Back in the year 1969, when there used to be a passionate crowd in Test matches in India; Australian Cricket Team faced some hard times during their first of the 5-Test series at Brabourne Stadium. It was a series full of disturbances. It started with riots, fans lighting the stands with fire, throwing bottles and stones towards players at Brabourne, followed by crowd invasion and chaos at Eden Gardens in Kolkata and then stone pelting at Bangalore.
The series result did end in favour of Australia as they won by 3-1 but it was closely fought than it looked on papers. The development of all such chaotic scenes began when New Zealand came to India before the Australia series. The first Test of the New Zealand series was shifted to Bombay from Ahmadabad because of rioting in the city. The third and final match of the series at Delhi interrupted after an overreaction from police against a young fan who had invaded the field. All such instances led the way to what followed.
The controversies during Australian series began when Srinivas Venkataraghavan was dropped by selectors. However, Subrata Guha stepped down in order to let Venkataraghavan play.
After a controversial decision of dropping of Venkataraghavan, another controversy began relating to the same cricketer. During India’s second innings batting in the first Test against Australia, when the home side were 7 wickets down at 114; a controversial decision dismissal of Venkataraghavan led to riots in the stands.
Venkataraghavan was given caught behind after a single appeal from the gully. Followed by the dismissal, Australian wicketkeeper Brian Taber quipped “He missed it by a foot.” Interestingly, the radio commentators emulated the same lines which eventually triggered the eruption among spectators.
It led to fans light up the fire in the stands and within minutes, bottles were being aimed at the Australian fielders. Two of them got hit by that as well. Scorers were unable to see as the fire smoke began growing. Australian captain Bill Lawry was in no mood of diplomacy at that time as recalling the dismissed batsman back could have made things calm down.
Despite all such things happening in the stands and affecting an international match, the Test kept going with Australian fielders standing close to the middle of the ground and police squaring the players in ringed action. It was an applaudable effort from the police as the match could have been halted but thanks to them, it kept going.
At the time of closing of day’s play, Australian team stood inside the field for 20 minutes more as advised by the policemen in order to clear their way to the clubhouse. Despite those precautionary measures, Jack Gleeson fell by a bottle and some wicker chairs were thrown from balcony of clubhouse and one of them almost hit skipper Lawry.
Further, Australian team reached dressing room but in no time, they had to hide themselves in showers as bottles were smashing all the windows. Police once again came into action and by the time they completed their job, there was quite a lot destruction with more than 10 policemen injured.
It was the fourth day of the match when it all happened and in those days, there used to be a rest after three day play in a Test. At the end of fourth day’s play, the scorecard read India’s second innings at 125 for 9. Interestingly, the conclusion of the match on day five remained hidden but scorecard do reflects that Australia chased an easy target of 64 to win the Test match.
The next Test at Kanpur ended in draw but India bounced back in the 3rd Test by beating Australia at Delhi by 7 wickets. However, Australia did the same and beat India in next two Tests at Kolkata and Chennai and claiming the series by 3-1.