A Riotous Reading of the India-Sri Lanka World Cup Encounter at Eden Gardens in 1996

John De Silva

I am very surprised to hear people talk about the near riot that occurred at the end of the World Cup Semi Final match between India and Sri Lanka, 13 March 1996. Why are people so quick to jump to conclusions? Why are people not more understanding? Here is what ACTUALLY happened.


A spectator thought that the apples he had brought to the grounds were of such good quality that he ‘tossed’ one at a Sri Lankan fieldsman to get his opinion on it’s quality. Since the Sri Lankans had recently visited Australia, and Tasmania in particular, he felt that an opinion would be invaluable. The fieldsman decided that he had to get the Umpire’s permission before he took a bite off the apple so he trotted up to the wicket. The umpire decided that he should have a taste binge of his own, and so he kept the fruit.

At this time other spectators swung into the ‘help thy neighbor’  mood. It was a hot day. A Sri Lankan batsman had de-hydrated while batting and was carried off the field. So they ‘offered’ water to the fieldsmen by ‘tossing’ a few bottles onto the field. Others seeing this act of generosity decided to shower the Sri Lankans with water and ‘tossed’ MANY bottles of water over the fence. They were not to know that a drenching was not what the players wanted. Not wishing to get wet, the players congregated in the centre of the field on the pitch and waited till the magnanimous gesture abated.

In the meantime the match referee wanted to have a taste of that apple so he trotted onto the arena and engaged in animated conversation with those at the centre. In the confusion it appeared that the apple was lost! As no apple was forthcoming he took the teams off the field for an inquiry. The inquiry lasted about 15 minutes.

The question of the apple appeared to have been resolved for the teams came back onto the field accompanied by the Referee who was speaking to all and sundry – no doubt he was still carrying on about that apple. After the Referee left, the players started to take their places in an attempt to continue with the match. However, spectator generosity was still overwhelming for they ‘tossed’ a ‘hip-flask’ of what appeared to be Gin, at the fieldsmen. The player at whom the bottle was ‘tossed’ promptly picked it up and trotted to the Umpire to obtain permission to have a swig. The umpires consulted each other and even used their mobile phones to confirm their views that all should be involved in the booze-up. They called off the match and all dashed to the pavilion to have a drink.

In the meantime, the spectators – bless their souls – in their generosity and exuberance decided that they should have a BBQ party and so they started preparations by lighting a few fires in the stands. They were too enthusiastic though for one Indian batsman came in with tears streaming down his face, no doubt overcome by the smoke. At that time the security officers were scurrying about looking for the boxes of BBQ lamb chops that appeared to have gone missing.

Now THAT was what ACTUALLY happened that day. Who spread the rumour that there was a near riot at Eden Gardens in Calcutta!

As an aside: Sri Lanka scored 251 for 8 in 50 overs and India scored 120 for 8 in 34.1 overs when the match was abandoned and Sri Lanka was awarded the match.

…….  John de Silva  …….


Beyond & Behind the Cricket: The World Cup Scenario in 1996 from An Insider

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