The India vs Pakistan matches in 1999 was played in an environment of extreme tensions. Political outfits dug up the pitch in Feroz Shah Kotla, forcing the first Test to be shifted to Chennai. India lost the Chepauk Test by 12 runs but gained revenge in the Delhi Test when Anil Kumble became the second bowler in Test history to take 10 wickets in an innings. The third match between India and Pakistan was part of the new Asian Test Championship and it also included Sri Lanka. The venue was the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, a stadium which could host 100,000 spectators. However, Eden had acquired a notorious reputation in the 90s, with crowd trouble forcing the match referee in the India vs Sri Lanka 1996 World Cup semi-final to award the game to Sri Lanka. In 1999, things were going to get a lot uglier.
On day 1 of the Test, a brilliant spell from Javagal Srinath reduced Pakistan to 26/6 but a superb rearguard from Moin Khan salvaged some pride for Pakistan. An 84-run stand with Saleem Malik, who chipped in with 32 and a 63-run stand with Wasim Akram (38) helped Pakistan to 185. Moin’s 70 had boosted Pakistan and on day 2, the match was evenly poised. Sadagoppan Ramesh slammed 79 but the day would be remembered for the two deliveries of Shoaib Akhtar that established him as one of the best fast bowlers at that time. Akhtar cleaned up Rahul Dravid (24) with a reverse-swinging yorker but he broke the hearts of a billion Indians when Sachin Tendulkar was cleaned up for a golden duck. India managed a lead of 38 runs.
In the second innings, Pakistan stuttered but they were rescued by the brilliance of Saeed Anwar and his 115-run stand for the fourth wicket with Mohammad Yousuf (56). However, the visitors lost seven wickets for 54 runs with Javagal Srinath taking 8/86 to finish with 13 in the match. Anwar remained unbeaten on 188 as Pakistan gave India a target of 279. On day 4, India was coasting at 143/2 but it was at that moment that an incident took place which turned the game ugly.
Tendulkar run-out and a riot
Wasim Akram was bowling the 43rd over and on the third ball, Tendulkar flicked a full ball on his pads to the deep midwicket fence. The fielder, substitute Nadeem Khan, gave chase and Tendulkar casually turned around for the third run and he approached the crease. However, at that time, Shoaib Akhtar was running in to back-up the throw from the fielder. As he came across, Tendulkar collided with Akhtar and the ball hit the stumps directly. The third umpire was called into play and replays showed that Tendulkar’s bat was in the air and he had not reached the crease. The third umpire gave it out and what followed was a riot. The crowd pelted Akhtar with bottles and other items and started chanting ‘cheat, cheat’.
The players walked off and early tea was taken. Jagmohan Dalmiya, the-then ICC president and Tendulkar personally pleaded to the crowd to allow the match to resume.
After being delayed for 67 minutes, India lost Mohammad Azharuddin and Dravid and momentum swung towards Pakistan. February 20 was the final day of the match and all hopes rested on Sourav Ganguly. When he fell to Akram for 24, the crowd vented their anger again. Spectators started burning newspapers in the stands and hurled stones, fruit and plastic bottles on to the field. The match was held up for over three hours as about 65,000 people were removed by police and security men. The police resorted to lathi-charge and chased the spectators outside the stadium, drawing sharp criticism.
The sight of the match ending in a near empty stand was heart-breaking and India lost the match by 46 runs. A stadium which had a capacity of 100,000 ended with just 200 people.
The end of the match drew criticism. Dalmiya, who had not criticised the crowd earlier, was more vocal this time. Akram, the Pakistan captain lambasted the Indian media while other foreign publications criticised the police action. Eden Gardens was blacklisted for two years following the incident and the next match took place in March 2001 against Australia, a match that witnessed a miracle due to VVS Laxman’s 281.