October 18, 1969. On Day Three of the third Test match at Hyderabad, New Zealand bowled out India for a paltry score of 89. This was amidst the drama where India batted on the wicket, which was uncut for three days. India managed to save the Test eventually by a whisker thanks to rain. Sarang Bhalerao revisits the 1969 Hyderabad Test, which was marred by riots after a young fan, who ran onto the field, was injured by a soldier.
The third day of the Hyderabad Test match had an element of drama. New Zealand had scored 181 for nine on the first day of the Test and the second day was washed out. It was followed by the rest day. On the scheduled third day of the Test, the pitch had some amount of grass. Umpires Sudhendu Bhattacharya and MV Nagendra asked the groundsmen to cut the grass. There was an objection by New Zealand captain Graham Dowling, which was in line with the laws of the game. The callousness from the part of the groundsmen proved to be cataclysmic for the home team.
The challenge was to face the New Zealand bowlers on a lively wicket with grass around the good-length area. Wisden Almanack wrote: “It gave the pace bowlers more psychological than practical assistance, but on it India’s reconstructed team — there were four changes in it — collapsed badly. A damp patch, well short of a length, also worried the batsmen. From 21 for one the score slumped to 50 for nine at tea, [Dayle] Hadlee taking four for 10 in that period; Cunis three for nine.”
India lost four wickets at the score of 21 with Prince Indrajitsinhji (7), Ajit Wadekar (9), Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (0) and ML Jaisimha (0) being the victims. Ambar Roy and debutants Eknath Solkar and Ashok Gandotra fell cheaply leaving India reeling at 49 for nine. The last-wicket stand between Srinivasan Venkataraghavan and Bishan Singh Bedi put on 40 priceless runs.
The crowd were disappointed with the performance of the Indian team. They got incited when a young person went on to the field to congratulate the last-wicket pair. One of the soldiers pushed the youth and it injured him. Wisden Almanack wrote: “Venkataraghavan and Bedi, with 40 for the last wicket, batted bravely, but a youth, coming on to the field to congratulate the batsmen, was injured by a soldier and this incident provoked an ugly riot, in which gates were broken down, metal chairs flung on to the ground, fires lit in the stands, and the crowd attacked by an army unit. No play was possible in the last half-hour.”
Kishore Bhimani in his book Cricketing Controversies wrote: “The last 20 minutes of the third day’s play of the third (India-New Zealand) Test had to be abandoned when a riot broke out against an unnecessary ill-treatment of a young fan, who had run onto the field to congratulate the batting heroes.”
New Zealand 181 (Bruce Murray 80; Erapalli Prasanna 5 for 51) and 175 for 8 decl. (Graham Dowling 60; Syed Abid Ali 3 for 47, Erapalli Prasanna 3 for 58) drew with India 89 (Srinivasan Venkataraghavan 25*; Dayle Hadlee 4 for 30, Bob Cunis 3 for 12) and 76 for 7 (Ashok Gandotra 15; Bob Cunis 3 for 12, Dayle Hadlee 3 for 31).
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)