October 27, 2014

Change of plan

After the sudden end to West Indies' tour of India, a look at some other tours which ended prematurely, or didn't happen at all

Pakistan v England 1968-69
After their proposed South African tour was cancelled in the aftermath of the selection of Basil D'Oliveira, England probably hoped for a quiet time on the replacement tour of Pakistan. Instead, it was played out before a backdrop of civil unrest, with politicians staging showy appearances at some of the matches. It was said that Pakistan were forced to include Aftab Gul, a handy batsman, but more importantly a student leader who was expected to help keep the peace. But even Aftab couldn't stop a large mob invading the ground on the third day of the third Test, in Karachi. The tourists decided enough was enough, and left the country. "We shouldn't have been there," said Tom Graveney, England's vice-captain. "It was dangerous." The only England player who was probably not delighted to be leaving was Alan Knott, who was four short of his maiden Test century when the riot started.

France v England 1789
What should have been the first ever overseas cricket tour never really got underway: an MCC team was en route for Paris in 1789 when the French Revolution began. Discretion was the better part of valour, and they returned home. The match they'd planned actually took place 200 years later: France won it by seven wickets.

West Indies v England 1929-30
The most famous timeless Test took place in 1938-39, when the fifth South Africa-England Test in Durban was left drawn after ten days because the visitors had to leave to catch their boat home. But that wasn't the first time this had happened: nearly ten years before in Jamaica, what was supposed to be a timeless Test (played out to a finish, come what may) had to be left drawn when, after two days were washed out by rain, the England team had to catch the boat home. Their captain, Freddie Calthorpe, might just have regretted his decision not to enforce the follow-on despite a handy first-innings lead of 563.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka 2008-09
Arguably the grimmest entry on this list: Sri Lanka's tour of Pakistan was immediately cancelled after their team coach was strafed by bullets on the way to the ground for the third day's play of the second Test in Lahore in March 2009. Eight people were killed, six of them policemen, and the players and officials were extremely lucky to escape with their lives. The Sri Lankans (several of whom were injured) flew straight home, and the Test was left drawn: there hasn't been another one in Pakistan since.

India v England 1939-40
England were due to visit India for a three-Test series in 1939-40, but the trip was cancelled on the outbreak of World War II. The Sussex amateur Jack Holmes, who had been named as captain, was one of several members of the touring party who never did play a Test match. Still, Holmes had other strings to his bow: he was, according to his Wisden obituary, "a pioneer of mink farming in England".

Sri Lanka v West Indies 2010-11
Sri Lanka suffered terrible flooding late in 2010 in the wake of the island's heaviest rainfall for 18 years. It was West Indies' misfortune to be slated to tour at the same time. After all three Tests were ravaged by the weather, they were supposed to play five one-day internationals too, but the forecast was so dire that the boards gave up and called them off, and West Indies went home for Christmas. With the World Cup looming, they returned at the end of January for three ODIs, but couldn't escape the rain: two of them were affected by yet more inclement weather.

England v South Africa 1900
When the Boer War started in South Africa late in 1899, the English cricket authorities boldly assumed that the uprising would be quelled in time for the 1900 season, when a South African side was due to tour. But hostilities dragged on to 1902, and that tour was cancelled, although, remarkably, a team did come in 1901.

Pakistan v New Zealand 2002
Another sad tale: after Pakistan won the first Test in Lahore, the teams were preparing for the second in Karachi when a car-bomb exploded outside the team hotel. Several of the New Zealanders were close to the blast, which killed 14 people, and the team returned home almost immediately. New Zealand's captain Stephen Fleming was having breakfast when the explosion happened: "The worst period of the whole experience was, for the next 15 minutes, waiting to see where the rest of the team was."

England XI in South Africa 1989-90
The "rebel" tours of South Africa in the 1980s were a rather melancholy phase in the country's cricket history. They ended the international careers of several players who were seduced by the big bucks on offer in an attempt to give the locals some sort of international competition. The last of them involved an English side, captained by Mike Gatting, early in 1990. The tour was a financial disaster and fizzled out amid the worldwide elation at the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after almost 30 years. A second visit, planned for the following year, was quietly forgotten.

Pakistan v India 1984-85
The two neighbours had played out two high-scoring draws in Lahore and Faisalabad when news came through of the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi, India's prime minister, on October 31, 1984. With tensions rising at home, the remainder of the tour was called off.

The Charles Dickens tour
And finally something a little different: after negotiations to sponsor a lecture tour around Australia by the famous novelist Charles Dickens fell through, the Melbourne firm Spiers & Pond changed tack and decided to organise a cricket tour instead. Twelve professionals signed up for £150 a man, and the first tour of Australia by an English team got underway, captained by Surrey's HH Stephenson, whose other claim to fame is as the first person to be presented with a hat for taking three wickets with successive balls, in a match in Sheffield in 1858 (hence hat-trick).

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2014. Ask Steven is now on Facebook