Rifts, riots and a wild Caribbean ride: Pt II

A look back at a classic ODI series from 1999, as the Aussies faced controversy and chaos against the Windies before the World Cup

Andrew Ramsey

14 April 2019, 01:00 PM AEST


Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and is the author of The Wrong Line.

Read part one of Andrew Ramsey's in-depth review of Australia's classic 1999 ODI series in the Caribbean here.

Steve Waugh was not averse to using his position as captain to campaign for changes he believed the game required.

By the time he ascended to the Test leadership in 1999, two years after taking the one-day helm, one of his principal rallying cries was for authorities to address crowd behaviour and the dangers it increasingly posed to player safety.

Over the preceding year, he had seen items including golf balls and glass bottles hurled at his team by spectators in New Zealand.

And just months earlier, day-night ODI matches in Australia were brought to a halt due to the deluge of detritus that rained from the stands under the cowardly cover of crowds enacting the 'Mexican wave'.

Waugh repeatedly urged cricket's governors to strengthen security for players, warning they should not wait to act until they witnessed a repeat of the 1993 incident involving tennis player Monica Seles in Germany.

In a brazen attack that sent a chill through sportspeople and fans worldwide, Seles was stabbed by a spectator while sitting courtside during change-of-ends in a match she was playing.

As a consequence, Waugh instinctively sensed peril when the well-oiled crowd at Guyana's Bourda Ground – a gathering that grossly exceeded the antiquated venue's overstretched security resources – began massing inside the boundary fence as the fifth ODI neared its climax.

The rain-affected match was unsurprisingly disrupted after the penultimate over of Australia's run chase, when spectators stormed the pitch in the drunken belief the game had ended with the West Indies ascendant.

Several among the marauding mob made off with the stumps, before they were chased down and a semblance of order was restored for the last over to be played out in failing light.

Waugh attempts a third run amid the pandemonium // AAP
'Absolute chaos': Waugh attempts a third run amid the pandemonium // Getty

Come the final delivery, bowled by occasional left-arm spinner Keith Arthurton, Waugh and his batting partner – coincidentally, Shane Warne – needed four runs to secure victory with the struggling skipper having failed to score from each of the four previous balls.

Arthurton's last offering was a waist-high full toss that Waugh met high on his bat, and which rolled unconvincingly out to deep mid-wicket.

By the time the Australia pair had completed their second run and Arthurton had received the ball and removed the bowlers' end bails (with Warne safely in his ground), the ground was overrun by spectators who swarmed the players, and removed the stumps once more.

Sensing an opportunity to likewise steal a third run amid the pandemonium, Waugh fought his way through the mayhem to the bowlers' end (where Arthurton searched in vain for a wicket to re-break) until an intruder tried to wrestle Waugh's bat from his right hand.

"This is absolute chaos," veteran West Indian commentator Tony Cozier surmised as Guyanese police tried fruitlessly to shepherd players from both teams through the crush towards the dressing rooms.

"It has happened over and over and over here in the Caribbean, nothing has been done about it and it's happened here again.

"One of these days, a player is going to get seriously injured in the melee."

Warne and Ridley Jacobs flee the crowd invasion // Getty
Warne and Ridley Jacobs flee the crowd invasion // Getty

For more than an hour after the players retreated to sanctuary, ICC match referee (and former England Test opener) Raman Subba Row deliberated over the farcical final scenes before declaring the result tied.

At which point, Waugh and Australia's team manager left the ground in pitch darkness to menacing taunts from the crowd that remained massed outside the changerooms, some of whom hissed "we gonna kill you, man" and "Waugh, you're a tief".

If the irritated and slightly unnerved captain thought that was to be the low-point of a tour that was rapidly becoming more of an endurance trial than a World Cup warm-up, he was to once again be proved wrong.

****

After the nonsensical tied finish in Guyana, the whirlwind one-day competition that remained poised 2-2 would be decided by back-to-back matches in Barbados the following weekend.

Having won the first leg of that Kensington Oval double-header, Australia posted a sizeable 9-252 on a slow pitch to take the whip hand in the final fixture.

