On this day in 1997 – India-Sri Lanka ODI gets called off due to unsafe pitch

December 25, 1997 was an iconic day in the history of international cricket as it was the first time that an international game was cancelled due to an unsafe pitch. Sri Lanka had travelled India for a three-match ODI series and the two nations were coming into the second game at Indore’s Nehru Stadium after a comprehensive game in Guwahati where India registered a victory with 7 wickets in hand and 43 balls to spare.

Preparing for the game on Christmas, Indian players were disappointed when they witnessed the pitch of Indore as it was a cracked and dry pitch and was going to favour spin and pace. However, as the Indian team management wanted a bouncy track with grass, they forced groundsman Narendra Menon to prepare an altered pitch. Thus, Menon and his men started to trim, roll out and water the second pitch for the game.

While the pitch was being prepared, the visiting captain Arjuna Ranatunga along with his team entered the ground. Realizing the pitch was going to be made to favour the Indian bowlers, Arjuna was disappointed and complained about the same to the match referee Ahmed Ebrahim. Ebrahim, then instructed that only the first pitch will be used as it was nearly impossible to prepare a new pitch within 24 hours.

The chaos begins

After the decision was made, both the teams knew that the spin is going to play an important role thus they made sure to enter the contest with their best spin attack. Sri Lanka captain Ranatunga won the toss and elected to bat first while India handed the bowl to Javgal Srinath for the first over. Right from the first ball, the pitch produced a huge bounce despite bowling at low speed. Romesh Kaluwitharana got deceived by the bounce on the 4th ball as he played onto stumps while driving. The final ball of the over bounced high off a short length which Sanath Jayasuriya edged to Rajesh Chauhan in the slips who dropped the catch.

The second over was bowled by off-spinner Chauhan but again the ball produced too much bounce. Seeing this, the batsmen decided to complain to the umpires who passed on the same to the referee Ebrahim. Arjuna Ranatunga walked to the middle for a conversation with Tendulkar and the discussions went for nearly one hour along with the officials before they called off the match due to unsafe pitch.

The match was abandoned but this left a huge crowd of 25,000 at Indore disappointed. Thus, keeping in mind the sentiments of the fans, the captains decided to play a 25-over exhibition match as compensation. In 25 overs, Sri Lanka posted 180/8. However, India lost the game as they could post only 178/7 on the scoreboard.