Crowd policing close-up
It's been an extraordinary couple of days since I arrived in Bangalore with the England team.
Thursday morning began with a pleasant interview with batsman Ravi Bopara in the serene garden of the opulent team hotel. Fifteen minutes later I was on the side of a clogged road outside the Chinaswammy Stadium, looking across six chaotic lanes of cars, tuk tuks, vans and buses, at an astonishing line of men all waiting to buy tickets to see India take on England in the World Cup.
I negotiated the traffic to cross the road and began speaking to the people in the queue, which snaked around the perimeter of the stadium. Some had been waiting in line since 4am; those nearer the front of the queue had pitched up the night before.
This was nothing new, as I've seen queues outside cricket grounds before in India that stretch as far as the eye can see, notably in Indore when England toured in 2008. I've even read newspaper reports of "lathi charges" but as a mere cricket reporter it was altogether different seeing it first hand.
The police presence got heavier the closer I got to the ticket booths, and they used their long bamboo sticks (lathi) to beat back anyone who fell out of line. Rumours were flying of serious injuries earlier in the day when the booths first opened at 830am, causing a crush as the fans surged forward.
As I watched, the queue swelled on the pavement and people were six or seven deep, jammed up against the concrete perimeter wall of the stadium, some falling off the pavement into the busy road.
It was a chaotic scene, with police wielding their sticks and laying several blows to keep the crowd under control, but they also seemed to be plucking people out of the line fairly indiscriminately to give them a whack.
Those people may have been queue-jumpers, it was impossible to know. However there was certainly more than one person who claimed he had queued diligently since the early hours, only to feel the force of a bamboo cane across his forearm and the chance of a ticket gone.
At a bizarre media conference on Friday morning, we heard from Bangalore's police commissioner, Shankar Bidri, who defended the actions of his force. Questions from English journalists about the aggressive tactics used were met with a degree of mirth from both the commissioner and many local journalists, as he explained that this is simply what happens in India.
"People were falling over each other and there was a likelihood of stampede, therefore our people intervened. This is nothing new," he said.
"The Indian situations and the Indian dimensions are very different. It's difficult for the people who have lived in Europe and in America to understand."
Cue sniggers from the floor, as well as from police officers flanking Mr Bidri at the top table.
Policing methods are one of the numerous cultural differences found in India, but the images that were played on TV in the UK and beyond were met with concern, and it was unnerving to be amongst it, even though I was aware that this sort of policing is standard across India.
The bigger story for the Indian newspapers is now the probability of tickets being sold on the black market due to demand far outstripping the supply of only 7,000 tickets made available at the Bangalore ticket booths. The commissioner robustly exclaimed that anyone caught at the gate with a fake or duplicate ticket would be sent to prison "for seven years!"
Policing at the stadium is being stepped up for the India-England game, but again, this is said to be nothing new, all normal procedure for a big India match. There will be 3,000 security personnel in total on match day: 2,000 policemen, 700 traffic officers and 300 men looking after the players' safety.
If you're coming to the game to support either country, the message is to get there early. Gates open at 1030am for England's most eagerly awaited match of the group stage.