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World Cricket in Chaotic Times: A List of Abandoned Cricket Tours

November 23, 2017

An Item in The Island, 18 October 2017 with the title “Wars, riots and abandoned tours”
article_image A Sri Lankan player boards a Pakistan military helicopter after terrorists opened fire on the team bus during the 2009 tour.

The dramatic announcement on Friday (October 17), that West Indies would be cutting short their tour of India because of a pay dispute, was not the first time a major international cricket series had come to an unexpected end. Here’s a snapshot of several other tours that ended abruptly in unusual circumstances.

West Indies in England, 1939: The outbreak of the Second World War saw the last seven matches of the tour cancelled, with the West Indies’ party boarding a boat in Scotland to sail back to the Caribbean.

England in Pakistan, 1968-69: Political and student unrest dogged the tour throughout, but it seemed the series would be played out to a finish when the teams arrived in Karachi for the third and final Test. However, a riot on the third morning saw the match abandoned and the series tied at 0-0 when England’s Alan Knott was 96 not out — four short of what would have been his maiden Test century.

India in Pakistan, 1984-85: The assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, sparked 13 days of national mourning and saw the final three matches cancelled.

New Zealand in Sri Lanka, 1986-87: The hastily arranged tour comprising three Tests and four One-Day Internationals was called off during the first Test after a car bomb exploded near the New Zealand team hotel in Colombo, killing many people. [an error here .. see NOTE at end]

New Zealand in Pakistan, 2002:  The tour was originally scheduled to take place in September 2001 but was called off for security reasons after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States of America. Instead, New Zealand toured Pakistan in April 2002 for three ODIs and two Tests. A bomb blast outside the New Zealand team hotel shortly before the start of the second Test in Karachi immediately cut short the tour. It was also the last time New Zealand toured Pakistan.

South Africa in Sri Lanka, 2006: South Africa were in Sri Lanka for two Tests, and India were supposed to join the two teams for an ODI tri-series. But a bomb exploded outside the South African team hotel before the start of the tri-series, following which, after two days of deliberation, South Africa eventually decided to pull out. India stayed on to play a three-match bilateral ODI series, which eventually couldn’t get underway due to excessive rains.

Sri Lanka in Pakistan, 2008-09 Sri Lanka were travelling in their team bus on the way to the second Test in Lahore when terrorists opened fire, injuring six members of the Lankan tour party. Sri Lanka went home and no major international matches have since taken place in Pakistan because of security fears.

West Indies in India, 2014: A protracted pay dispute between the West Indies players and their own board eventually led to the tour being cut short after Friday’s fourth ODI. This followed a near player strike before the tour had even got underway, on the eve of the first ODI in Kochi, but with issues remaining unresolved, matters came to a head soon.

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 A COMMENT:  I was in Sri Lanka on a research assignment in 1986/87 and the incident that led to the abandonment of the NZ tour was the car bomb in the Pettah bus stand which killed and maimed many. Not one person felt like playing cricket in those circumstances for Sri Lankans had not yet developed a measure of sang froid in coping with the  horrors of war … so the decision to cease cricket was widely supported at the local level. The Island writer’s error on this point derives from the fact I add that a Tiger motor cycle suicide attack  killed Commodore Clancy Fernando, the Navy commander, in front of the Taj Samudra in 1992(?) the NZ cricket team were lodged.  This incident and their exposure to maimed corpses led a few NZ cricketers to leave, but the NZ board — to their credit — held sturdy and persuaded the rest of the team [plus replacements] to continue with their rejigged tour.
I was also in Lanka in August 2006 when the South Africans fled the country when they were in no danger at all. A LTTE claymore  bomb directed at the Pakistan ambassador on Green Path missed his moving car but killed commandoes in the car behind as well as one or two bystanders. The Safs were staying at the half a mile away at Cinnamon Grand — as were many athletes from Asian counties  participating in some international meet [who did not run away]. The South African Board deployed a security firm in the Middle East to provide them with the raison d’etre to depart. This was, in my assessment, a truly disgraceful act, cowardice of the first order from a people who had experience of war and internal strife. It suggests that the Black/White ruling elements in South Africa have what Edward Said would call “Orientalist” perceptions of the dangerous “East.”

2 comments

  1. The 92 Kiwi team should also be commended for their commitment to play with half the team gone. They ended up losing the Test series comprehensively, being exposed for the first time to Murali (who had just made his debut against the Aussies) and Jayananda Warnaweera. The replacements they flew down were hardly prepared for Test Cricket, leave alone the scorching conditions. For the First Test they had no regular spinner (with Deepak Patel already returned home) and their opening bowler Murphy Su’a bowled left arm spin with the old ball.

    It was also at the end of this series that Martin Crow suggested that Murali was throwing the ball. He scored a gutsy 107 in the last test. How one remembers all these details from 25 years ago!


    • Many thanks. I had forgotten such details {And I was in OZ anyway). Martin Crowe’s thinking on Murali and throwing was both died in the wool and head in the sand … and I think his Cowdrey Lecture was aflop but i am biased on this topic



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