England will increase their security presence for the winter Ashes tour as a result of the inflammatory comments made by Darren Lehmann about Stuart Broad on a Melbourne radio station.
"It is utterly deplorable for any attempt to endanger the physical safety of any player of any nation whether on the pitch, the boundary, or relaxing away from the cricket," said Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, yesterday.
"It is absolutely unacceptable and we will seek the proper safety for players. I'm sure the Australian authorities want the tour to be conducted in a peaceful and jovial manner." Andy Flower, England's team director, also confirmed that there would be extra security in light of Lehmann's comments, though he also stressed how the last Ashes tour to Australia had been a good experience on and off the field.
"It's something we're taking very seriously," said Flower yesterday. "We enjoyed our tour of Australia last time, there's always a little bit of barracking and what have you. In the main it's fairly good natured and I'd hope it'll be the same this next trip." The extent of reinforcement is not yet known and the England and Wales Cricket Board will await the recommendation of Reg Dickason, its security officer.
All that a spokesperson would confirm is that there would be no budget constraints on Dickason. England usually have Dickason and one other security officer on tour with them, their duties ranging from getting the players on and off team buses, to planning the routes from the hotel to the ground, and escorting players to restaurants or on shopping trips.
The thought is there will be at least one addition to their retinue at a cost of at least 70,000 pounds. Although Flower likes his players to feel they are up against the world, he does not want them to be insular and become trapped in their hotel rooms. Added security will enable players to go out individually or in different groups.
Broad angered Australia's players and public alike when he did not walk after clearly edging the ball in the opening Test at Trent Bridge. He then tried to justify his actions in a media interview before the final Test, which provoked Lehmann into making comments for which he was later fined 2,000 pounds by the International Cricket Council. "I hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer," Lehmann said.
"And I hope he cries and goes home." Australia usually makes tourists feel very welcome - and 50,000 fans are expected for the series - but the worry is that Broad, whose 6ft 6in frame and blond hair helps him cut a distinctive figure, might be fair game for the odd patriotic "Hoon" to have a go at. It happened to John Crawley in Cairns on the 1994-5 tour when he was punched to the floor by a local man for no apparent reason other than that he looked Irish. On that same tour occupants of the MCG's infamous Bay 13 lobbed snooker balls at England's players during a one-day international there.
Australia tends to frown on such behaviour these days but the worry is that Lehmann's comments might have provided enough "incitement", in the words of the ECB, to bring them out of their lairs. Lehmann has been vilified in the Australian press.
What has not been addressed is the role of the radio stations in provoking responses like his. Lehmann spoke to Triple M but it was another station, 2Day FM, which instigated the royal prank last December when their two presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, posed as the Queen and the Prince of Wales to inquire at a clinic about the Duchess of Cambridge's morning sickness. The prank made global headlines and was followed by the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who fielded the call from the two pranksters.