On presentation ceremonies

Over the years, I have made it a rule not to go on the field if I have no pitch report to do, or interview a player for TV.

One of the easily noticeable things about the current IPL is that only a few people are there at the presentation ceremony at the end of a match. There is, of course, the commentator who is making the announcements and there are then the four or five sponsor representatives who are there to give away the various awards. It is a very well co-ordinated event and finishes within five minutes or so after which everybody disperses in an orderly manner. Now, why can’t this be done after a Test match or a limited overs international or even a T20 international? Why is it that, at these events, there are literally hundreds of people on the ground at the presentation area trying to get their mugs in the frame for a photo or get a fleeting frame on TV? Why is the control seen at the IPL presentation not enforced at Tests and one-day internationals?

The IPL ground entry is controlled by the International Management Group (IMG), and while there will always be the odd overzealous official, the whole presentation ceremony is orderly and without the tamasha that is seen at Tests and one-day internationals. Could it be that the IMG officials do not feel the pressure of the local bodies since the IPL is about franchises and not local associations? Local associations are always trying to win votes for the next election, and if a potential voter can be given a bit of an ego lift by being put in the presentation party, then they will do it. The problem is that the potential voter also has his or her kids or nephews and nieces who want to be photographed with the players, or take their autographs, and so suddenly, the presentation area gets overcrowded. While it is totally understandable that fans would want to get close to the players, it is up to the local association to draw the line and ensure that the presentation area does not become a security hazard.

Make no mistake. Looking at the number of people, who do not have the accreditation to be on the ground in such close proximity to the players, it won’t be a surprise if an untoward incident takes place. A lot of them are often inebriated and out of control and so an ugly incident is just waiting to happen.

In fact, at the end of the Delhi Test match against Australia, when Allan Border and I were at the presentation to give away the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, there were rumblings going on between some unruly spectators. The players and the crowd were separated by just a rope and with just a few security guards around. It is here that the BCCI should set the tone by instructing its affiliated associations, that apart from their officials, nobody should be allowed in the playing arena. This is an absolute must to avoid the ruckus that inevitably follows especially if India has not done well in the game. Then, a lot of words are said to the players. Even here, only those officials who actually have some ground or pitch related work should be allowed to cross the boundary line.

Over the years, I have made it a rule not to go on the field if I have no pitch report to do, or interview a player for TV. I am just following Richie Benaud, who said that the ground belongs to the players and match officials, so nobody else should cross the boundary rope and enter the field of play if he has no work there. Unfortunately, I see far too many of my commentary colleagues, who have no business being on the ground, wandering around the field to exchange pleasantries with the players and distracting them from their preparations, maybe just to show the world how close they are to some players. Quite frankly, not one blade of grass should be disturbed by anybody other than the players or match officials before the end of the game, and only after that, by the presentation party.

The BCCI has been proactive in seeing that there is no chance of any bad elements coming into contact with the players at the hotels and functions that the team attends. They need to ensure that the same situation prevails at the presentation event where far too many people are close to the players. This is not just an issue for anti-corruption, but also for the physical security of the players.