American Ryder Cup supporters are “arguably the most obnoxious crowd in sport”, says Oliver Brown in The Daily Telegraph. At the 1999 event, US fans chanted “kill, kill” and “bring out the body bags”. In 2012 at Medinah, their “sinister excesses” were hardly curbed by Team Europe’s badges in honour of Seve Ballesteros, who had died of brain cancer 16 months earlier. They simply yelled, “F*** you, Seve.” At this year’s Whistling Straits fairways in Wisconsin, commando units of “star-spangled ultras” are already roaming through the crowds. The welcome party they have planned “would make a Texan cage fight look genteel”.
Europeans never harangue Tiger Woods. But it didn’t help when, five years ago, Pete Willett, brother of Masters champion Danny, wrote an article suggesting that Europe needed to “silence the pudgy, basement-dwelling irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and p***y beer, pausing between mouthfuls of hot dog so they can scream ‘Baba booey’ until their jelly faces turn red”.
Team Europe has tried to “dilute the antagonism” this time, especially since their own “European diehards” are stuck at home due to Covid restrictions. As pre-emptive strikes go, mounting the first tee with blocks of imitation cheese on their heads – a nod to the supporters of the local NFL team the Green Bay Packers – was a masterstroke. So far all they’ve suffered is a shout of “Need some potassium, Rory?” when Rory McIlroy ate a banana. Hold fire on those “Welcome to hell” banners for now.
Cancelled tours shame NZ and UK cricket boards
So Pakistan is cricket’s “no-go area” again, says Al Jazeera. A sense of déjà vu swept the country last Friday when New Zealand abruptly cancelled its first Pakistan tour in 18 years, citing a “specific” and “credible” security alert – with the Taliban sweeping neighbouring Afghanistan. Then, on Monday, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) pulled the plug on its men’s and women’s tour, citing not only security concerns, but also mental health.
Cricket-crazy Pakistan feels like “the rug has been pulled out from under our feet”. Shunned by all after the deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore, it has played its home matches in the UAE without fan support and earned the Pakistan Cricket Board little in the way of revenue. “NZ just killed Pakistan cricket,” tweeted former Test bowler Shoaib Akhtar.
It’s shoddy stuff from England too, says Mike Atherton in The Times. What they were calling “the big season in Pakistan” – with visits from New Zealand, England, the West Indies and Australia, the most high-profile season since international cricket returned there three years ago – is in tatters. Now Pakistan’s game is facing bankruptcy. There’s no security threat, says Atherton, it would have been “front and centre of any press release” had there been so. In a tough twist for the ECB, Christian Turner, the British high commissioner in Islamabad, said the British High Commission “supported the tour”, “did not advise against it on security grounds” and that the “travel advice for Pakistan has not changed”. His clear and unequivocal statement put the ECB to shame.
The excuse being given may be “player welfare”, but many English cricketers, particularly at county level, are fresh and ready to go. To cite Covid fatigue, too, is to have a short memory of what Pakistan went through in England last summer at the height of the pandemic, which helped save the professional game from financial catastrophe. At the time of Pakistan’s arrival last year, Covid death rates in this country were the third-highest in the world. The sense of anger and betrayal in Pakistan is real and understandable. “It is hard to blame them.”
Say again? Cricket’s terminology goes batty
The ancient term “batsman” is being replaced in the laws of cricket by the revolting word “batter”, says Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph. But why? Women have quite happily played cricket since Victorian times and have accepted its terminology quite willingly, without apparent harm. It’s hardly a seismic change, says Alison Mitchell. High-profile cricketers such as Jos Buttler, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Joe Root have been using “batter” interchangeably in the men’s game for years. We already have a bowler and a fielder – a batter is a natural extension of that. It sounds to me like the MCC is trying to shed its image of being populated entirely by “elderly men huffing and puffing about the good old days”, says Heffer. But such people have as much of a right to exist as anyone else. The MCC is going to struggle to convince the rest of us to accept its “groupthink”. There will be legions of cricket lovers of both genders through whose lips the abomination “batter” will never pass so long as we live.