Crowd is the indispensable element of any cricket match. They are the ones who actually make it a vivid spectacle and they are the ones who make the atmosphere electric. The nature of the crowd actually varies from country to country. The English crowd is one of the reasons why the game is called the gentlemen’s game. Gentle applaud with synchronized clap is the trademark of them. Same goes for Australia and New Zealand with occasional shout. But when it comes to sub-continent, then crowd is much more than mere clap or appreciation.
But it’s a different ball game when it comes to the crowd in subcontinent. It is often said that as a cricketer, your cricket education is incomplete if you haven’t played in front of a full house at Eden Gardens Kolkata. The crowd in subcontinent is famous for its roaring sound. The familiar acts of the crowd in are chanting for their heroes, shouting at the opposition teams and often abusing them, Passing of slogans, few of which are even impossible to describe. You would get to see them involved in very cumbersome things at times. Their anger and passion for the game would at times go to an extent whereby it becomes imperative to stop the game.
There have been many instances when the crowd has forced the interruption in the game and as described earlier, most of them have happened in sub-continent. Let’s go through few prominent of those episodes.
1. India Vs Sri Lanka in 1996 at Kolkata
Cricket is almost like religion in India and world cup is the pilgrimage occasion. And when India itself is hosting the world cup, then it becomes an ultimate festival. 1996 world cup was jointly hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The euphoria in India was unparalleled after knocking out the arch rivals Pakistan in quarter final. Pakistan was being rated as the favorites to win the world cup. So defeating them meant that Indians could smell the victory. They were to meet Sri Lanka in semifinal at the Eden Gardens Kolkata in front of ninety thousand fanatical Indian fans, who wanted nothing less than a victory.
Sri Lanka after early hick up, managed to put 251 on the board. Indians started the run chase in brilliant fashion and Sachin Tendulkar was almost unstoppable. Sachin was middling the ball and runs were coming thick and fast. India had reached at 98-1 in 22.3 overs and was well on course towards the final of the World Cup at Lahore. There were dancing in the aisles and in the streets. But none of them would have predicted the most dramatic prospect ahead of them. Sachin left his crease after nudging then ball but the ball was cleverly picked up by the Sri Lankan keeper Kaluwitharana and he stumped Sachin.
This accident created the panic not only in the Indian dressing room but also in the stands. What followed after that was, a dramatic collapse and wickets continued to tumble and the scorecard showed a dismal picture of 120-8. The crowd who had strong conviction that India would win the world cup, simply couldn’t digest the fact that there team was going out of the competition empty handed. The people in the stands started throwing bottles in the ground to interrupt the play. And this heinous act continued and a stand was set on fire by few fanatics. This was a very embarrassing situation not just for the India cricket but for the world cricket. Players were taken out of the ground and the police was called in for rescue the situation. The matters escalated to a level where the match referee Clive Lloyd had to award the game to Sri Lanka.
2. West Indies Vs Australia 1999 at Kensington Oval, Barbados
West Indian nation takes a lot of pride on their rich cricket history whose pedigree can be traced back to the likes of Sir Garfield Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Sir Vivian Richards, Malcolm Marshall and many more. And this is one of the reasons that they had a very emotional narrative towards cricket. And these emotions at time cross the lines and would damage the reputation of gentlemen’s game.
There have been few instances of crowd disturbances on Caribbean territory. This one happened in Kensington Oval at Barbados in the one day international match between Australia and West indies. West Indies were chasing a total of 253 set by the kangaroos and were going smoothly marching towards the target. At 138-1 in 29th over, Jimmy Adams called Sherwin Campbell for quick single but the bowler Brendan Julian collided with Campbell. Resultantly Campbell fell down on the ground and couldn’t complete the single hence getting run out. The crowd went absolutely wild over the instance and asking started bullying the Aussie bowler.
They were livid with the Aussies and stated chanting ‘we want Campbell’. And to make the matters worse, they started throwing wine bottles on the field. Sensing the danger, Steve Waugh took his team out of the ground. Shattered glass was lying on the field and the ground staff was called in to clear the ground. Moreover police horses also came in to dilute the tension. But amidst all this, Aussies had agreed to call back Campbell as gesture of sportsmanship. However, Sir Garfield Sobers was asked to address the crowd and calm them down by letting them know that Campbell would be called in again.
