Controversies in Kolkata

Riot police, fires and a sobbing Vinod Kambli

ESPNcricinfo recaps all the occasions when there has been trouble at Eden Gardens

Akhila Ranganna

January 28, 2011

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

In a major embarrassment to the BCCI and the Cricket Association of Bengal, the ICC decided that Kolkata's Eden Gardens would not be ready in time to host the marquee World Cup clash between India and England on February 27. This is not the first time that the iconic ground has been in the eye of a storm either. ESPNcricinfo takes a look at all the instances of trouble in paradise:


Fanatic Indian supporters cause a riot in the Eden Garden stands, 1st semi-final, India v Sri Lanka, Wills World Cup, Kolkata, March 13, 1996
Fans were angry after India collapsed in the 1996 World Cup semi-final at Eden Gardens
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India v West Indies, 2nd Test, 1966-67
Trouble at Eden Gardens started outside the ground after local authorities had sold more tickets than there were seats. Angry ticket-holders who were denied access stormed the fences and set fire to stands and the pavilion roof. As innocent spectators were forced onto the outfield, police lathi-charged them and fired tear gas. The crowd counter-attacked and when the outnumbered police force fled, the mob carried broken benches to the middle and started a bonfire as well as gouged holes in the pitch. Against this backdrop, Conrad Hunte was reported to have climbed the flagpole to save the West Indies flag, before fleeing on foot. The second day's play was written off.

India v Australia, 4th Test, 1969-70
The 1969-70 Australia series was played against a backdrop of widespread violence. On the fourth (and final) day in Calcutta, tragedy struck when around 25,000 people who had been queuing all night tried to rush the ticket counters before they opened. Riot police fired tear gas and were met in turn with a hail of bottles and stones. Six died and another 30 were injured. Although play started on time, there was further trouble when spectators in a stand pelted stones at those in a lower tier, forcing them onto the pitch. The police eventually persuaded them to stay on the boundary edge so the match could be concluded. After Keith Stackpole hit the winning runs, the Australian batsmen flanked the Nawab of Pataudi as he left the field to protect him from missiles.

India v England, 3rd Test, 1984-85
Public sentiment was already against India captain Sunil Gavaskar after he reportedly backed the decision to drop Kapil Dev for the Calcutta Test. To make matters worse, India took 200 overs to make 437 for 7, with Mohammad Azharuddin and Ravi Shastri adding 214 for the fifth wicket at under 2 runs an over. A section of the crowd hooted and booed, shouting "Gavaskar down, Gavaskar out" when he appeared outside the dressing-room while Manoj Prabhakar and Chetan Sharma were batting, and he was pelted with fruit when he led India out to field. Play was held up for eight minutes while ground staff cleared the outfield. Gavaskar, who decided to continue India's innings from 417 for 7 at lunch time on the fourth day, later denied that police had warned him there was a threat to law and order should he delay the declaration any longer. Gavaskar was believed to have vowed never to play at Eden Gardens again.

India v Sri Lanka, World Cup semi-final, 1995-96
Chasing 252, India slumped to 120 for 8 after a dramatic collapse during which seven wickets fell for 22. That proved too much for the capacity crowd, who began hurling bottles on the field and setting fires in the stands. Match referee Clive Lloyd took the teams off the field for 15 minutes to try and let the crowd cool down, but an attempt to restart the match proved futile and Lloyd awarded the game to Sri Lanka by default. To this day, the picture of Vinod Kambli crying as he walked back to the dressing room remains one of the iconic images of that tournament. India's captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, bore the brunt of the wrath for his decision to field first, and his house had to be placed under armed guard.

India v Pakistan, Asian Test Championship, first Test, 1999
The first three days of the Test passed without incident. On the fourth afternoon, chasing 279, India were well placed on 143 for 2. Sachin Tendulkar was on 7 when he clipped Wasim Akram to deep midwicket. He took two runs and was on his way back for a third when substitute Nadeem Khan hit the stumps with his throw from the deep. In the ordinary course of events it would have been a straightforward third run, even with the direct hit, but Tendulkar collided with Shoaib Akhtar, who was waiting close to the stumps to gather the return, and as a result was out of his ground, even though he may well have been just inside the crease at the moment of the collision. Steve Bucknor referred it to the third umpire, KT Francis, who, after a long delay, gave him out. The huge crowd erupted and started chanting "cheat, cheat", pelting Shoaib with bottles and other objects as he returned to his position in the deep.

