Cricket Find/Feedback/Site Index
April 22, 2000


send this story to a friend

Night cricket without the floodlights

Harsha Bhogle in Sharjah

What follows, is the match report Harsha Bhogle wrote on October 23, 1991, after the controversial game in Sharjah between India and Pakistan, referred to in the Chandrachud report

The streetlights came on. The electronic scoreboard glowed like a lighthouse on a gloomy eening. And a spine-chilling game of cricket continued.

I have never seen cricket being played in such appalling light. And certainly not when the two quickest bowlers in the world were going flat out.

Why did the game continue?

The umpires claim that they offered the light to the batsmen and that the batsmen continued to play on. And that they were astonished at the Indian decision.

The Indian manager says that his batsmen appealed against the light but had to continue because there is nothing in the playing conditions that mentions such a possibility.

The umpires claim that the Indian batsmen played on because they were unsure of the run rate.

The Indian manager says that the batsmen were informed about the equation. And I can vouch for that because I gave them the necessary numbers.

Nobody is willing to put a finger on that. What is known, however, is that nobody was quite aware of the rules. The discussion was on what to do since there was no provision in the playing conditions for bad light. Everyone dithered and the game, surprisingly, dragged on.

It transpires now that had the game been called off due to bad light, the scores at the end of the 40th over would have been considered. And the Indians were ahead there. 186 to 168. In fact, they were ahead till the start of the 50th over (236 to 235).

Between what happened when the umpires offered the light and the Indians appealed against it is a fuzzy area. Like the mist that enveloped the ground earlier in the morning and led to the delayed start. And on that issue, nobody is talking.

Indeed, it is surprising that the game was allowed to be played over 50 overs at all, knowing that the light fades rapidly after 5.15 pm. Imran insisted on it, and both sides agreed.

The Indian manager asked that it be taken in the spirit of the game. "We've come here to play cricket and we played fabulous cricket." There didn't seem to be much of that spirit when Waqar and Akram were going flat out in the darkness.

I am convinced that I will never see a sight as astounding on a cricket field again. For as Gavaskar told a reporter, "It was night cricket without the lights on."

The end was such a pity, beause it was a genuinely fantastic game. India opened with Kambli and Shastri. That was a brave decision because Kambli has never opened before in any grade of cricket, and yet was the man who could provide the early aggression. Surprisingly, after an early flourish from Kambli, it was Shastri who did the big hitting with a six and eight fours, the most delightful being those that were hit back over Waqar's head. But it was a tired man who finally fell and was followed immediately by Kambli, who was beaten so often outside off stump to Aaqib and Waqar that one thought it was a habit with him. And when Azhar played for the turn to Akram Raza, it seemed an uphill task.

And then the terrific twosome got together, picking singles and twos with the guile of veterans and stepping on it whenever needed. Predictably, it was Sachin who cut loose with two delightful sixes, until he perished trying another.

And then the chaos began.

Editor's note: This eyewitness report makes two salient points. 1) Given the mist in the morning, it surprised all that the game was scheduled to be played over the full 50 overs; and 2) The two umpires, B C Cooray and WAU Wickremasinghe, claimed to have offered light to the batsmen, and claimed further that the batsmen did not know the run rate, both of which claims were flatly contributed by the Indian management. Equally, the second claim, of not knowing the run rate, was contradicted by Harsha himself, who provided the information which the manager passed on to the batsmen.

Why, if the start was delayed, was the game allowed to go the full 50 overs? There is one way of looking at it -- at start of play, Pakistan needed to get 198 runs to get into the final on superior run rate. A truncated match may not have allowed the side that opportunity. And this after all is a game played in Sharjah -- where a final without Pakistan is no final at all, really.

Why was the game allowed to be played out in bad light? That is a question for the authorities to investigate. Specifically, they could check what the betting was like. With India going into the final overs well ahead, indications are that much of the betting would have been on India to win. India losing, thus, would have been clearly to the benefit of the bookies.

Question though is, will the authorities actually investigate this?

The four monkeys
Murky doings in Sharjah

Harsha Bhogle

Mail Prem Panicker