3. Pakistan Vs Sri Lanka at Colombo 2015
Normally the atmosphere between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is far away from being hostile and there is hardly any needle between the two sides. They have played a lot of series with each other in the recent past and have got along very well at each occasion. However in the summer of 2015, Pakistan toured Sri Lanka for a bilateral series. This time around, the performance of Lankan team was dismal throughout the series. In the 3rd ODI at Premedasa stadium at Colombo, Sri Lanka were chasing a stiff target of 300 plus and there batting was crumbling like a house of cards. The crowd which was already furious with their team’s performance over the past couple of months, found that as right opportunity to relive their frustration. Like traditional sub-continent crowd, bottles came out on the ground and players trying to stay away from the boundary cushions.
But more troublesome part in the whole episode was that two groups within the stands started fighting with each other and threw stones and bottles at each other. Sri Lankan police and army were called in for speedy action. The interruption lasted for some time before the game could be resorted. Pakistan went on to win the game comfortably.
4. South Africa Vs India at Cuttack 2015
In India you will always find a full house during a cricket match involving Indian team. People pay their money to watch the game and they always want their money’s worth. However if by any chance, their team does not respond in accordance with their aspirations and wishes, you would find them showing their anger at maximum amplitude. And when South Africa bowled India out for their 2nd lowest T20 total of 92, the crowd’s behavior was no exception. While South Africa was chasing a meager total, the crowd once again threw bottles on the ground to disrupt the proceedings. It eventually meant that the players had to be taken out and the police was to take the charge of the action. The discontinuity lasted for about 15 minutes before the Proteas would come back to chase the rest of the target.
5. Pakistan Vs India 1999 at Eden Gardens Kolkata
1999 was a year that came up with some innovation as far as the test cricket was concerned. First ever Asian test championship was held this year and it featured three of the Asian cricketing giants India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The event kicked off at the historic venue of Eden Gardens at Kolkata with a full house consisting of over seventy thousand fans. It was the game that will be remembered for the heroics of Javagal Srinath, Shoaib Akhtar and Saeed Anwar. It was a game in which the little master Sachin Tendulkar got out on golden duck against Shoaib Akhtar.
But apart from all this another spectacle which made the game memorable was the intervention from crowd on seeing their team about to lose the game. India were chasing on the final day of the test match and when there 9th wicket fell, the fans lost their cool and started to operate in familiar fashion by throwing bottles on the ground. The match was stopped for a while so that the authorities could take the control of the situation. This time the police showed no flexibility towards this misbehavior and expelled all the fans from the stadium and very soon the stadium which was humming with huge mass of people became absolutely deserted.Pakistan came back to finish the game and to start of the Asian test championship on the winning note.
6. West Indies Vs India at Jamaica 1989
Viv Richards is an all-time legend of the game. He is the West Indian icon who would pull the crowd in the stadium ion huge number whenever he played. People always had that sense of anticipation about their hero and they always wanted him to entertain them. Umpires had to be extra vigilant in any appeal against Sir Viv Richards because they knew that any unfair call against Viv might escalate the public emotion which might result in chaos. A thing of this sort happened in 1989 test match between India and West indies when there was a caught behind appeal against Viv by the Indian keeper Karan More and slip filed Dilip Vengsakar.
The umpire did give him out after consulting with the leg umpire. The bowl did not hit the bat and Viv indicated that he didn’t hit the ball with bat. But the umpire had made his decision so Viv had to go. The West Indian spectators were furious over the incident and threw the bottles at the umpire which almost hit one of the umpires. The crowd was not settling down and wanted their hero back. But to his credit, Viv came back to calm down the crowd and tell them to accept the umpire’s verdict.
7. Pakistan Vs England at Leeds in 2001
Well Sub continent is not the only place where crowd have done their bit to disrupt the game. It has happened in other parts of the world as well if the team happens to be from sub-continent. Teams like Pakistan and India generally get very good support in England. These fans are a source of great encouragement for team but quite often these people bring utter disgrace to their country by doing some seriously bad stuff. These incidents not only happen when the team losing but even if the team is winning. These people often try to run into the ground and want to capture the stumps and celebrate the victory of their team. Similar thing happened in Headingly Leeds in 2001 where Pakistan was nearing a victory over England. Even though Pakistan had not yet completed the win but were still eager to run all across the ground and celebrate the win. This situation indeed becomes very dangerous for player who had no option but to run towards to the change room for safety.