Eventually the umpires took the players from the field for an early tea and it was only after personal pleas from Tendulkar and ICC president Jagmohan Dalmiya that the match was able to resume. However, trouble broke out again on the final day when India were reduced to 231 for 9. Wisden reported: "Spectators started burning newspapers in the stands and hurled stones, fruit and plastic bottles on to the field. The match was held up for over three hours as about 65,000 people were removed by police and security men. The crowd's anger was still concentrated on Tendulkar's run-out, but there was little viciousness in the riot; it was born of disappointment rather than anti-Pakistan feeling.." It only took Pakistan 10 balls to complete their 46-run win, but they did so in a surreal atmosphere of only 200 spectators in a ground that could hold 90,000.

Kolkata Knight Riders v Deccan Chargers, IPL, 4th match, 2008
Despite a low-scoring thriller in which Kolkata Knight Riders overcame Deccan Chargers, the pitch at Eden Gardens came in for much criticism during the inaugural season of the IPL. It displayed uneven bounce, and looked more like a fifth-day pitch. VVS Laxman, who was struck on his gloves by a delivery from Ishant Sharma, said it was "shocking". The floodlights also failed during the final stages of that match. Kolkata needed 22 from 20 with five wickets in hand when one of the light towers went off, holding up the game for 30 minutes. The two teams - Kolkata and Hyderabad - were tied on Duckworth-Lewis calculations at that point. The lights did come back on later, allowing the home side to clinch a thrilling win.

India v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, 2009
Once again it was a floodlight glitch that halted play. Sri Lanka were 307 for 6 in 49.2 overs, when the floodlight tower at the High Court end went off, halting play for 26 minutes. Jagmohan Dalmiya, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president, said a technical snag had caused the lights to malfunction. Among the other theories was that there had been a "voltage fluctuation". However, a spokesman of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) said that it was not their fault and that "bulbs in the tower developed a snag and it is a maintenance problem."

India v England, World Cup, 2011
The ICC ruled out Eden Gardens as the host of the game between India and England on February 27. The ICC's inspection team felt the venue would not be ready in time. "Regrettably, Eden Gardens has not made sufficient progress to justify the level of confidence required to confirm that the venue would be ready in good time," Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive said. No international matches had been held in Kolkata since the Test between India and South Africa in February last year as the stadium was being renovated.

Akhila Ranganna is assistant editor (Audio) at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (January 31, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

I dont know when we will be able to throw this chalta hai attitude from our minds. I think Eden authorities got over confident that this could not happen their ground. We need to change.... Cant see a India match in Eden this world cup... I feel ashamed and shamed... Hope eden will be able to fight back from this and we may is a WC final in EDen 16 years down the line.

Posted by kkrish555 on (January 30, 2011, 17:15 GMT)

Kiwirocker: If you have seen that replay in 1999 match you will observe that Sachin's bat was lifted in air by Shoaib when he collided him and grounded it. That was the reason for dispute then.Sachin was already well in the crease.

Posted by   on (January 30, 2011, 12:57 GMT)

Wonder what Kolkatans have done to deserve so much heartbreak. All that they do is that they love their sport and it is this passion which is required to keep this sport alive. Fan violence is common in soccer, and it reflects the passion for the sport. Since you mention "controversies" and not necessary "violence", you missed the event where a capacity crowd supported South Africa and booed Dravid in protest of Sourav Ganguly's exclusion from the side. I dont think Kolkatans take things lying down and certainly not an insult to their favourite son. In future, a Sourav-less KKR is a sure recipe for yet another reaction from the Eden crowd

Posted by 29ankit on (January 30, 2011, 4:02 GMT)

I wonder why my countrymen behave so non sportingly. We should respect the spirit of the game. Yes i know that every citizen wants his/her country to win but that doesn't mean that when it is not happening we start behaving immaturely. Passion for country and game is good but side by side its spirit and respect should not be disgraced. We forget that whatever we do is watched all over the world and such unacceptable deeds makes our MOTHER (country) look down in shame. So, please people avoid doing that. Thank you to one and all.

