Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Peanut Gallery -II

Watching the furore over "racist" crowd behavior in Australia is a bit bemusing. A few years ago, we rocked up to watch Australia play South Africa in Adelaide. As the day wore on, things got steadily worse in the stands. South African fans were yelled at and abused (no 'good-humoured banter' here); girls were hooted and hollered at initially, and then later, had beer dumped on them; fights broke out; very few on the hill were watching the cricket. Later that day, as we walked home, I wondered why Cricket Australia didn't do something about it, even as I realized that it would simply mean over-zealous policing at grounds.

Two years later, when India toured Australia, there were plenty of articles in the Australian press about fan behavior in the stands. Some of the interactions were the usual chants about taxi-drivers and curry. ("usual"? Yes). And some were silly costumes (Gandhi, GungaDin, Swamis) - relatively harmelss but speaking of a comprehensive case of the yobbos.

But for me, the most dispiriting day of all came on the last day of the Sydney test. I sat in the Doug Walters Stand, and watched a small group of Indian students try and get behind the Indian team. They got cracked down on hard. There was a constant stream of abuse directed at them, the odd beer cup was thrown over the seats, and worst, perhaps symbolic of it all, loud cheers broke out all over when the police confiscated a drum (or at least told them to shut down). The drumming had provided some sparkle on that grey Sydney day. At this stage, a gentleman sitting next to me yelled out, "yeah, throw them out of here". Another commented on how drums was far as Indians could get. It was a sad, ugly day and I discussed it with many of my Aussie friends, in each case struggling to explain just what a letdown it was; India failed to win that day, but that disappointment was nothing compared to what I felt in the stands, watching my home for two years become tainted by the emotions that I saw on display.

All the policing in the stands is not going to help till folks in the stands start telling the yobs to shut up, sit down, and watch the cricket.


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