Controversies in Kolkata January 28, 2011

Riot police, fires and a sobbing Vinod Kambli

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

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:

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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