Cricket: No segregation of fans

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SECURITY WILL be at its tightest when India meet Pakistan in Manchester next week, according to the World Cup organisers.

Police and stewards are braced to ensure border tensions that have flared this month between the two nations over Kashmir do not spill out in the stands at Old Trafford next Tuesday.

Pakistan's team manager, Zafar Altaf, who was at Buckingham Palace yesterday when the two teams met for a lunch hosted by the Queen, suggested individual fans should be given the responsibility of looking after small groups of spectators so that any trouble could be nipped in the bud. "We need a different approach," he said. "Cricket should not be discredited at Old Trafford. Unfortunately there is an unfinished agenda at home, but what we are concerned about is the spirit of the game. The two teams know each other so well."

Police said they had consulted Lancashire County Cricket Club and local community leaders "to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all fans". They will be using crowd control methods honed over many years of policing huge numbers of football fans attending home games at Manchester United.

"Appropriate resources will be available to meet any eventuality that might arise," a police spokesman said. "We police United all the time so we are used to dealing with big events."

Organisers had consulted widely with police, stewards and safety officers to ensure that "security will be at its tightest", a tournament spokeswoman said.

There would, however, be no attempt to separate Indian and Pakistani fans as all 22,000 tickets had been sold, most of them some time ago, to people who did not know which teams they would be watching at this stage in the competition.

The organisers have already said that any banners with political slogans will not be allowed into the ground. They have also made clear that they will evict from the ground anyone who invades the pitch.

It is a pitch invasion that the cricketers fear the most. The India captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, has already said: "It's not the Pakistan players we fear, but the fans."

The England captain, Alec Stewart, and his batsmen have come under fire from the South African paceman Allan Donald after their early departure from the World Cup.

Donald said that Stewart was guilty of making a "major blunder" when he decided not to bat after winning the toss in Sunday's make-or-break match against India at Edgbaston. The Warwickshire player also accused the England batsmen of being intimidated by the Indian fans and of throwing in the towel once Graham Thorpe had been controversially given out lbw.

Donald, who has just published his autobiography White Lightning, said: "I can't believe that Alec didn't choose to bat first on Saturday. The conditions were perfect for putting a lot of runs on the board. I know Edgbaston from years of experience and I could have told Alec that when you win the toss on a beautiful morning like that one was, then you bat. By the time England had got in, the conditions had changed and the ball was doing all kinds of silly things."

As for England's abject batting surrender in an Indian dominated atmosphere, Donald said: "It was like Calcutta out there and England couldn't handle the pressure."

He added: "The Graham Thorpe lbw decision was a shocker. It affected the England dressing-room because the England batsmen lost all sense of purpose once Thorpe had gone.

"Graeme Hick is an unbelievably good player but you could see from the look on his face that he was done for before he took guard. When he walked out and saw the Rae Bank Stand packed with Indian supporters, he must have thought he was in Calcutta. A couple of balls later Graeme played a nothing shot and dragged the ball on. Losing Thorpe was the biggest blow. When he went, England's confidence drained away."