1984 February 21, 2009

Clothes maketh the men

The time when the ground, the umpires and the players were ready... but they had nothing to wear


Border: not a happy man on the India tour of 1984 © Getty Images
 

In late September 1984, Australia set out for a 16-day tour of India, arranged to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Ranji Trophy, on what, even without the benefit of hindsight, appeared to be a logistically crazy five-ODI series.

The itinerary appeared to have been arranged without any thought as to the ridiculous amount of travel, often involving long journeys in small planes, and the complete lack of any time to settle between matches. By the end of the trip, both boards had been subjected to withering criticism from players, officials and journalists. The farce surrounding the abandoned ODI in Jamshedpur summed up the mess.

The first ODI took place less than 36 hours after the Australians landed, and it was therefore surprising that they won by 48 runs. The controversy started before the teams took to the field, with protests over the prices of tickets, which the Indian Express labelled "exorbitant".

From the day-night game in New Delhi, the sides had two days to make the long haul south to Trivandrum for the second match. Early rain delayed the start and the two captains, Kim Hughes and Sunil Gavaskar, then got into a dispute over playing conditions. Eventually a 37-overs-a-side game was agreed but rain soon after India started their chase washed the match out.

Another arduous trek to Jamshedpur in the north-east for the third ODI two days later then faced the teams. They flew to Calcutta, but it then emerged that the landing strip at Jamshedpur was not big enough to cater for anything bigger than a small Fokker Friendship, and that in turn was not big enough to accommodate teams and their kit. So while the players took the flight, a lorry was summoned to transport the kit. Unfortunately, although the lorry started out on its 150km journey at 4am, the traffic was appalling and it soon became apparent that it would not be at the ground in time.

At the stadium, the capacity crowd of 15,000 turned up early and watched the players warm up, the Australians in t-shirts and shorts, and shortly before the scheduled 9.30am start the umpires announced that there would be a delay because of damp patches on the pitch after overnight rain. Only then were the umpires told that even if they wanted to start, it was not possible.

 
 
It was not just the Australians who suffered. The Indian squad arrived in Calcutta to find no transport waiting, and so had to carry their kit a mile to the hotel... where they were told no booking had been made
 

It also gradually became apparent to the increasingly restless crowd that there was more to the delay than was being stated. Then, shortly after the intended start, came an announcement that it would not be possible to play a full ODI because of the missing kit, which was still some two hours away from the stadium. That promoted an angry reaction and rocks and bottles began cascading onto the outfield. The local police were summoned to restore order.

Panicked by the reaction, the organisers quickly and unilaterally announced that a 24-overs-a-side game would start as soon as the lorry arrived. That calmed the spectators but left the teams far from happy. "What else could I do?" JJ Irani, the local board president said afterwards. "How could I tell the spectators that no proper arrangements had been made for the kit?"

Eventually the kit arrived and soon after 11.30am the shortened game started. Carl Rackemann dismissed both openers in a hostile burst, but after 5.1 overs it started raining and within an hour the game had been abandoned.

The Indian media was scathing in its criticism of the board and its handling of the tour, some going so far as to suggest that it cast doubt on its ability to host the 1987 World Cup. Irani endorsed those comments. "How can a country that cannot even transport a team's kit from one town to another be expected to host a World Cup?" he asked.

Both captains were also highly critical of the farce surrounding the Jamshedpur match, as well as the overall itinerary for the series, Gavaskar telling reporters that the BCCI "should be ashamed".

It was not just the Australians who suffered. The Indian squad arrived in Calcutta to find no transport waiting, and so had to carry their kit a mile to the hotel... where they were told no booking had been made.

The final two ODIs, in Ahmedabad and Indore, were both won easily by Australia, and there was a final match against Bombay, the Ranji champions, which was again won by the Australians.

The controversy was not quite done. It was reported that at a lunch given in the Australians' honour by the Indian board in Bombay, some of the tourists had been rude to local photographers, and Allan Border, the vice-captain, was quoted as saying that BCCI officials should be "lined up and shot one by one" for their handling of the trip.

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