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BCCI is flush with money but flush toilets are too costly for them!
by Boria Majumdar
Dec 11, 2007
It is almost a cliché to suggest that India is the financial powerhouse that controls contemporary cricket and that the Indian cricket board is the richest in the world. Add to this the fact that most of our state cricket associations are also in extremely healthy financial condition and one begins to fathom the true financial potency of Indian cricket. Yet another proof is the whopping 30,000$ per month that the BCCI has resolved to pay Gary Kirsten on his agreeing to coach the Indian team.

It is a pity to note that the hard earned affluence turns useless when it comes to fans watching cricket at venues across the country. Quite simply the richest cricket board and state associations provide their fans with the worst of comforts compared to spectator coziness in cricket playing nations across the world.

To start with the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, considered the mecca of world cricket. While one understands the reasons behind the excessive security arrangements for an India-Pakistan Test match, it is beyond comprehension why cops manning the VIP gates would stop supporters from entering the venue with the national flag sighting reasons of security. One of them even went on to confiscate a national flag and then had the audacity of throwing it flat on the road. Calcutta’s new top cop, to the relief of all of us, suspended him.

On yet another occasion the security men found perverse pleasure in telling an old heart patient that they were unable to provide him with a Gate Pass because he had used the wrong stairs on his way out at lunch. Anyone aware of the Eden logistics would realize that the clubhouse is such that one can use stairs on either side to make an exit. Despite repeated urges that he was a heart patient and it was impossible for him to once again climb the 80 odd stairs to the upper tier of the clubhouse to come out of the other end, the cops refused to relent. Ultimately the elderly gentleman had to leave giving up his intentions of watching the post lunch action.

For once Kolkata was not an exception but rather the rule. A senior employee of a well known paper was stopped by the security men at the Kotla for carrying his favorite Mont Blanc pen to the ground. Despite his request that it was a fairly costly writer and that he would be eternally grateful if the police on duty kept it with them so that he could collect it on his way out, the cops refused. He finally left the pen on a ledge next to where the cops were standing hoping that he could pick it on his way out. While the same policemen were on duty at the end of the days play, the pen had disappeared.

Moving south the situation worsens. At Kochi, there’s not a single toilet for TV crew manning the OB vans of the multiple TV channels outside of the ground. When asked why, a local vendor says in jest, “This does offer an opportunity to the hotels nearby to do brisk business of match days.” In fact, most TV journalists had to use the parking lot nearby to respond to calls of nature while some others went into the police station adjoining the ground to use their facilities. Here too, things were not easy. You first had to plead to the officer on duty and explain your said plight. Only if he found you civil enough will he open the magic door for you. For women, the situation was worse and complaints to organizers failed to evoke any tangible response.

If Kochi was a disaster, Hyderabad easily wins the cake. First, there were no accreditation cards available for the hundred or more journalists as the police chief of the city had had no time to sign them. Finally, in conditions of literal anarchy, tags were put on the hands of most journalists as markers of identity. And once you made your way to the media center nightmare round two started. There were no television monitors to start with and the one functioning toilet was swimming in urine. The flush refused to work and the entire experience was lurid.

In comparison to Lords or most Australian venues like the MCG or SCG or even a small city like Dunedin in New Zealand (Cricket is played at Carisbrook just outside of the city center in Dunedin), where spectators and the media can enjoy the game in conditions of comfort the situation across Indian venues are matters of national shame. Not without reason did Gary Kirsten castigate our cricket facilities in his tour diary in 1996-7. Unfortunately, things have hardly improved since then with more than a decade gone. Unless the BCCI wakes up to remedy these nightmares, World Cup 2011 will hardly be any better than the world cup in the Caribbean in March-April 2007. Even our unparalleled financial might will prove incapable of controlling the venom of the international media always ready to jump on to the slightest of lapses at major international sporting events.

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