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Cricket series that never took off

Rajneesh Gupta takes a look at recent instances where sides pulled out of tours due to security concerns.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2006 16:00 IST
Rajneesh Gupta
Rajneesh Gupta

The tri-series in Sri Lanka between hosts, India and South Africa almost got over even before it began as a bomb blast in the heart of Colombo - barely a few kilometers away from the hotels where the players from visiting teams were staying - killed many and left several others injured.

The tri-series has now been rescheduled with South Africans agreeing to stay in Sri Lanka at least for the time being, though they are on the verge of pulling out of the tournament because of security concerns.

We take a look at some of the most recent instances of sides pulling out of the tours or skipping some matches (after having at least landed in the host country) due to terrorist attacks, security concerns and other similar things.

India in Pakistan, 1984-85:

The series between Pakistan and India ended in tragic circumstances when, midway through the tour, the news came of the assassination of India's Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi. It was a shock to all concerned, and the tour was called off with the third Test at Karachi and the last one-day international still to be played. At the time the second one-day international was in progress and was immediately abandoned. The first one-day international, at Quetta at the start of the tour, had been won by Pakistan by 46 runs, while the first two Test matches had been drawn.

New Zealand in Sri Lanka 1986-87:

New Zealand's hastily arranged tour to Sri Lanka in mid-April was viewed by the New Zealand Cricket Council as a vital stage in rebuilding the national team. Unfortunately, and unhappily, the political troubles in Sri Lanka intensified while the team were there.

While the first match was being played, at Galle, four passenger buses were sprayed with machine-gun fire by separatist rebels near Kandy, the venue of the Second Test.

And on the evening that the First Test finished, a car bomb exploded near the team's hotel in Colombo, killing many people. Such an uneasy situation did not provide a satisfactory atmosphere for a young sports team - throughout their short stay they had been constantly under police surveillance - and in the interest of their safety the tour was cancelled three days later.

Two Test matches and four one-day internationals were the casualties.

Australia in Pakistan 1988-89:

Perhaps the most ill-timed tour in Pakistan's cricket history, that by Australia in September and October 1988 was also one of the more unfortunate exercises in cricketing diplomacy.

The death in a plane crash of General Zia ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan, in August had unsettled the country, with fears of rioting and civil war being expressed. Furthermore, the political parties were preparing for the general election in mid-November.

Karachi and Hyderabad were in the grip of ethnic violence, which resulted in the cancellation of the two one-day internationals scheduled for those cities on October 14 and 15 respectively, while the first international of the intended three-match series, at Gujranwala on September 30, had to be called off because floods affected a vast area of the Punjab and Sindh.

In their place, a one-day international was played at Lahore after the Test match there.

England in India 1992-93:

The communal violence in the wake of the destruction of the temple of Ayodhya that resulted in hundreds of deaths all over India also created an unsettled atmosphere among the England squad that toured India in 1992-93.

Their fears were heightened when the first international match, due to be played in Ahmedabad, was cancelled because the safety of the players could not be guaranteed.

However rest of the tour went smoothly with India trouncing England 3-0 in Test series and came back strongly to equal the ODI series 3-3 after being 1-3 down.

New Zealand in Sri Lanka 1992-93:

Before the tour started there was a terrorist bomb attack. Some of the players ventured outside and were confronted by a harrowing scene: Gavin Larsen nearly stood on a scalp, and other human body parts were scattered around the scene. Some of the players returned to New Zealand and were replaced. The tour was reduced to two Tests and three ODIs.

Pakistan in Sri Lanka 1994-95:

The second Test at Colombo had to be cancelled because of curfew following the general election

World Cup 1995-96:

Australia and West Indies refused to play their World Cup games in Sri Lanka due to security fears. Sri Lanka were declared winner by default on both the occasions.

New Zealand in Pakistan 2001-02:

New Zealand were originally due to arrive in Pakistan in September 2001, but called the tour off because of security fears after the terrorist attacks in the USA.

Seven months later, they honoured their commitment, travelling to Pakistan for three one-day internationals and two Test matches - down from the three Tests originally planned.

Sadly, after all the spadework done by the Pakistan Cricket Board, the tour came to an abrupt and tragic end. A car bomb exploded in front of the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi, where both teams were staying, a couple of hours before the start of the Second Test, and killed 14 people, including 11 French engineers who were in Karachi helping the Pakistan Navy to build submarines.

None of the players was hurt, though they witnessed some horrific injuries to bystanders, and the New Zealand physio-therapist, Dayle Shackel, was cut by flying glass.

The referee, Mike Procter, swiftly announced the cancellation of the Test, and the tour; the dazed Pakistan officials had no alternative but to agree. But it was depressing news for their board. They had already lost nearly $US20m after India had refused to come to Pakistan for the Asian Test Championship for political reasons, and Sri Lanka and West Indies had also declined to tour after September 11.

World Cup 2002-03:

England refused to play in Zimbabwe due to political reasons and New Zealand refused to play in Kenya due to security fears. The host sides were declared winner by default.

Sri Lanka in New Zealand 2004-05:

Sri Lanka had arrived in New Zealand to play five one-day internationals in December 2004, but the tour had to be abandoned after just one match as Sri Lankan players returned home after the tsunami disaster which ravaged Sri Lanka on Boxing Day.

The tour had earlier been put on hold for a week, but after the players made it known that they wished to return home, and after the ICC made it clear that there would not be any financial penalties if the two boards were in agreement that the tour should be curtailed, the decision to cancel was taken.

Sri Lankans then returned to play two Tests in March-April 2005.

First Published: Aug 16, 2006 15:08 IST