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World Cup Postcards:

Disturbing scenes

The 2011 World Cup gets serious - on and off the field

World Cup Postcards - Jamie Hunt Posted 24th February 2011 view comments

It was a long wait for the people of Bangladesh but finally, after the success of their opening ceremony, the action started and the World Cup kicked off in Dhaka.

In 2007 in the West Indies, Bangladesh pulled off one of the upsets of the tournament by beating their thoroughbred neighbours, India, and the whole country was pulling for them to do the same.

India though were not about to let lightning strike twice and, thanks to centuries from Virender Sehwag and Virat Kholi, Bangladesh didn't even come close despite a solid batting performance. The World Cup was underway.

Heavy-handed: the Indian Police embark on some over-the-top crowd control

Heavy-handed: the Indian Police embark on some over-the-top crowd control

England travelled to Nagpur on the Saturday the opening match was played which meant we followed them and were left to watch the action in airport lounges and by departure gates.

And where there was a screen, there would be 20 or 30 Indians watching, too. During our trip, from Dhaka to Nagpur via Mumbai, we were given score updates by customs officials, fellow travellers and on one occasion, by the pilot somewhere between Mumbai and Nagpur!

The scenes were disturbing and there will be questions that need to be answered by the local cricket authorities and the ICC about the treatment of fans in such a way. Hopefully, we will be able to bring some of those answers to you.

Sky Sports News' Jamie Hunt
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Having come through their opening match, the local view that India are the team to beat was re-enforced. The nature of their victory has only doubled the already sky-high confidence of the first Indians we met on arrival in Nagpur.

Nagpur literally means City of Oranges, which made it an apt place to watch England take on the Dutch. They are unmistakeable in their kit, and as their team manager, the very affable Ed van Nierop was keen to show us, they have the watches to match. Huge, chunky and very orange, a good luck gift to all of the squad here in India from a local watchmaker back home.

Ed also showed us a video that he keeps on his mobile phone of the Dutch beating England at Lord's in the World Twenty20 in 2009. Set to music by the Kings Of Leon and with the commentary of Sky's David 'Bumble' Lloyd of their final-ball victory, Ed used it in his team meeting as motivation to inspire another upset.

And it nearly worked too. Due to a combination of indisciplined bowling and the worst fielding performance I can remember from this current England team - and quite a few before them - the Dutch set England a stiff target of 293 to win their opening match.

As we all know England chased it down and with relative ease in the end but it was a reminder that you have to be on your game against every side, or accidents do happen. Graeme Swann, in his post-match press conference, described it as 'a bad day at the office'. Usually, he explains, one or two have an off-day, but against the Dutch it was five or six.

I have been fortunate enough to have followed England in their preparations for two Ashes series, a World T20 in the Caribbean and a summer at home against Pakistan recently - all of them victorious. What has always impressed has been the way England go about practising their fielding, so Tuesday's performance came as a shock.

Their sessions, led by fielding coach Richard Halsall, are intense affairs, with very specific drills demanding a high level of fitness, making the players perform under pressure. It is the way Andy Flower wants it and it has led to England becoming the best fielding side in the world. Once they were a laughing stock, at the World T20 they set the bar.

They take the same approach to batting, under Graham Gooch, and bowling under David Saker - not to mention wicket-keeping under Bruce French. Nothing is done without intent. Always you see specific drills for individuals to prepare the players as best they can for the forthcoming challenge.

Most recently, they have split training into two shorter shifts, meaning less players waiting to bowl or bat. Sessions last only around 90 minutes instead of two-and-a-half hours but they are more intense - unless you are Matt Prior, who uses one for batting and the other for 'keeping.

It has been a long winter so perhaps a poor day in the field can be forgiven. What is for sure is that they won't get away with the same sloppiness against India, next up in Bangalore.

Congested

The Dutch game also gave the associate sides a chance to fight back at having had their numbers reduced for the next World Cup in 2015. These World Cups are long affairs and a reduction from 14 to 10 teams will mean a shorter tournament in an already congested fixture list.

The early evidence is that the ICC may be right to cut some of the weaker sides. Before Holland, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Canada all failed to make a match of it against Test opposition in their opening matches.

But the Dutch told us before the Nagpur match that the only way to prove the ICC wrong is on the pitch. And they did exactly that. As one reporter wrote on Tuesday, Holland nearly made England look like lemons in the city of Oranges

It was the strongest way to argue that the Dutch deserve their place at the table, but they will need to follow up this performance against England with more of the same if they are to convince the sceptics.

England face another associate side capable of causing an upset, Ireland, in their third game but before that comes the biggest test of all. Facing India in India at a World Cup.

If any more evidence were needed to prove how much the Indians look forward to seeing their team in action, then Thursday in Bangalore provided more than enough of it.

On Wednesday night, returning from dinner in town to our hotel, we saw thousands of people queuing outside the Chinnaswamy Stadium for 7,000 tickets that would go on general sale on Thursday.

Brutal

By Thursday morning though there were more people than tickets available and the police had decided that they needed to control the crowd. Sadly, the methods they adopted were little short of brutal, beating those in the queue with their cane sticks and pulling them of the crowd, forcing them to the other side of the road.

Some of these people had been waiting in line for more than 12 hours overnight and were within metres of the one ticket kiosk selling the thousands of tickets. We saw young and old men beaten by police officers, many of them suffering injuries.

Our cameraman Ben shot the footage that you will have seen on Sky Sports News, Sky News and on this page, and our reporter Tim Abraham was in the thick of the action, stepping into ask one plain-clothed policeman who we had seen hitting members of the crowd moments earlier, why he had to use such tactics.

The scenes were disturbing and there will be questions that need to be answered by the local cricket authorities and the ICC about the treatment of fans in such a way. Hopefully, we will be able to bring some of those answers to you. The local crews here tell us that there is always this kind of interest in the Indian team but thankfully they don't see scenes like those we witnessed very often.

For now though it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The Indians are desperate to see their team and see them do well. They didn't deserve this treatment from what we could see.

On Sunday, when nearly 40,000 Indians are getting behind their team against England, Thursday will seem a long time ago. Hopefully the experience won't be marred by memories of policemen with canes.

Comments (1)

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Patrick Boyle says...

Ok, first things first, this is effing discraceful! Police shouldn'thave the authority or the tools to carry out these appalling acts of violence. i think the whole set up of the police force should be looked at and re-shaped. It would be for the best and i think it would benefit this country a lot. Yours gratefully, Paddy Boyle.

Posted 14:05 24th February 2011

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