Violence in Guwahati

BY khelkoodkar| IN Opinion | 11/04/2006
What happened in Guwahati this Sunday gave some much-needed ammo to our sports writers.






S R Khelkoodkar




It has been a relatively quiet month, as far as sports are concerned. Apart from a few controversial stories, including the lifetime ban handed to a few Indian weightlifters, the rest of the sports world has gone quietly about its business.


What happened in Guwahati this Sunday, then, gave some much-needed ammo to our sports writers. What was scheduled to be the fifth one day international in the on-going series between India and England turned out to be not just a rain-affected washout but a violent one at that.


Severe rains in the week leading up to the match meant that the ground staff was going to have to work mighty hard to get the ground in shape for the game. There was no way the match was going to be able to start on time, and the only question was whether the match would be able to start at all.


When the match was officially called off, however, the dissatisfaction at the decision spilled over into violence. Reports in several of the newspapers talk of severe damage, especially to expensive television equipment and a possible effect on the next game.


Newspapers, as you would imagine, have had a field day. Several of them have competed over who should get the blame, and in what measure. And, in a matter of this sort, controversy is seldom very far away.


The Asian Age squarely blames the Assam Cricket Association (ACA).


"Unaware of what was going on they believed some cricket was definitely in store when some of the Indian players came out to practice with tennis balls. No public address system was in use to let them know the exact situation. The cancellation came as a shock.


"Protests started by throwing bottles on to the field and soon missiles took over the lighter stuff. In a section of the stands, banners, placards and newspapers were heaped together and burnt."


The police, too, seemed to have played their part.


"The police had earlier claimed a foolproof security arrangement inside the stadium. However, they had no answer to how some of the spectators managed to sneak in with stones and bottles. The minions of the law fired a round of tear gas to control the mob and issued a lathi charge as the pitch cover was set on fire."


Newspapers have almost unanimously agreed that the police took their time to respond to the crowd trouble. Even when things were being thrown onto the field, they stayed away from doing anything, it seems.


The Hindustan Times has thrown its weight behind the ACA. A rather shrill headline, "Does the Board care for the spectators?" says it all. First of all, they say, matches aren`t being scheduled keeping weather conditions in mind. Nor are the rights of spectators being protected, although the paper declines to mention what they mean by this.


As for the match itself, "Averring that the ground condition was conducive to the match being held, a visibly agitated ACA secretary Bikash Baruah told newspersons that there could be "other reasons" for the cancellation of the tie."


"Baruah claimed that even the observer Y Giri said that the match could be started. `I shall wait for the match referee`s report. Once it is available, I will consider moving the BCCI, or even the ICC, on this.`"


In short, the ACA reportedly feels that conditions ended up being fine for a truncated game, but what with the two captains` reluctance to play and the umpires` support of their decision, the match was cancelled.


Needless to say, the cost of hiring a helicopter to dry the ground, and the fact that it proved to be in vain, hasn`t left the ASA too pleased. They have, however, according to The Telegraph, promised refunds to all spectators.


The Times of India feels that the ASA might get blacklisted by the ICC. Apparently "an ICC spokesman said Chief Executive Malcolm Speed was aware of what happened in the north-eastern city and would take a decision based on the report of Roshan Mahanama, the match referee."


We can only expect more dirty linen in the days to come.









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