Come and watch, but whatever you do, don't bring a Coke

World Cup Diary

Gaining entry to matches at the Eighth World Cup has become something of an art form on the rare occasions that it is not a nightmare. Authentic accreditation is obviously essential, but it is advisable to take little else apart from what you are wearing.

The banned list (something with which, say, Shane Warne would have been wise to become better acquainted) includes the usual suspects: firearms, ammunition, knives, sharp instruments, nunchaku sticks and baseball bats. Cricket bats are permitted. This sounds sensible, but does not a whack over the head from a Gunn and Moore do just as much damage as one from a baseball bat? The list is extended by fireworks, explosives, incendiary devices, flares, alcoholic drinks and, come to think of it, non-alcoholic drinks, except water up to 500ml a person.

The authorities are especially keen to protect the tournament sponsors. For instance, one company with a private box at Newlands had its supply of Coca Cola removed because Pepsi are sponsors. One chap was stopped taking in a carton of milk (proscribed under the non-alcoholic drinks regulation) and when he protested that it did not clash with any sponsor was told to go and register it. He looked at the queue and decided to have it confiscated.

The upshot is a crush outside all the big matches, which thus begin before largely empty stadiums. Ticket sales have gone well – though not as swimmingly as we were led to believe – but all in all it may be more comfortable, if not as atmospheric, watching the World Cup on the telly. Which, with a rights deal worth $550m they are desperately trying to maintain, the ICC may not mind.

Sachin up, Banglas down

There were several rivals for the biggest story of the week, though sadly Sachin Tendulkar becoming the highest World Cup run-scorer was well down the pecking order.

He overtook Javed Miandad and should keep his record for some years, since eight of the other top 10 are now retired. Brian Lara is the only other current player to make the list, moving from 11th to seventh with his 116 in the opening match.

Andrew Symonds was another who did not receive the attention he deserved. He became one of only 10 players to score a one-day hundred batting at No 6. Only Kapil Dev's remarkable 175 not out at Tunbridge Wells in the 1983 Cup (India were 9 for 4 against a Zimbabwe side captained by Duncan Fletcher) remains higher than Symonds' 143 not out.

By Friday, it is true, the cricket was gathering momentum, although Bangladesh were doing the opposite. Becoming the first side to lose three wickets to the first three balls of a match was not what the ICC had in mind when they elevated Bangladesh to full Test status three years ago.

The travel log

England went three days without practice while they were holed up in Cape Town. This was not solely because they were searching their souls about whether to play in Harare. It was because their kit was in Johannesburg, where it had been dispatched in anticipation of its owners following. Players and togs were reunited on Thursday, but only after the players spent three hours in session with the sports psychologist Steve Bull, who helped them to overcome the trauma of not playing. Of course, he may have more work to do when they actually start in the tournament.

The Australians' kit features in one of the plethora of TV adverts for the Cup. It is shown going round an airport baggage carousel in a one-horse town in Russia. "South African Airways," says the voice over, "getting you to where you want to go." And everybody in South Africa would like to see Australia heading for Novokuznetsk any day.

A welfare state

Jonty Rhodes joined Shane Warne in leaving the World Cup, and this country went into mourning. Rhodes may not have the Australian's talent, but he has matching charisma and he is a hero here.

In his last interview before the tournament in which he broke a hand, he said: "Ja, I'm down to my last layer of skin. My hands have taken a pounding, you get used to having blue fingers and ones of different sizes."

The organisers are praying for the continuing welfare of Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.

Word association

Rashid Latif of Pakistan was exonerated of a racial abuse charge last week because it could not be proved that he called Adam Gilchrist of Australia a "white c***" during their match. Only the word "white" was picked up by the stump microphone.

Whereas it could be heard plainly that Symonds called Waqar Younis "a c***" immediately after having a second beamer bowled at him. Nobody raised an eyebrow.

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