Sending the wrong signals

WHAT happened to Harsha Bhogle and other staff of the TV Channel at the Lord's gates will not have come as a surprise to those who know of how some can get carried away by a bit of authority given to them. It is a peculiarity in England more than anywhere else and for a country which is otherwise sports-mad, it is just hard to understand why it keeps on happening. Only a few weeks ago, no less a person than Tiger Woods was stopped at the venue of the British Open a day before it began. He had gone there for practice rounds and he wasn't wearing the accreditation badge that was given to all the participants. The security-person who stopped him admitted that he recognised Woods but wouldn't allow him because he didn't have the accreditation badge. Now that is the silliest argument one has heard, for the accreditation is given to identify the lesser-known players and to make sure no one else gets in, but if Woods was recognised why was he not allowed in? After all he was the defending champion and he should have been allowed entry as soon as he was recognised.

Even if one were to go by the book and say since Woods made the mistake of not carrying his identification with him, then why was he allowed after some official came and identified him? After all, if one is going to stick to the rules then whether some other official recognises him or not, he should have been asked to go and get his badge to enter. Why listen to another official? It is not the first time a famous person has been stopped at a gate in England, for people like Boris Becker, Martina Navratilova and others to name just a few have been at the receiving end of such treatment and the worse part is that all it takes is another official to come and the same persons are allowed in without having the badge.

In these troubled times, it is understandable for people to be security-conscious, but then what about the guy who sauntered out at Lord's and put an arm around Tendulkar and was not only not apprehended but was let off without any charge against him. If it had been an Indian fan would he have been let off similarly? The Indian Board hopefully will ask questions for if the same thing had happened to an English player in India, all hell would have broken loose and while here the blame is being laid at the door of MCC, in India it would have been Dalmiya who would have been blamed as if it's Dalmiya's duty to look after security. Nobody is pointing a finger at ECB for it is ECB who are India's hosts and not MCC though the ground might belong to MCC. Nobody is asking Lord McLaurin questions though a similar episode would have been used by the biased media to ask Dalmiya questions.

Many years back when the British Deputy High Commissioner was shot in Mumbai, there was panic in the English camp and understandably so. India at that time was not subject to the kind of terrorist activities which it faces now and so wasn't prepared then. So the guys guarding the teams were pretty amateurish. There is this funny story of an English photographer going to the policeman on duty outside the England dressing room and saying when he was stopped that he was from the IRA and was allowed to go in, but if he were to try that trick today against the SPG, he would have his equipment broken into pieces and told to get it repaired by the IRA. Today the security in India is top-class though the western world will try and undermine and poke fun at it. Didn't they say so when the Delhi Police found out about Hansie Cronje? Was there even a word of apology that the media had made a mistake in making fun of the Delhi Police's investigative abilities?

Though the MCC is planning a private prosecution, whether that will have any effect remains to be seen. All that those in the sub-continent will be saying is that if it was one of them then they would have been in the cold and prosecuted, but it wasn't one of them, so he has been let off. Tendulkar did the right thing by not making an issue of it but it still was frightening to see that someone could just amble up and put an arm around the most famous cricketer in the world and no security-person was yards near to prevent it from happening.

By letting the man go scot-free the wrong message has been sent and it may well lead to more such intrusions, not all of which will be as 'friendly' as this one was.

The fact is that security is only tight at the gates but not inside the ground, for all the effort seems to be to make sure only proper ticket-holders enter. That may be good from the gate collections' point of view but from the player security point it has to be better than what was seen at Lord's Cricket Ground.

All it did was to reiterate that everything about this ground is over-hyped and overrated.