India v Pakistan, Sahara Cup, 2nd match, 1997

Eyewitness accounts of the Inzamam incident

September 16, 1997

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Three CricInfo readers were seating in the section that was the site of the Inzamam-ul-Haq incident on Sunday. As such they had a much better view of the proceedings, and what led up to it than many in the press box. We bring you their accounts below. The conflicting accounts show how confusing it has been to gain an accurate picture of what happened.

Firstly from George Heard.

This is a personal account (written the following day) of the incident at the second Sahara Cup match between India and Pakistan at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling club. I apologise for anything left out, and especially if I have any of the players' names wrong.

We had pretty good seats in one of the stands around the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling club. We were pretty much surrounded by Indian fans, and sitting right at fine leg. There was a guy behind us with a megaphone who was cracking up all the Indian fans by making jokes about the players and leading chants. I don't speak any Hindi (apologies again if he was speaking Urdu), so I had to rely on occasional translations from three guys sitting in front of me.

Fast-forward to the Pakistan innings... while Inzamam was batting, the megaphone guy was calling him fat and telling him to stop feeling himself between balls. He gave the guy a few glares.

Now here comes the Indian innings. Hasan Raza came to field at fine leg. The megaphone guy was telling him that if he wanted a beer, we'd buy him a beer (Raza is 16). Inzamam was fielding at slip, and the megaphone guy was calling him fat and every time he put his hands on his hips, was calling out that Inzamam was feeling the potatoes in his stomach (thanks to the guy sitting in front of us who did some translating).

India had an easy chase. Saba Karim (the wicketkeeper) went out early (good, I wanted to see Tendulkar). Ganguly and Dravid had put on 50, and the game was pretty much over. The real excitement was this guy with the megaphone cracking up everyone in our stand.

Then the Pakistan 12th man came out with some equipment and sat in front of our stand on the grass... next thing we know, Inzamam charges across the field, jumps over the small fence separating the ground from the stands, climbs up through the crowd, and grabs the megaphone and starts thumping the guy. Then he runs back down to the ground, grabs a bat off the 12th man (Mohammad Hussain, from the cricket record), comes back into the crowd and starts swinging the bat at fans. Police charge around and into the stand and grab Inzamam and start dragging him off. The guys in the stand are hurling things at Inzamam, and then fights break out. Michaele and I decide this is not a nice place to be, and we try to pick our way out of the crowd... both umpires (Steve Randell and Steve Bucknor) come over to try and calm things down, then lead the players off the ground.

Mic and I have made our way out of the stand - the police are standing with their weapons around the edge of the field now. There's some fights going on - a few guys had charged on to the ground after Inzamam and were being cuffed. We stood by the TV area and watched, along with a few other people from the stand who escaped.

Madan Lal comes out with a megaphone to try and calm the crowd down. He seems to be doing OK, when the police came and told Mic and I to go back to our seats, and once everyone was seated, the game will start again. We said we didn't want to go back to our seats because they were in that stand. So we were given new seats in a stand right on midwicket. The crowd were calmed down ... the announcers said they were going to get the game started ... the umpires came out, and the players came on ... Inzamam is back on the field!

The stand starts up again, hurling stuff onto the ground. The next few overs were played with six policemen standing on the ground at fine leg/long off, facing the crowd (Rameez Raja came down to field a ball and got booed, but nothing was thrown at him). There's a long chant, something about Inzamam. He took a catch at first slip to get Ganguly out and was booed. Tendulkar and Azharuddin eventually won the game for India, but it was definitely the weirdest thing I'm likely to ever see at a cricket game. After a few overs, the police left the ground and stood beside the stand.

