The main talking point in the wash-up from the first Test is not whether the English can improve, or whether Ricky Ponting’s back is a worry, or whether Kevin Pietersen and Warnie have made up, but whether or not the Barmy Army was badly treated by Gabba officials.
Because the Gabba is an “all seats” venue, Queensland Cricket was able to divide the Barmy Army up from Day One. That rendered their singing almost impotent. Added to that was the fact the trumpeter, and his trumpet, were evicted on Day One.
The Barmy Army has been complaining ever since. But they are not the only spectators subjected to the most rigorous crowd behaviour controls in the history of Australian cricket. The Barmy Army has some cause for complaint – but so does everyone else.
The rest of the 170,000 spectators were also forced to endure daily bag searches, and if the bag exceeded the “regulation” size, it was confiscated and had to be collected at the end of the day’s play. Fans could bring in a small cooler bag, but not the cooler brick, with officials deeming that it might be used as a missile.
Fans could bring their own food – provided it was prepared at home. If you bought it at the deli on the way to the ground it was confiscated. If you wanted a strong drink, you had to pay the outrageous prices charged by the ground caterers.
The crackdown on crowd behaviour may have been over the top – but I know of many families who attended and applauded the tough line. And it was better to be too hard than too easy given the capacity crowds and the hot weather.
But there is a history to the crackdown that the Barmy Army and spectators generally should have appreciated.
Cricket Australia threatened to take one day internationals away from the Gabba after some appalling crowd behaviour in recent years. It demanded that Queensland Cricket get tough – and get tough it did.
The credibility of the crackdown took a battering during the afternoon tea break on day one when the Coodabeen Champions were the official entertainment, funded by Cricket Australia and sponsors, with songs uncomplimentary of the bathing habits of the English (among other things). The entertainment was changed by Day Two.
So it is on to the picturesque Adelaide Oval on Friday. The revenue of the Barmy Army awaits – the open terraces of Adelaide Oval will prevent the Army being split up.
I’m sure the South Australian fans who have already ensured the Second Test is a sellout can hardly wait!