Don Topley: Empty seats, ball warnings and England upset – the World Cup so far!
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In his latest column, Don Topley shares his views on the Cricket World Cup so far...
Many television viewers have expressed their disappointment at the number of empty seats at some of the recent World Cup games. Of course, it is disappointing to see so many seats seemingly empty, but in reality they aren't actually vacant.
Many have been bought by the corporate fraternity where it is a wonderful way to enjoy the day's cricket, with breakfast on arrival, before play commences.
An early three course lunch is offered before the innings interval and those lunches can still be going on well into the second innings. Add the late afternoon sandwiches and cakes, and one can see how the corporate fraternity have acquired the name of "the Prawn Sandwich brigade." Remember, they do pay for this opportunity. This privilege also allows for an additional seat inside the stand or in an adjacent entertainment suite where there are tv screens available to view the action in comfort.
It has been reported by the ICC, the World Cup organisers (but not the ECB), that a creditable 95% of the entire World Cup ticket stock has been sold, which is an impressive stat.
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But that still doesn't help the fact that some grounds look sparsely populated at times, as spectators also leave their seats for a number of comfort breaks, as well as meeting up and chatting with old cricketing friends - we all do that!
Another contentious issue remains the age-old problem of ball tampering. Ok, there's no sandpaper on the field or a chainsaw used on the ball, but there is no smoke without fire!
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Pakistan and England were spoken to by the two vastly experienced umpires - Marais Erasmus and Sundaram Ravi - in England's recent World Cup defeat by Pakistan.
Both teams were guilty of throwing and bouncing the ball in from the boundary which helps the deterioration of the ball, and aids reverse swing, which is a great asset for any fast bowler.
Remember, the balls used are currently only ever 25 overs old, as today they use two balls, one from each end. I hope the ICC return in due course to just one ball per innings to help the bowler in the fine balance of bowler vs batsman.
To be honest all teams in international and even county cricket try to encourage ball deterioration, and there is always some natural wear when the balls hit concrete concourses, brick walls and modern digital advertisements.
However, bouncing the ball in on dry and abrasive cricket squares is hugely helpful as it also helps it to become soft.
They are reminded by umpires regularly that the ball should only bounce once on the trajectory from fielder to wicketkeeper. I feel it's similar to that of speeding in your car - we all do it a bit, but just don't get caught!
Or, in professional football, the referee could adjudge a free kick or penalty at every corner of any game, when tugging of the shirt occurs or that 'little push' on the opponent - just don't get caught!
I said in this very column last week, don't judge the recent ODI series v Pakistan which England won 4-0. Pakistan can be dangerous with their street fighting cricket.
As soon as they field well - which they didn't in the ODIs - they can win games, especially with the three quality cricketers added to their squad.
England fast bowler, Mark Wood, was offered up for interview following England's surprise defeat and confirmed: "We have a huge target on our backs and everyone wants to beat us."
In reality, every side not only wants to beat the hosts, but also the clear favourites.
England will now need their head coach's relaxed composure in the dressing room as well as his authority.
Trevor Bayliss will leave his England role following The Ashes and some feel his imminent departure has already diluted his role of late - I totally disagree. Now that every team knows England are fallible, Bayliss' calming influence and unruffled approach is vital.
Surprisingly, fielding let England down last Monday, but they will have since worked tirelessly on that aspect of their game. Many of the squad have had two days off before they reconvene in Cardiff in anticipation of tomorrow's important match v Bangladesh.