To editorialize a little, Inzamam should no way have done what he had done, but I think there should have been something done about the guy with the megaphone. He was on Inzamam's case from the very first time he took to the field. He was making some comments about Ganguly (who gave him dirty looks while fielding at fine leg), Raza (who took this all pretty well and ended up a crowd favourite in front of the stand), and Malik (who wasn't ever on our side of the ground and probably didn't hear him). However the constant badgering of Inzamam was probably grounds for one of the staff to ask him to turn off the megaphone. The sound must have been very clear on the ground, since Inzamam while batting and Randell while umpiring at square leg acknowledged things that were said. The crowd in the stand were mainly showing off for the cameras, although there were a few legitimate fights, most of it seemed to be about getting on TV (there was some real showboating when a local cameraman climbed into the stand in the middle of the fuss ... the police had words with him afterwards, and I didn't get to see his station's news reports, so I don't know if any of his mid-crowd footage was aired), but the behaviour isn't going to help Vision 2000 or the profile of cricket in Canada at all. Bringing Inzamam back onto the ground was a big mistake, and nearly sparked the crowd off to something dirty again. It may have been the case that with Kabir Khan injured there was no member of the Pakistan team who could have fielded in his place. Madan Lal did an impressive job as a peacemaker, although the police didn't want him getting involved. Why a bat was allowed to be brought to in front of the fence is beyond me.

I hope this incident can be largely ignored for the rest of the Sahara Cup matches, and the rest of the games played in good spirit, good weather and good cricket. It was an excellent day to be watching cricket.

Amol was stting close to George Heard. This is extracted from his comments on the internet relay chat channel cricket.

On the atmosphere in the crowd before the incident: There was no potential for trouble whatsoever for two days, between the fans - not even half an incident, very amicable. We had been listening to this guy with the loudspeaker for two days. I spoke a few words with him the first match. He said almost nothing obscene, as far as I can remember, irritating as hell, when you're losing, of course, mocking stuff. I was 10 yards away and it wasn't ear shattering - the whistles from other people were worse. I told my friend to talk to him on the first day as the "pakistan...pooooo" was getting boring after three or four years and he did cut down on that later. He had this whistle-like sound he made with his lips into the megaphone. "Paoooooooo". It caused no problems in the crowd - nothing anywhere close to tension. We had Pakistanis sitting two rows behind us - he was getting on their nerves, sure. He was mocking, taunting, but it was to fans, more than players, really. Especially when you live in the USA, you see worse abuse between players at high school level - I've heard far worse abuse than this at college and school level cricket in Bombay. He was the class clown type.

For long periods first day, he was singing bits of old Hindi TV commercials from back in the 80's which went down very well with the audience - he did the Zandu Balm song and the Nirma washing-powder song. I didn't hear a word about the families of players, there was not a word of obscene stuff. Inzi was called "aloo" (potato) for two days but frankly, he was hardly targeted. I can't even think what sparked Inzi at that time.

Hassan Raza was fielding three feet from me - this same loudspeaker guy was teasing him all the time. He's a great kid - the crowd talked to him and about him far more than Inzi, and he was great with it. He almost got adopted by the section. They asked him in Hindi to let them know if he wanted a beer and he burst out laughing. Saqlain was fielding three feet from us the first day. He was signing autographs for us between balls, and talking. Not one Pakistani who was on the boundary complained in two days. Inzamam didn't move from slip in two days -he didn't once field in the outfield

His view of the incident itself: I was about 10-15 yards from the guy with the megaphone. Inzamam slowly jogged up towards our area. We thought he was going to field there - he'd been fielding in the slips up to then. I even turned to my friend and said: "Hey, he's fielding here, we should get a picture" and then boom, he was sprinting up the stands. So he charges up the stands, grabs the guy, pushes him then swings at him, misses i think, tries to hit him again (obscured view,mostly) being held back by a fan wearing a Michigan shirt (who told us some of this later). Then he grabs hold of the guy, and drags him down stairs. He's held back again so jumps back over the 2.5 ft high boundary fence back to field, picks up bat and swings it above his head, trying to go at him with it. The bat was brought out to the fine leg area and was kept there, one over previously, by the Pakistan 12th man - well, that's what I was told by the guys there. I hadn't noticed the bat was brought out earlier, but no Pakistan players were around there when Inzamam charged, really and it happened too fast. There's no way a 12th man could have got from the pavilion to that spot with a bat in that short a time.

After the incident: There was almost a riot after the attack - incredibly volatile for a few moments. Almost the entire section said they wouldn't allow the game to continue unless Inzamam apologized in person. I was one of the few people running around shouting at them to settle down and the only reason people listened, was that I explained that the only reason Inzamam had attacked was to get the game to be abandoned, as Pakistan were losing! The two guys arrested fought each other, three yards from me. One of them was bodily tossed over the 2.5 ft barrier by a couple other guys landed on his face, was handcuffed behind his back and he was led off. There is no way the game could have continued right then, no matter what the police did - it barely could continue 30 minutes later - and there only were about four cops. After the incident, there was not a hint of crowd trouble between fans.

