Friday, February 13, 2009

Shame on them

A decade or so ago I remember reading a story about a group of cricket-mad mates working in the refuse collection department for Rotherham Council who set up a savings club to pay for a trip to Jamaica to watch England play the West Indies. Their monthly contribution, plus other money they squirreled away went to pay for the economy flight and match tickets for the England/West Indies test.

To keep their costs down they either slept on the beach, or clubbed together to pay for the cheapest single bed hotel room they could, and made the best of it with most of them camping down on the floor.

For food, they found the low-cost 'eat all you can' buffets, and filled their pockets with what couldn't fit in their stomachs at the sitting.

They proudly took their places in Sabina Park on the first day, and when play finally began they realised they were living every cricket fans dream of watching their home country playing abroad.

Seventy five minutes later, their dream was over as total authority ineptitude - the inability to check a playing surface prior to a game starting, meant that the test match was abandoned.

They received no compensation whatsoever, beyond the usual hand-wringing, 'events beyond our control' apologies, and returned home.

After the debacle, they watched on TV as a whole host of the 'great and the good' from the cricketing establishment went in front of the cameras to promise that this sort of thing would never happen again. Match umpires would have access to the ground way before play started, and would be able to make early decisions over the fitness of the pitch for test cricket - instant remedial action would be taken if necessary to ensure that play would start and continue in a timely fashion.

'Of course', said the authorities, 'we appreciate that spectators are the lifeblood of the game'.

That'll be the same authoritieswho inspected the Antigua pitch earlier today and declared it fit for play - presumably with their fingers crossed behind their backs.

In this respect, as so often, the authorities have proved themselves to be totally and utterly incompetent - and when it comes to the paying spectator, happy to take their money with no thoguht whatsoever about the product that is on offer.

It's so simple it almost beggars belief. Two questions. Is the pitch playable? Is the outfield safe? Yet, Alan Hurst the match referee came up with some weasel worded statementto suggest that 'it's not ideal, but it'll do'.

I do hope none of the Rotherham contingent were in Antigua today.

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