Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Riots in Sydney Cricket ground 143 years ago !


One of the greatest aspects of being a sports fan is showing off your passion for your respective teams. There are highs and lows with every sports team, and fans have infamously displayed their displeasure through unfortunate acts of violence. The violent displays are often kept under control or are stopped before anything serious occurs. However, there are many  violent fan incidents that get out of control and put those involved in serious danger. There have been many occasions, when violent crowd behaviour (riots) have marred and even stopped games. One thoughts this is more associated with Soccer, before you read of this Cricketing incident dating back to 1879 at Sydney.

On 5th Dec 2021 at Belgium in the 88th minute of the match -   Standard Liege - Royal Charleroi;    Standard ultras interrupted the game in protest against the poor result of the team, which was losing 0-3 to the big rival.  Visiting soccer fans were banned from games in Belgium until the end of the year after two matches were marred by violence over the weekend, the Belgian league. Flares were thrown at the two games and some rowdy fans ran on to the field in what the league called “unacceptable and even criminal behavior."

At Calcutta as millions watched, India went down to Sri Lanka in the semi finals of WC 1996 – the match was awarded and  ended in an ugly fashion; the players walking off the field due to hostile crowd behaviour.  Sri Lankan victory was very match on the cards.  Arvinda de Silva played a stellar knock – Lanka set a target of 252.  Navjot Sidhu was out at 8; then came a 90 run partnership, entirely dominated by Sachin Tendulkar who made 65 but as he got out, others just caved meekly.  Sanjay Manjrekar 25; Capt Mohd Azharuddin 0; Javgal Srinath 6;Ajay Jadeja 0, Nayan Mongia 1, Ashish Kapoor 0  - from 98/1 – India slumped to 120/8 – Vinod Kambli crawled to 10* and Kumble 0* were at the crease, when crowds erupted and later match was awarded.

A decade + earlier in 1984 – Mohd Azharuddin made his debut.   Smog and rain, which restricted play to twenty minutes on the second day, followed by Gavaskar's perverse decision to continue India's innings from 417 for seven at lunch time on the fourth, made certain of a pointless and tedious draw. Gavaskar's lack of ambition, or evident direction, while Azharuddin and Shastri were adding 214 for the fifth wicket at under 2 runs an over,  incensed the crowd that there were fears a riot might develop. That section of the crowd nearest the pavilion hooted and booed, shouting "Gavaskar down, Gavaskar out" when the Indian captain made a brief appearance outside the dressing-room while Prabhakar and Chetan Sharma were batting at a snail's pace, and he was pelted with fruit – the crowd was already upset that the greatest allrounder of Team India Kapil Dev had unceremoniously been dropped, citing one poor shot in the previous match at Delhi, where Kapil was the highest scorer in 2nd innings. 

The recorded history is :  at 1.05 p.m. on 15 March 1877, the first ever Cricket  Test began. It was dominated by Charles Bannerman, who scored the first single in Test history off Alfred Shaw's second ball, was dropped on ten by Tom Armitage off the same bowlder and had 27 by lunch at 14:00, with the Combined XI 42 for three. Bannerman increased his scoring rate after the interval and reached his century at 16:25, by which time the crowd was around 4,500. By the close of play at 5 p.m., he had moved on to 126, and Combined Australia had made 166 for six.  The England XI first innings was opened by Jupp and Selby. On the fourth afternoon, Australia's last-wicket stand extended the lead to 153, and Lillywhite's XI collapsed to 108 all out in just over two hours. Australia thus won by 45 runs.

Though the first ever Test Cricket occurred 1877, England cricket tours to Australia started in 1861, and while successful, were still in their infancy in 1879, despite the first Test match having been played in 1877. The teams were of variable quality; while promoters sought the best cricketers, they still had to agree to terms.  In addition, many could not afford the time for the long boat trip, the tour itself, and the return voyage—the journey itself often took   months.

