SK Flashback: When Indira Gandhi’s assassination led to India’s tour of Pakistan being cancelled mid-way

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi

31 October has a gruesome history in the Indian context. On this day in 1984, then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.

The nation was stunned into silence.

At the time of Gandhi's killing, the Indian cricket team led by Sunil Gavaskar was touring Pakistan for what was scheduled to be a three-Test and three-match ODI series. As things turned out, the second ODI was abandoned after half the game was played while one ODI and one Test were not played at all.

In case you are wondering how one Test and one ODI got cancelled, those were the days when ODIs were played in between Test matches. Thus, the series begin with the first one-day, but was followed by two Test matches. The abandoned second ODI was then played after the two five-day games, on 31 October.

As news of Gandhi’s assassination reached Pakistan, the tour was immediately called off. Here’s a recap of the tour that ended in most tragic circumstances.

Death of a tour

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar

On the day of Gandhi’s assassination, India were actually in the middle of a game. The second ODI of the series was being played at Sialkot.

India batted first in the 40-over contest, and posted a decent 210 for 3. Dilip Vengsarkar played a standout knock, making an unbeaten 94 from 102 balls. Vengsarkar was well supported by fellow Mumbaikar Sandeep Patil, who contributed 59 from 83 balls.

During the break, the news of the tragedy reached Sialkot. The match as well as the tour were abandoned immediately, and India returned home.

India were scheduled to play one more ODI in Peshawar and one more Test in Karachi.

The tour that was

Zaheer Abbas
Zaheer Abbas

The tour began with the first ODI at Quetta on 12 October. Pakistan batted first and posted 199 for 7 in 40 overs courtesy skipper Zaheer Abbas’s 55.

Naved Anjum and Manzoor Elahi also contributed crucial 30s. For India, Kapil Dev was the best bowler with 3 for 36.

In reply, India were all out for 153. Opener Surinder Khanna was the only batsmen to cross 30. Tahir Naqqash, Manzoor Elahi and Naved Anjum all claimed three wickets each for Pakistan.

The ODI was followed by the first Test at Lahore, which was played from October 17-22. Pakistan batted first and skipper Abbas led the way with a glorious 168 not out as the hosts posted 428 for 9 declared.

In reply, India crumbled from 94 for 1 to 156 all out as Azeem Hafeez ran through the Indian line-up with 6 for 46. Sunil Gavaskar top-scored for India with 48.

Mohinder Amarnath
Mohinder Amarnath

India were made to follow on, but a fighting unbeaten 101 from Mohinder Amarnath coupled with half-centuries from Ravi Shastri and Anshuman Gaekwad ensured India drew the Test. After the game, Indian skipper Gavaskar lashed out at the Pakistani umpires, alleging they favoured the home side too much.

The second Test played at Faisalabad from October 24-29 was a yawn-inducing stalemate. India batted first and posted exactly 500 as Patil and Shastri slammed centuries.

Pakistan did even better in reply. Qasim Umar made 210, Mudassar Nazar missed his double century by one run, and a young Salim Malik made an unbeaten 102. The hosts made a mammoth 674 for 6.

This was the last completed match of the tour, as it was followed by the Sialkot ODI, which had to be abandoned mid-way.

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Edited by Musab Abid