The great thing about the ICC deciding the World Cup should be held in England was the easy access to tickets. However, regardless of the spiel that the ICC gave about burgeoning ticket sales, there have been empty seats in practically all of the stadiums – perhaps a backfire of charging an arm-and-a-leg for England games.
With the two gold gooses of cricket being England and India, with Pakistan and then Bangladesh probably third and fourth, I had expected the strong Asian community in our isle to snap up every seat – especially as tickets for some games are quite reasonable. Never mind.
Taking advantage of those easiness of tickets was little old me, who bought one £20 ticket to my favourite ground – Trent Bridge – for the non-drinking section of the ground (as a non-drinker, that was fine by me) to see Australia play the West Indies.
A few days beforehand I’d seen Pakistan play the Windies at the same ground and it had been a disaster. My loving wife gave me a 2-hour lift on the dreaded M1 to Nottingham, and then went off to Derby. I ended up taking a train to Derby after the game finished as early as 2.30pm. She was livid I turned up so early, and so was I.
With the guarantee of sunshine, Chris Gayle, and a closer match, I was excited to get a second bite at the cherry. It was then that I noticed something which had escaped me on my first short-lived trip: Trent Bridge had ceased to be a cricket ground and had morphed into a supermarket.
Notts were told to cover one of stand names in ICC garb to make sure that the stand sponsor (and Nottingham CC sponsor) John Pye Auctions didn’t get any publicity. Access to the Trent Bridge Inn – the place for a lunchtime beverage during an innings break – was closed off by the sort of barrier Donald Trump would’ve been proud of. Presumably because someone had paid an arm and a leg for beer rights.
Oh, and speaking of Donald Trump, it was harder to leave the venue (to hit the pub) than stay in it, thanks to electronic coding. Sadly, the stewards thought they were the INS, eschewing any of the joy that makes Trent Bridge matches so special. Normally it’s very welcoming and relaxed.
The pitch was even worse. It was adorned by ‘ICC partners’ – including Coca-Cola, who wanted to make damned sure that no-one was going to drink any other fizzy pop (props to the Pakistan fans who rolled in with DIET PEPSI CANS). The giant Coke billboard clearly wasn’t for the fans, but (obviously) for the TV.
And then there were the off-the-pitch activities. Every five minutes it seemed you were told to jump up, wave at this, scream at that – all because the ICC wanted someone to do that at the behest of a sponsor.
Look, we didn’t mind the ‘hydration break’ (sponsored Powerade, the piss-poor version of Gatorade), because that happens at test matches. We don’t mind an Arab airline sponsoring the big screen so we could tell who was out and not out. We get corporate sponsorship because that’s what happens during other sports. We get it: In our consumerist society people are going to try and sell you ****, and you get on with it.
However, during cricket matches getting overly advertised to is an absolute pain-in-the-ass. It was like the ICC had looked at the IPL and thought: “How can we make this EVEN MORE ANNOYING?” without the cars, cheerleaders and stupid time-outs?
Well, somehow they managed it. Every two or three overs, it was imperative that people were told to jump up and down to get their faces on a camera. Or wave their sponsored ‘4’ and ‘6’ signs. Or show who you were supporting by ‘yays’ and ‘nays’. It got so aggravating that my next-door neighbour took great joy when I muttered: “Shut up. Just shut the **** up”.
Then there were the ‘best-dressed fans’, who got a £50 gift voucher (probably to spend at the ICC club shop). Then there was the Brian May impersonator playing a PURPOSE BUILT Gray-Nicolls cricket bat/guitar. Apparently he’s an actual guitarist – or so an ICC worker involved in the off-field shenanigans told me. And finally there was the bloke who’d given his height in cider cans. It just didn’t stop.
Thankfully the game itself was fantastic. Australia looked like they were going to get wiped off the face of the earth until Steve Smith, Alex Carey and Nathan Counter-Nile rescued them. And then the Windies – who had looked comfortable – started to look less like a team of World Cup players than a team full of IPL players (Shai Hope apart).
Cricket is a great game. It just doesn’t need the extras.