipur found the gutters overflowing on the night previous to match day. Reason was not difficult to fathom. Municipal Corporation was showing its nuisance value. 200 complimentary passes did the trick.


In an IPL game between MI and RR, we suddenly find that the stadium is overflowing. We are at our wits' end as we had authorised only 27000 tickets whereas the stadium was bursting with no less than 35000, and thousands of men in uniform. It was later discovered that Police had let in all the extra baggage in the form of their favourites.


Ticket windows open for a World Cup game in Bangalore. Within minutes, there is lathi charge. Organisers find out that they were paying this cost for not obliging some bigwigs in the administration and Police. They have been recently elected - a bunch of celebrity cricketers as administrators. Within days of their being elected, they get painted the world over as a bunch of nincompoops.


Just before the World Cup, intelligence reports are leaked to the media, making out that the WC is a terrorist target. Police immediately get into action, labeling the event as a high risk security issue, and getting a handy excuse to choke off all entry and exit points near Wankhede in Mumbai. Things come to such a pass that BCCI Secretary is stopped at the gate in an event of which BCCI is the host. It is only when BCCI threatens to move away the games to another venue that Mumbai Police is made to apologise by the government and Mumbai does not lose its status as the venue for the Finals.


Fed up by the police inefficiency, lack of equipments and training and general apathy to security needs, RCA decides to take help of private security. Police makes a hue and cry. Runs a media campaign saying that we were putting lives to risk. We don't budge. Piqued and peeved, they file a criminal complaint against us and the private security agency after the match is over. Finally, the complaint is quashed as not maintainable by the Court. In the next game, we don't let Police handle access control at all. They respond by billing us some ridiculous amount for security that was never asked.


One can go on and on with many such horror tales. The truth is that spectator in India does not get the services he deserves because of this authoritarian meddling by the authorities. When I visited the Rose Bowl in Sothampton and met with Rod Bransgrove, the charismatic Chairman of  Hampshire County, I was curious whether their lights were run on the mains or on gensets. Rod found it difficult to comprehend the question. It was inconceivable in Hampshire that the electricity company could interrupt the power supply as it would mean huge damages liabilities for the company.


In Jaipur, I dare not depend on the mains as it is most unreliable and a suit for damages would take 20 years to decide. The hazards organisers face are in a large measure due to a non-existent torts law in India. Players and Players' Associations of some countries in particular have also added to the confusion. Then you have spoilt celebrity cricketers who would demand anything from fags to pitches from fags to pitches from the organisers and throw tantrums at being denied. Well, it is a difficult life out there!


This is exactly the opposite of what the public perception is. It is generally thought that running a high profile game of cricket means high visibility and huge ability to grant favours. I was discussing with Brijesh Patel, a veteran organiser of many matches, the problems of conducting the matches in India. He put it very succinctly, "Well, there are only two problems as I see it. One, complimentary passes and the second, policing the Police." No Association has any problem in managing the ground and pitch conditions with the level of equipments and expertise developed in the last 5-10 years in particular. At places like Jaipur, we do have problems of adequate spectator facilities because of old structures and stadium not being our property. These have largely been sorted out, but the police is always a curious case. They are more than keen to secure the matches, even when you don't want them.


Of course, there are also hazards associated with watching a game of cricket in India. Again this mainly has to do with our methods of security and crowd behaviour. To be seated in a stadium three hours before the scheduled start is normal. This will, however, await another article.


In conclusion, hazards associated with running a game of cricket far outweigh the perceived benefits. You risk FIRs, student agitations, ticket window lathi charges, VIP angst, celebrity irks and associated medical side-effects. Everyone is going to bill you for services which were not needed but very fondly forced upon you. If at all you do manage to do it successfully, you will have income tax and service tax summons to answer. Admire our fortitude, folks. We risk life and limb to bring a game to the city.