The Sydney Riot of 1879 was an instance of civil disorder that occurred at an early international cricket match. It took place on 8 February 1879 at what is now the Sydney Cricket Ground (at the time known as the Association Ground), during a match between New South Wales, captained by Dave Gregory, and a touring English team, captained by Lord Harris.

The riot was sparked by an  umpiring decision, when star Australian batsman Billy Murdoch was given out by George Coulthard, a Victorian employed by the Englishmen. The dismissal caused an uproar among the spectators, many of whom surged onto the pitch and assaulted Coulthard and some English players. It was alleged that illegal gamblers in the New South Wales pavilion, who had bet heavily on the home side, encouraged the riot because the tourists were in a dominant position and looked set to win. Another theory given to explain the anger was that of intercolonial rivalry, that the New South Wales crowd objected to what they perceived to be a slight from a Victorian umpire.

The pitch invasion occurred while Gregory halted the match by not sending out a replacement for Murdoch. The New South Wales skipper called on Lord Harris to remove umpire Coulthard, whom he considered to be inept or biased, but his English counterpart declined. The other umpire, Edmund Barton, defended Coulthard and Lord Harris, saying that the decision against Murdoch was correct and that the English had conducted themselves appropriately. Eventually, Gregory agreed to resume the match without the removal of Coulthard. However, the crowd continued to disrupt proceedings, and play was abandoned for the day. Upon resumption after the Sunday rest day, Lord Harris's men won convincingly by an innings.

In the immediate aftermath of the riot, the England team cancelled the remaining games they were scheduled to play in Sydney. The incident also caused much press comment in England and Australia. In Australia, the newspapers were united in condemning the unrest, viewing the chaos as a national humiliation and a public relations disaster. An open letter by Lord Harris about the incident was later published in English newspapers, and caused fresh outrage in New South Wales when it was reprinted by the Australian newspapers. A defensive letter written in response by the New South Wales Cricket Association further damaged relations.  

It was the  third tour match and the second game between the English XI (led by Lord Harris) and New South Wales—captained by Gregory—commenced on Friday 7 February  1879 at the Association Ground.  It was usual for each side to select one of the two umpires for a match. The English selected 22-year-old Victorian George Coulthard, upon a recommendation from the Melbourne Cricket Club.  As well as being a star footballer for Carlton, Coulthard was a ground-bowler employed by Melbourne, but was yet to make his first-class cricketing debut.  Coulthard accompanied Harris's men from Melbourne following the Test. New South Wales selected Edmund Barton, who later became the first Prime Minister of Australia.  

                Ten thousand spectators were in attendance, and New South Wales started well.  Murdoch and Massie took the score to 107 before the latter fell, and the hosts reached 3/130 at lunch, without losing another wicket. However, wickets tumbled through the afternoon, none of the incoming batsmen passed single figures and New South Wales were all out for 177, a deficit of 90 runs. Tom Emmett took the last seven wickets to end with 8/47. Murdoch batted through the innings for 82 not out, making him the hero in the eyes of the locals. The prevailing rule of the time required New South Wales to follow-on  as they were more than 80 runs in arrears. New South Wales started their second innings around 4 o'clock. Then, when the New South Wales second innings score was 19, the opening partnership between Murdoch and Alick Bannerman ended when the former was adjudged run out by Coulthard for 10 !!

Many in the crowd disagreed with the decision and took exception to it being made by an umpire employed by the Englishmen.  That Coulthard was a Victorian added to the emotions of the crowd, who thought along intercolonial lines. The Sydney Evening News propagated rumours that Coulthard had placed a large bet on an English victory, something that the umpire and Lord Harris later denied.  The match later resumed after a rest day and England won by an innings and 41 runs.

There were widespread allegations by the media and English players that the riot was started by bookmakers, or at least encouraged by the widespread betting that was known to be occurring at the match.  The Australian press and cricket officials immediately condemned the riot, which dominated the front pages of the local newspapers. The Sydney Morning Herald called the riot "a national humiliation”. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
8th Feb 2022.

No comments:

Post a Comment