The coronavirus that raised its ugly head in December last year has brought life to a standstill sparing no one and cricket is no different. Sri Lanka Cricket expressed its confidence that the two match Test series against England would continue uninterrupted and in the worst case scenario the games will take place behind closed doors. But less than 24 hours later, they were forced to call off the tour. The financial ramification for SLC aren’t said to be much as they have the guarantee of the series being reschedule.
However, the businesses that depended heavily on the series will get a hit. From tour operators to taxi drivers all will feel the pinch for they had depended so heavily on the arrival of some 5000 Barmy Army fans to witness the Tests in Galle and SSC. The tourism industry in particular was struggling to survive after the Easter Sunday bombings and the England series was seen as a godsend. However, the industry continues to suffer and the ramifications facing the economy are scary.
In a cricketing sense, after the recent success against West Indies and Zimbabwe, the England series would have given some insight into the work that Mickey Arthur has put in with the team. West Indies and Zimbabwe are teams that are ranked lower than Sri Lanka and the proper yardstick to measure how good your team is by playing a series against a team that is ranked above you. The Sri Lankans certainly have an axe to grind as well having been whitewashed 3-0 some 15 months ago in their own backyard.
Cricket tours involving Sri Lanka ending abruptly is nothing new to us. Here we take a look at some of the tours that were called off due to reasons attributing to security, terrorism and natural disasters.
New Zealand in
Sri Lanka 1987
The Kiwis arrived in Sri Lanka a week before the Sinhala – Tamil New Year and the opening Test was played from the 16th of April at Colombo Cricket Club grounds. The game is known for Brendon Kuruppu’s marathon double hundred on debut. The game ended in a draw and Sri Lanka were celebrating the arrival of a new star.
A few hours after the game ended, a 36 kilogram bomb in a car was detonated killing more than 100 people in the heart of the city – the central bus stand in Pettah. The Kiwis flew back home and the next two Tests at Asgiriya and SSC were abandoned. Sri Lanka had to wait for five more years for an international cricket team to return to the island. Poor Kuruppu never played a Test match at home again. In fact he featured in only four Tests and finished up with an impressive average of 53.
New Zealand in
Sri Lanka 1992
Popular Navy Commander Clancy Fernando was killed in 1992 as a suicide bomber drove his motorbike into the car of the Commander as it was passing the Taj Samudra Hotel in Galle Face. The New Zealand team was staying in the hotel and they were obviously shocked by what had happened in front of their eyes.
The Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka pleaded with the tourists not to abandon the tour as they had taken great pains to ensure cricket returned to the island. A vote was taken by the team and five players – Mark Greatbatch, Dipak Patel, Gavin Larsen, Willie Watson and Rod Latham wanted to return home. Coach Warren Lees also joined the players.
Ken Rutherford, one of the prominent batsman of the side, had been on tour in 1987 as well. He initially wanted to go back home in 1992 but after a safety briefing was reconsidering his decision. As he was on the fence, he rang up home for advice.
“My wife, she’s my ex-wife now; she actually suggested I stay in Colombo! So that’s how much she thought of me,” Rutherford wrote in his autobiography – ‘Hell of a Way to Make a Living’
Rutherford stayed and replacements came in from New Zealand and the tour continued. Late Martin Crowe, who was the captain, played a major role in ensuring the tour continued.
South Africa in
Sri Lanka 2006
South Africa had been beaten heavily in the Test series – the same tour where Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara posted a World Record 624. Shortly before the ODI leg of the tour got underway, a bomb went off near the team hotel. The Proteas panicked and decided to return home.
Despite SLC’s desperate measures to save the tour, that included security to players that is usually offered to heads of states – the Proteas didn’t change their stance. An angry Duleep Mendis, the CEO of SLC minced no words when he said, ‘South Africa chickened out.’
West Indies in
Sri Lanka 2010
Christopher Henry Gayle was involved in a major altercation with the West Indies Cricket Board over his Indian Premier League commitments before the tour and vented his anger on the Sri Lankan bowlers smashing 333 in the Galle Test. The limited overs leg of the tour was postponed due to inclement weather as torrential rains flooded some of the grounds. Sri Lankan bowlers of course weren’t complaining.
Sri Lanka in
New Zealand 2004
Sri Lanka themselves were forced to abandon their tour of New Zealand in 2004 following the tsunami. It was going to be a long tour and after the opening ODI in Auckland on Boxing Day, there were reports of severe floods in several parts of the island. It took a few more hours to realize that many precious lives had been lost due to the disaster.
Among the affected were the mother of Sanath Jayasuriya and father of Marvan Atapattu. Both players were on tour. SLC wanted the tour to continue but the players were in no mood to hang around. After much persuasion, the board agreed and the tour was postponed. The following year, the Sri Lankans travelled in April for the Test leg of the tour and returned in December for the ODIs.
Sri Lanka in
Following India’s cancellation of the tour of Pakistan in 2009 due to growing tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi, Sri Lanka were invited to fill the gap. The ODI leg was played in January while Mahela Jayawardene’s side returned for the Tests in March. The opening game was a high scoring draw in Karachi. There were rumours of the second game in Lahore being shifted to Karachi due to civil unrest but the game continued as scheduled.
On the third day of the game, the Sri Lankan team bus came under a terrorist attack injuring several players and members of the coaching staff. The Sri Lankan team was just a few meters away from the ground when the attack took place and efforts were taken to airlift the team to an Air Force base. President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent a special aircraft to bring the team back home a few hours later.