Perhaps one of the worst reasons for play to get disrupted during a cricket match is crowd violence. There has been a number of times when there was trouble on the cricket field due to a riot initiated by the crowd.While such incidents generally tend to happen when the home side is in a losing position, there have been cases where issues with the ground authorities or infighting among the crowd triggered a riot. Whatever the cause, these incidents left an indelible mark on the history of cricket.Let’s look back at some infamous instances of crowd violence which forced a match to be either abandoned or halted for a long time.
#5 Australia vs West Indies, Kingston, 1978
One of the most notorious instances of crowd violence disrupting a cricket match came about in the 5th Test of the 1978 Frank Worrell Trophy involving West Indies and Australia at the Sabina Park in Kingston. The West Indians were already leading the series 3-1 after the first four Tests of the series.
Australia played some excellent cricket throughout the Test with both bat and ball and had the opportunity to end the series on a high at 3-2. They had set the home side a target of 369 to win the Test and were on the verge of victory with West Indies on 258 for 9.
The ninth batsman to get out was Vanburn Holder, caught behind off Jim Higgs. Although the decision was a correct one and Holder was only disgusted with himself as he hit his gloves against his hip, the crowd completely misjudged his action and thought that it was a wrong decision.
What followed was a barrage of stones, bottles, chairs and other material being pelted on to the ground by the spectators. The atmosphere turned so violent that the Australian players had to be rushed to safety.
The match was declared as a draw and Australia missed out on a victory by a whisker due to the crowd’s misdeeds.
#4 Pakistan vs England, Leeds, 2001
The 2001 NatWest tri-series featuring hosts England, Australia and Pakistan was in the news less for the cricket and more for the pitch invasions, which were quite the order of the day throughout the series.
However, the worst of them came during an encounter between Pakistan and England in the round-robin stage. Waqar Younis’s stellar performance ensured that England were bundled out for a paltry 156 in their innings.
The Pakistanis never looked in trouble while chasing and were within striking distance of their target when all hell broke loose. A large bunch of over-enthusiastic fans rushed on to the pitch forcing the players to evacuate the field.
A steward bore the brunt of the unruly supporters as he was beaten up badly in an attempt to protect the stumps from them and suffered multiple injuries. Due to the incidents that had occurred, England skipper Alec Stewart hastily decided to concede the match to the opponents instead of taking the field again.
#3 India vs Sri Lanka, Kolkata, 1996
It was one of the most shameful nights in the history of Indian cricket, more so due to the riot act by the Eden Gardens crowd rather than the epic capitulation of the batting line-up in the 1996 World Cup semi-final.
Fresh from a memorable victory against arch-rivals Pakistan in the quarter-final, India were favourites to beat Sri Lanka and make it to their 2nd World Cup final. Having bowled brilliantly at the start of the Sri Lankan innings, the bowlers let the advantage slip badly and ended up conceding 251.
India’s best batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, was motoring along beautifully but a slight misbalance while trying to play a leg glance sent him packing, stumped for 65. Sachin’s dismissal sparked off a remarkable batting collapse as in a matter of overs, the Indians went from 98 for 2 to 120 for 8.
At this stage, the crowd decided that they had seen enough and something needs to be done. They vented out their frustration by throwing bottles on to the field and setting fire to the seating in the stands.
The situation was so bad that play had to be called off and the match was awarded to the Sri Lankans by default. The crowd at the Eden drew a lot of flak from all quarters for their unruly behaviour.
#2 Pakistan vs England, Karachi, 1969
Perhaps the greatest impact of a crowd riot on a cricket match came during the 3rd Test of a 3-match series between Pakistan and England at Karachi. The first two Tests of the series had ended in stalemate as the two teams collided in the decider.
Political unrest involving Pakistani students had already hindered the Tests in Lahore and Dhaka to some extent and the atmosphere was not all pleasant in the final Test too. England batted for the first 2 days of the match reaching 412 for 6 by the end of the second day’s play.
Tension was in the air as Day 3 began and the crowd gave in by the time Alan Knott was 4 short of a Test century. A riot broke as the crowd, which included the students, invaded the playing area and destroyed the pitch while also setting fire to the VIP enclosures.
The situation was so combustible that the match had to be abandoned and the English team took a flight back home on the same night.
#1 India vs West Indies, Kolkata, 1966/67
Easily the deadliest instance of crowd violence in the history of cricket came during a Test between India and West Indies at the Eden Gardens in 1967. With the mighty West Indies having taken a 1-0 lead by winning the 1st Test, the two teams met once again in the 2nd Test at Kolkata.
The background story was that the ground officials had sold off a lot of duplicate tickets in the black market resulting in a larger attendance, greater than the 80,000-capacity of the Eden. The condition was such that the spectators were almost spilling over to the field of play.
Things did not get too awry on Day 1 of the Test however, it was a period of calm before the storm. On Day 2, the crowd seating situation was even worse and prompted security personnel to commit the cardinal sin of lathi-charging people.
That was the trigger for a massive sea of people making their way onto the field and engaging in a battle with the policemen, who were badly outnumbered, and a riot ensued. The crowd uprooted bamboo poles from the makeshift stand and set the canvas roof on fire.
The turn of events ensured that there was no play on Day 2 and the next day was scheduled as a rest day. After much persuasion, the West Indies team agreed to continue with the match and inflicted an innings defeat on India.