April 3, 2000

Swarm of bees halts Ranji match

A cricket match can be halted for any number of reasons - inclement weather, crowd riots, player misbehaviour. A Test match between India and Pakistan at Madras in 1961 was called off for the day because of an accidental fire in one of the stands. But certainly one of the more unusual reasons for stoppage of play is a swarm of bees. It happened once in the Test match between India and Pakistan at the KSCA stadium in Bangalore in 1979. Play was halted for several minutes on the opening day when the buzzing bees invaded the ground. The players and both umpires - MV Gothoskar and portly Swaroop Kishen - threw themselves to the ground, buried their heads face down, all the time having their hands over them for protection.

The scene was re-enacted at the MA Chidambaram stadium on Monday, the last day of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal between Tamil Nadu and Punjab. At about 11.15 am, even as Sadagoppan Ramesh and Sridharan Sharath were waging a tension filled duel for supremacy with Harbhajan Singh and company, suddenly a swarm of bees could be spotted near the stands at the pavilion end. Apparently a beehive atop the terrace stands had been inadvertently disturbed and the buzzing bees decided to have a close look at the cricket. But on the way they created havoc by stinging quite a few spectators, pressmen and photographers. All the spectators in the pavilion and the terrace ran to safer places but one spectator who was badly attacked, in desperation rushed to the field, trying to shake them off. Sensing what was happening, the eleven Punjab fielders, Ramesh and Sharath and the two umpires immediately lay prostrate on the ground, with their heads down and hands covering their ears.

Play was halted for some 20 minutes but with the bees still around, though less vicious in their attacks, the umpires had no option but to call for an early lunch. Play resumed at 12.15 pm by which time there were just a handful of bees hovering on the terrace. There were no further interruptions and Tamil Nadu coasted to victory. But the bees had caused enough panic by their brief presence.

Incidentally, last month bees caused a brief interruption of a couple of minutes during the second Test match between India and South Africa at Bangalore.