When our favorite game was interrupted
Just a few weeks ago, cricketers were clamoring over empty easts to retrieve their balls – the stadium was eerily empty, and the sixes echoed across stands that were abandoned. It is not the first time in history that cricket is being interrupted due to a calamity.
First World War
The County Championships were underway when cricketers were summoned by the War Office mid-match. This was right after the First World War broke out in August 1914 and England was already joining the war efforts. A letter from WG Grace in the Sportsman would echo the sentiments of the country as the cricketing season saw an early conclusion. In England, all first-class cricket was suspended for the duration of the war. Only a few Charity matches and army regiment games were played.
Second World War
The onset of the Second World War was the second biggest interruption experienced by cricket, this time in August 1939 when the Oval became a POW (Prisoner of War) camp. Before West Indies were called back home in anticipation of the war, they had just wound up a Test series against England. Cricket in the country was disrupted by World War II but matches continued. Even as the Luftwaffe was bombing London and its surroundings crowds showed up at the Lords to watch the game.
Germany began deploying V1 flying bombs – doodlebugs, targeting London. Over 3000 spectators attended as Wally Hammond from the Royal Air Force side played the Army at Lord’s, on July 29th. Middlesex batsman Jack Robertson would come to bat for the Army facing Bob Wyatt, the buzz of a doodlebug could be heard overhead, which was supposed to hit Lords or even its vicinity. The spectators and players ducked for safety as the bomb landed 200 yards short of the match. The match, subsequently, resumed.
The Basil D’Oliveira affair
In 1970, there was increasing resistance in the country towards South Africa’s planned tour of England. This was right after England’s 1968 tour of South Africa was called off. There were violent protests against the Springboks rugby tour to England between 1969 and 1970. Consequently, the cost of hosting the 1970 cricket tour, mounted just as the protests did, and the cricket establishment eventually called off the tour. South Africa would then be isolated for more than 20 years.
Sri Lanka was battered on Boxing Day, 1994 as a Tsunami hit its coasts. With over 1.5 million people displaced and 35,000 losing their lives, the Galle International Stadium was inundated on both sides by the ocean and was eventually, leveled. The tsunami struck even as the Sri Lankan cricket team was playing the first of a five-match ODI series in New Zealand. The team returned home shattered by the sheer scale of the tragedy and consequently worried for their families. But even then, it took five days for the tour to be called off.
The Sri Lankan team, in 2009, was headed to Gaddafi Stadium, to play the second day of the third Test against Pakistan, in Lahore. Close to the stadium, 12 gunmen opened fire on the team bus and injured six cricketers. Other similar terrorist attacks have disrupted cricket, earlier, in 1987 and 1993. After a bombing and assassination in Colombo, New Zealand canceled their tour of Sri Lanka. Terrorists, for the first time, targeted cricket in Lahore. Till 2019, Pakistan would not host another cricket match. Symbolically, the Sri Lankans returned to play in Pakistan after having isolated the region for a decade.
On March 15, 2019, a gunman opened fire at a mosque in Christchurch, in New Zealand. Terrorism had reared its ugly head again even as the Bangladesh team was scheduled to play at the Hagley Oval the next day. The team, incidentally, was on its way to the very mosque for their Friday prayers, before training at the stadium.
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