"Rowdy fan throws bottle at Sachin", says the headline on the front page of yesterday's MidDay (Jan 30 '06). Some nut in the Karachi crowd threw a "plastic water bottle" at Sachin Tendulkar. MidDay reports this, remembers two previous incidents of crass crowd behaviour, and asks: "What's with Karachi?" It's a popular topic of conversation, it seems: a random snatch of FM as I wrote this had a woman saying: "Once again, the Karachi crowd has proved to be quite unruly."
True enough: What is it with yahoos who throw bottles and worse at players?
The Pakistani authorities are concerned. "It is an unfortunate incident", a "senior official" of the Pakistan Cricket Board said, "and should not have happened." (Though MidDay also reports him saying the incident was "not serious"). What's more, he promised "extra security" to prevent this from happening again. Today's Hindustan Times quotes him thus: "The matter was diffused [sic] quickly with the policemen posted in the enclosure carrying out a search for objects that could be used as missiles and also disallowing spectators there from going near the fencing."
What I'm grateful for: he didn't say that Sachin should have taken this incident "in his stride". Nor that Sachin "can't get seriously injured by a plastic bottle".
And why those statements? Because they have been said before.
You see, it's a subcontinental disease, this bottle-throwing. In November 2002, we in India had to abandon three successive one-dayers against the West Indies -- Jamshedpur, Nagpur, Rajkot -- because bozos in the stands threw bottles at West Indian players.
Like Tendulkar did, the West Indian players told their captain and Indian authorities about this. In response, they were castigated for "over-reacting". Niranjan Shah, in charge of the arrangements for the abandoned match at Rajkot, was astonished that "a stray bottle thrown at a player can lead to the game being aborted ... [the West Indians] should have taken the stray incident in their stride."
Navjyot Sidhu -- a former player, so a man who should have known better -- suggested: "[Y]ou can't get seriously injured by a glass bottle." Oh, and what does that mean: should we explore what can indeed seriously injure a player? After all, what's a mere bottle chucked here and there?
And Niranjan Shah was not done. The West Indian (over)reaction, he said, would "provoke more such incidents in the future because the crowds would know one bottle can sabotage a match."
Ah, I get it. Not only must the West Indians have things thrown at them; not only must we blame them for over-reacting; not only must they take it "in their stride" -- no, they have been warned: even before it happens, any further violence is already their fault.
It took that magnificent cricketer, Viv Richards, to put his finger on what was really happening. "Accusing us of over-reaction", he wrote in The Times of India about these incidents, "is merely an attempt by certain officials to defend their turf after failing to provide adequate security."