Posted by   on (January 29, 2011, 22:02 GMT)

y r the indians so impatient? any match, before they loose, they do something. people talking about vinod kamble crying in WC 96 SL vs IND. that match was sri lanka's once...its simpossible to chace the 250 with 2 wickets in hand.

Posted by alphatruth on (January 29, 2011, 19:04 GMT)

Agree with KiwiRocker. I remember Chennai crowd gave standing ovation when Saeed Anwar got 194. We all biased with our view based on the country we belong. But appreciating the game and its twist and turn is something we forgot to do in these days. Any one who play good cricket and giving great entertainment, deserves appreciation. Especially Crowd should value that. Then its double joy !!

Posted by   on (January 29, 2011, 18:58 GMT)

I an shore money was not the problem why the stadium is not finish,its a shame to kolkota people why eden gardens with that much history did not make the deadline I personally love watching cricket on t.v when it is played at eden gardens i just love to see that huge crown suporting cricket.

Posted by MasterClass on (January 29, 2011, 18:54 GMT)

Eden represents the raw passion in sport and woe be to those who do not appreciate this fact. A crumbling (or unfinished) stadium with a 100,000 passionate fans is far far better than a pristine stadium devoid of any people or polite clapping old folksl as in many other places. BCCI should make sure the ground and player accommodations are completed and top class and the WC match should be hosted there! The fans will take care of the rest!

Posted by MasterClass on (January 29, 2011, 18:45 GMT)

I would point out that most of the public's anger at Eden in the past was directed towards INDIAN team or administration. Not against the visitors! It's unfortunate that visitors have been made to watch the distasteful spectacle, but I bet any cricketer worth his salt would DREAM of playing at Eden at least once in his life! The Bengalis don't mind losing and in fact are quite appreciative of all visitors, but they can't stand a spineless Indian performance or pathetic administration. And why should they or anyone else for that matter? For all it's flaws Eden should HOST a WC match. As previous ppl have noted the ugly events in the article should be offset by alll the wonderful matches at the EDEN! Why were those not mentioned?

Posted by diptanshu on (January 29, 2011, 17:51 GMT)

@Akhila, What has Eden Gardens/Kolkata got to do with Azhar's house facing crowd trouble in HYDERABAD (which you conveniently forgot to mention)? To the uninformed, it might seem from reading your article as if the Kolkata crowd created trouble outside Azhar's house.

And I believe, Sachin's dismissal in 1999 was unfair and it would have drawn a similar reaction in any Indian stadium where crowds are equally passionate about Sachin. So there is no need to single out Eden for that!

Floodlight glitches have happened in other stadiums across the world (including the ones in Australia) in the recent past. So, I don't see the point in mentioning the glitches in this article.

Stop being biased and portraying Eden in negative light! This is the same ground which people remember for Laxman's 281 or Kumble's 6/12. BTW, Chinnaswamy and Chidambaram stadiums will never be able to replace Eden as the best. If in doubt, please ask your colleague and former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar!

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Akhila RangannaClose
Akhila Ranganna Assistant editor (Audio) Having a father who played in the Ranji Trophy against the likes of the legendary Pankaj Roy, cricket was in Akhila's blood. When a bachelor's degree in Literature was augmented by a master's in Mass Communication, she should have known that a career in journalism beckoned. But it took a joyless stint in public relations to push her to ESPN Star Sports, where she worked with the Sportscenter team and covered countless preparatory camps at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. As a happy coincidence this ran concurrently with a hobby stint as a radio jockey for a station playing old Hindi film music. She then joined ESPNcricinfo's audio team, where she has worked since October 2006.
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