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No bottles, please

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What a good thing that we in SVG have a “No Bottle” policy for Carnival and other major events. Correctly speaking, it ought to be “NO GLASS BOTTLES,” since plastic bottles are very much in vogue these days. So the local cricket and security officials must have at least felt relieved that it was mainly plastic bottles available when cricket fans vented their pent-up frustrations at Arnos Vale on Tuesday.{{more}} The occasion was the first West Indies – Australia One-Day International which wound down to a disappointing finish.

The bottle-throwing incident, at the fall of Darren Sammy’s wicket, has overshadowed the rest of the match, and is the subject of discussion at local, regional and international levels. Not surprisingly, there has been strong condemnation of the actions of those fans who indulged in the bottle-throwing incident. International sport is rather severe these days on host countries and venues for such unsports-manlike behaviour and we may yet suffer the consequences for such interruptions.

Regrettably the incident occurred in circumstances when it mattered not if the umpires were considered to be right. But this was no knee-jerk, spoil-sport action. Sammy’s dismissal was rather the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back. The crowd disturbance was rooted in a succession of umpiring decisions against the West Indies which were not just dubious, but in some cases downright outrageous. In spite of the weakness and inconsistencies of the West Indies players, the outcome of the Test series itself may have been much different, had the umpiring been of a higher, more acceptable standard.

This is not to justify the reaction of some sections of the crowd, but fans all over the Caribbean have been voicing their concerns about these decisions and the apparent lack of any indication by cricket authorities that the umpiring was sub-standard. Indeed I heard fans saying “Dey better doan come with dem b-s-t when dey playing at Arnos Vale.” In other words there was a bottled-up sense of injustice which erupted in SVG (perhaps because we have a volcano here) but which could very well have happened in Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts or Grenada.

Part of the frustration relates to what Caribbean people regard as the historic spinelessness of regional cricket officials to stand up for the region’s interest. Contrast the docility of the West Indies Cricket Board with that of the militant Board of Cricket in India. The Indians raised strong objections when their team touring Australia fell victim to a number of poor decisions by the umpires. The protest led to the Caribbean’s premier umpire, Steve Bucknor, being withdrawn. Pakistan had similarly objected strongly to umpire Darryl Hair causing the International Cricket Conference to drop him temporarily from its panel. So wha’ happen to the West Indies Board? Dey leave dey mout’ in dey moma?

That is the backdrop to Tuesday’s unfortunate incident. It cannot be condoned and should never have happened. But it is a clear message, wrongly expressed, that Caribbean cricket fans are not prepared to tolerate perceived injustices. We are not known to be poor losers and the lack of success of the West Indies team in the 21st century has helped us to accept defeat, but in fair conditions. Just as fans, and players, must accept responsibility for conducting themselves in a sporting manner, so too do umpires have a similar responsibility for overseeing the game in circumstances where competence, efficiency and fairness are perceived by all.

What will be the repercussions, for the West Indies, St.Vincent and the Grenadines as host nation, and Arnos Vale as an international venue? Will the West Indies Board, especially now that it has many choices in regard to venues, tend to bypass Arnos Vale, using the bottle-throwing incident as justification? Is the regional Board satisfied with the level of umpiring we have had so far in the series? Will it register any such dissatisfaction with the ICC? There are more question than answers!

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