Today I went to the cricket at the SCG, to see the normally-victorious Aussies take on Sri Lanka. Australia was absolutely hopeless on the day - but on top of that, Sri Lanka shone. Sanath Jayasuria fired on all cylinders, taking wickets and scoring runs. The result was pretty much expected, but the roles were reversed: Sri Lanka thrashed the pants off Australia to make it a pretty boring match.
But this, you could find out on any 'sports stats page'.
The thrill of a cricket match comes from being there - surrounded by the crowd, their response to things on and off the ground. The beach ball and the mexican wave.
We were in the stand formerly known as ‘the hill’, and the police were in force. They only serve light beer at the cricket these days, and bag searches are conducted at the gates to make sure one doesn’t sneak any BYO in to the grounds.
Unsurprisingly, much alcohol and inebriation is experienced on the grounds.
When we sat down at 2-ish (we were running late, but that’s another story - and not worthy even of a daylog), way, way, way up the back of the stand, in the sun, the first thing I noticed, with all these things going wrong (distance from play, lateness, social pressures, sun damage) was the police presence. There were around fifty officers - police and security - in bright yellow vests, making me nervous.
Yes, I get nervous even though I have done nothing wrong.
The police stood around bored for the first few hours, as people settled in, and started drinking. There was a large group of yellow wig-wearing hoons on the boundary, and I think everyone knew that there would be some sort of trouble there.
The first one left during the Australian innings (they batted first). A group of six officers (mix between police and security) went into the sea of yellow wigs, pointed to the drunkest and escorted him out. There was no protest, and everything went smoothly.
There was probably another hour, before the police again went to the group and pointed out another two drunks. They were escorted from the premises. The crowd in the higher stands stopped watching the cricket, instead, they watched the action in the crowd. There was chanting and taunting, and it increased as the evictions went on.
By lunch, my agoraphobia was acting up, so I couldn’t sit in the crowd anymore. At the end of lunch, I was walking around the stands, avoiding the crowds as best you can when there are over 36,000 people in such a small space.
I stopped and watched all sorts of things, cricket through the side screen, the Sri Lankans smiles (they had been few and far between on this tour until this day), the beach ball being tossed around by a stand.
Then a cop grabbed the beach ball and deflated it. The crowd sighed.
The guy, who I have since discovered was Phil, who owned the beach ball tried to get the ball back. The cop didn’t want to share. One can assume he wasn’t particularly sober - and the cop spotted this.
He grabbed the nearest police officer and approached the guy - just the two of them, and the first cop still excited by Phil’s attempt to get his ball back.
The guy was young and fit - again, I later discovered he’s a labourer. His friend stood up, and the accompanying officer pushed him back in the seat. The tension was building, and I knew what was going to happen next:
Seeing his friend getting pushed around, and already being approached incorrectly - and not getting his damn ball back, Phil leapt into action. (Oh yeah, and not being particularly sober probably didn’t help his self-control in not hitting a cop.)
By that stage, there were cops all around me - ignoring me, because I was just standing there getting more traumatised. They were trying to clear the area, as the other onlookers were encouraging poor Phil in his rage. Also, more officers were piling into the action. I could see Phil’s body getting twisted, and pushed onto the uncomfortable plastic chairs. He was swearing in pain.
The police didn’t escort him out this time, they pushed his head right down, and screwed his arm right behind his back. He was still swearing. His shirt was ripped, and I could feel his pain.
I stood by the stand. I started to cry. I couldn’t move. I just kept whispering, “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.”
I couldn’t stay in the stadium. The cricket had lost all meaning. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. “He just wanted his ball back. This can’t be happening. Why did they do that?”
I left the arena. I needed fresh air. Some how we managed to get them to give us a passout under the “No passout” sign.
I saw the police paddy wagon. Finally, I had found out where they took people who were evicted. I saw Phil again, he was sitting in the gutter, nursing his wrist, sucking up to the cop who towered above him. “Yes, sir. No, sir. Three bags full, sir.”
The lecture continued until the officer had his ego stroked sufficiently.
Phil’s mate left the building and they spoke for a moment. Phil was called back in, but I approached the mate. He got off with a fine, for ‘disturbing the peace’, but Phil would have to face Court for assaulting a police officer.
I gave the mate my phone number, and when Phil joined us (well, his mate), I told him to go and get his wrist looked at. Judge Judy would have wanted it that way.
UPDATE (24/02/03): Phil’s girlfriend called me. I have offered to write a statement at the very least, if not be a witness. The Hearing has been postponed until May, but I needed a record of my facts before the events completely fade from my memory.
UPDATE (5/06/03): I sent my statement to his lawyers. The Court date is set for July 8, 2003.
UPDATE (after the Court date): I don't have an ending for this story. I think it when badly for the already down-trodden. Stay tuned for the Adventures of Justice Woman.
Sport Stats Reference: