We have relatives visiting us from Singapore, and we’ve got tickets booked for the Boxing day Test.
But the plan today was to go to the Werribee Zoo. Nice warm day, and the kids were looking forward to it. And then, last night I got a mail from Cricket Australia (the Australian Cricket Family, to be precise) – it talked about an event being organised where the public could meet the players between 1 and 2:30 in Melbourne.
My wife’s nephew (age: 13) from Singapore was really excited. The zoo was suddenly a boring place, and he wanted to go see the Australian and Indian players – get some autographs and just see them up close. So, the plan to go to the zoo was suddenly dropped, and we decided to go see the players instead.
We reached the place around 12:45 only to find a huge line already in place to meet the players. It was announced that the players would make their way at around 1:30 and advised people to stand in line if they wanted to see them close.
FAIL #1: The sun was beating down and there was no shade – families probably didn’t expect a huge line and were clearly not prepared for this. There was a time when CA promoted the Slip-Slop-Slap campaign, but this time they just didn’t care. Excited kids just ignored the hot sun and UV rays to just stand in line to get a chance to see their cricketing idols close up. Any shop nearby selling sunscreen and a hat would have probably made a killing, but would you risk losing your place in that big line to go get it? Probably not. And we stayed on too…
FAIL #2: There was an announcement that if you were a Vodafone customer, you could get into the VIP area and meet the players before the others – all you had to do was show your phone. I decided to give up my place in the queue, pulled out my phone and ran ahead. When I got there, they said, come around the other side. But when we did get there (along with a few others), they said – “Sorry! Too many people – We aren’t letting anyone in.” Talk about chaos.
FAIL #3: We were now ahead in the queue, thanks to the Vodafone announcement, and I bumped into my friend’s son who was standing right behind me. He said he had been standing there from 11:00 am, and he thought it wasn’t fair that they let a few people ahead of him. I agreed with him, but selfishly stood my ground – I just wanted the 13yo to be in with a chance to get his autograph.
FAIL #4: When the players eventually arrived, we couldn’t even get a glimpse of some of the players. We could have given up our spot and gone to the front of the stage and lose our spot or stay put and hope we get a closer look. We decided not to give up our spot in the line. The whole setup was flawed.
The awesome view (not) from where we were standing.
FAIL #5: The players that turned up for Australia were Clarke, Ponting, Hussey, Warner and the two Victorians – Siddle and Pattinson. Good choice. For India, the players that turned up were Dravid, Zaheer Khan, Kohli, Ojha and Saha. Apart from Dravid and Zaheer Khan, the others wouldn’t even be known to the Australian public. I am sure CA would have tried their best to get the better known players in Australia – Sehwag, Laxman – or even Tendulkar. But none of them turned up. Arguably though, this is more meant for the Australian public than the Indian supporters (although the Indians probably outnumbered them 3 to 1) and the aim is to get the popular Aussie players not the Indian ones. I still classify this as a FAIL.
FAIL #6: By the time we got up close to the stage, the players had already left. So, there was no seeing players in close or getting autographs. At least getting so close to the stage, we realised that the players had left, but there was no announcement. I decided to leave, but most people were just hanging around in the line.
The media got their coverage of a few Indian fans turning up and cheering for their team and CA would have patted themselves in the back of another well organised event. But talk to the fans, and they were just left fuming and annoyed.
I was a little bit embarrassed by the whole event as I had had earlier told my relatives from Singapore that CA was very professionally run unlike BCCI, but the show they put up was anything but…
Rather than just criticise CA, I would like to suggest a few things to make the event better the next time around (the event is a great idea, just not executed well) –
- Give out a finite number of tickets – just don’t let people queue up and be disappointed after waiting a few hours. Use some kind of queue management system that dispenses tickets so that we have first in, best dressed without the actual standing-in-line part.
- Get some shade for the Aussie families and the kids coming out to see the cricketers. Or put in a covered place. I am sure CA can afford it. It would have been worse if there was heavy rain.
- I am sure Vodafone as a sponsor wanted to give their subscribers a better opportunity to view the cricketers, but this shouldn’t be done in this chaotic fashion. Run some kind of contest or something.
- Set up the “Meet the players” in such a way that all the people who come over can actually get a good view of the players and feel satisfied.
- Don’t get unknown players from the opposite camp to just make up the numbers. (No offence to Saha, Ojha and Kohli – we all know who you are, but the Aussies just don’t know)
- Get players to mingle with the crowd a little bit, just not sit on stage and sign autographs.