There are a few reasons why the Englishmen should return for the Tests, but good security might not be one of them. Some of the instances before the Mumbai attacks with respect to stadium, hotel and airport security are laughable, on a brighter day.

The level of security in various stadiums across India seems to depend upon the mood of the men assigned the job. While general public frisking is just blatantly unfair on all involved, the worrying part is that there are hardly any alternatives. At any ground, during a One-dayer, a low-cost gate draws a minimum of 10000 people. How many policemen man that gate? About 10, 20 maybe. How many frisk these 10000 people? About 2, or 3. Add some volunteers who help out identify potential drunkards and flame-litters, and thats about that.

There is a police control room which has one or two guys monitoring the CCTV footage from a few cameras. Policemen inside the ground act more as fans than law-keepers. In Delhi, during the third Test against Australia, the television crew entered the ground fairly easily on the first three days. On the last two days of the Test, a weekend it might have been, there was unprecedented security. We had to lay bare our bags and wallets as one policeman after another went through the myriad contents. Having had no warnings of this, I had packed it with a Rubik cube, a DVD pouch, a smiley ball, a magnificently-smelling soap I had flicked from the hotel room, my Minolta SLR with a dying battery among many other things.

The Rubik cube went through two rounds of bewildered looks, the DVD pouch was referred to a higher authority, the smiley ball escaped punishment, the magnificently-smelling soap was stripped of its beautifully-textured cover and smelt and I was told that these days bombs come in cameras like these SLRs. “Please take the camera out.” “Now turn it on.” “Take a picture.” “Sorry?” “Take a picture, please.” “I can’t, there isn’t any charge in the battery.” “You should charge the batteries, no.”

All this because some really high official had come visiting. The next day I went empty handed and thus escaped an encore. I felt it would be quite easy for a rich cricket board or a rich hotel to invest in a good baggage frisking machine, a-la the new airports. But I have second thoughts about it after many of my smoker colleagues complained that their lighters were picked up by the airport security while their match-boxes were cleared. Some one suggested it might have to do with the cost of the concerned products. So what if you can set the same fire with either of them!

Without a proper mechanism in place you can expect that there will be a quasi-curfew were this series to go ahead. The security apparatus will work on one bottom line, “For players, secure it, while others can just live with it.”

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