There was no reason to bring Inzamam back in to field, after the incident - that was what almost caused the riot - as the crowd was told that he would be disqualified, even though he wasn't apologizing.

Another account from Virendra Mane.

I had a seat in the same stand where the spectator with a megaphone was booing and cracking jokes on Inzamam. The stand is located at fine leg when the bowling is from Wilson Avenue end. The stand was mostly occupied by Indians supporters but there were considerable number of Pakistan supporters ... in fact I was surrounded from all sides with them.

Since the morning this spectator was shouting some thing or the other to all the players who were fielding near our stands. He was not at all abusive or did not pass on any ugly comments. In fact, the Indian players Debashish Mohanty, Sourav Ganguly and Abi Kuruvilla, who fielded at this position, appreciated some of the comments made by this spectator. When Mohanty was drinking "Diet Coke", this guy remarked - "you are too thin to drink diet coke", and Debashish smiled back. I disagree with George Heard, in his article he mentioned that Ganguly gave the guy dirty looks. Neither ugly/obscene comments were made to Ganguly nor gave dirty looks. He was always cheered and also was laughing at the jokes.

When Inzamam was batting, some remarks were made on him too. Inzamam in turn stared at this guy - maybe this added fuel to the verbal attack on Inzamam. At the time of Indian batting, Hassan Raza fielded all the time in front of our stand. He was the player who got most of the jokes cracked on him. Once in a while Inzamam was called "aloo". These jokes, remarks, were enjoyed even by the Pakistani supporters too.

In the drinks interval, I went near the fence to take a picture of Hasan Raza, as I thought the photo will come out well when he is coming back. But to my surprise, he went to the opposite end and Inzamam started running towards the fence. The crowd thought he is coming just to answer this guy and have some more fun and everybody initially appreciated his gesture by clapping.

But suddenly he jumped over the fence near me, went straight up, jumping over the seats (there were no steps to climb at this place). Got hold of the guys shirt, started thumping him and pulled him back down to the ground. The Pakistan 12th man had brought a bat from the pavilion just before the drinks interval and had kept it right on the fence. Inzamam picked this bat and swung it fiercely towards the guy's head, but he ducked down and was saved. I think, the bat struck the megaphone in his hands, and it felt down on the ground. Inzamam swung the bat again, but this time he was pulled back by two policemen (might be stadium security also). By this time the crowd recovered from the shock of what was happening and started shouting against Inzamam and Pakistan. Inzamam, was still trying to come back but he was taken back forcibly by the police officers.

The Canadian police, unaware of the reasons for the scuffle, tried to calm down the crowd. The spectators were only demanding apologies from Inzamam. A couple of spectators threw water bottles in the ground, but they were stopped immediately. I was one of the people who stopped the spectators from throwing debris in the ground. What we have done in Calcutta is enough and should not be repeated.

The players went back in the pavilion and umpire Steve Bucknor came to this stands, he tried to calm down people, but was not listening to anybody. I tried to tell him that a bat had been brought to the stands but he did not reply at all, Maybe he was not able to hear me.

After some time Madan Lal did a good job of calming the crowds. Later on, the megaphone guy was taken in to the pavilion, I think, to talk with officials. When he returned back, he was told to sit in another stand.

The ugly incident should not have happened at all, but henceforth, care should be taken to avoid them. Not allowing megaphones in stadium is not going to help, sure it would reduce the distance at which the noise can be heard. The players on the boundary lines are were close and often are targets to such jeering or many times good jokes/appreciation.

The two matches have been played in a very relaxed atmosphere, there was not a single incident between Indians and Pakistanis. Everybody was very friendly yes, they were supporting their teams, but not hurting anybody personally. A small incident went unnoticed, Izaz Ahmed showed "middle finger" to the people shouting "Jeetega bhai Jeetega ...". The players should either ignore the comments or respond to them sportingly so that no negative comments will be made. Finally, we should forget what have happened and should enjoy the remaining matches.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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