That was despite losing renowned finisher Michael Bevan at a crucial time of their innings, with the left-hander run out as he crashed into West Indies bowler Reon King who had crossed the pitch in his follow-through, thereby allowing a teammate to swoop on the ball.

The hosts were 2-138 nearing the end of the 29th over – requiring 115 from 120 balls to deadlock the series – when local opener Sherwin Campbell was dismissed in near identical circumstances to Bevan, after his path was blocked by Australia allrounder Brendan Julian.

Julian (right) surveys the damage after a collision with Campbell // AAP
Julian (right) surveys the damage after a collision with Campbell // AAP

Unlike Bevan, who silently fumed all the way back to the sheds, Campbell aired his animated displeasure as he lay sprawled upon the pitch at which point the mood at the often-rollicking party venue turned instantly ugly.

Once again, the Caribbean crowd chose to arbitrate the outcome by raining glass bottles and other ancillary projectiles on to the playing field in protest, as the by-now combat hardened Australia players made for the supposed sanctity of the changerooms.

As he stalked towards the members-only Sir Garfield Sobers Pavilion at Kensington, Waugh was almost struck by a bottle that had been hurled from its upper-deck by a man later identified as a well-known local architect.

The projectile had been aimed directly at the Australia captain's head, and Waugh fortunately recoiled in time as he felt the object whistle past his face.

With the crowd chanting 'We want Campbell' and Waugh fearing for the physical safety of his team for the second time in less than a week, Sobers appeared from the enclosure bearing his famous name to broadcast an appeal for calm.

Meanwhile, an urgent meeting was convened between Subba Row, Waugh and his rival (acting) captain Jimmy Adams, the respective team managers and another local Bajan cricket legend, Sir Clyde Walcott, then chair of the ICC's Cricket Committee.

Before discussions began, Waugh was made aware of comments supposedly on-passed by Barbados's Commissioner of Police at the venue, about the possible consequences if the delicately poised game was abandoned.

With the Australia squad scheduled to remain in Barbados for the ensuing six days before flying to London for the World Cup, the official had forewarned that Waugh and his players would remain at risk on the island if the baying crowd was not placated.

abcd // AAP
'We want Campbell': Amid fears of revolt, Waugh was advised not to abandon the match // AAP

At which point it became obvious, as missiles continued to be launched onto the vacant playing field, that the only way that could happen with any surety was if the appeal against Campbell was withdrawn, and the indignant opener be allowed to continue his innings.

And so an understandably fed-up Waugh led his players back out, followed by a deafening din as Campbell re-appeared ready to add to his suddenly unbeaten 56.

With the Australia captain unwilling to deploy fielders near the boundary due to his earlier near-miss, and with the victory target revised down to 196 from 40 overs because of time lost to the riot, the West Indies romped home with three overs to spare.

The result was met by jubilation among the sated mob, and with glaring disinterest from Waugh's team who by that stage simply wanted the whole rancorous tournament to rapidly conclude.

****

There would be a bitter postscript, just as Waugh hoped a traumatic week was behind him and he could turn his full attention to the World Cup due to begin in less than three weeks.

Upon waking on the morning after the Barbados debacle, he was served a defamation writ by the island's Commissioner of Police, Grantley Watson, who had confirmed he was not in attendance at the game the previous day.

Therefore, when Waugh announced at his post-match media conference that the local police chief had advised he could not guarantee the touring team's safety if the match was called off, he was unaware that assertion had, instead, come from the head of Kensington Oval's security detail.

"It was better (to let the crowd have their way) than getting killed on the way home," was Waugh's post-match view, as reported in 'The Australian' newspaper, that was cited by the then Police Commissioner as defamatory.

"I don't think (saying) that is too dramatic, if the Police Commissioner couldn't guarantee our safety then what does that mean?"

Barbados police commissioner Grantley Watson addresses reporters // AAP
Barbados police commissioner Grantley Watson addresses reporters // AAP

Despite Waugh's offer to apologise for the unintended error in attribution, Watson sought more formal redress.

In his writ of summons, served upon Waugh at the team's beachside hotel, the Police Commissioner claimed Waugh's observations "meant and were understood to mean that (he) is inept and incapable of efficient performance of his duty".

"In the circumstances the Plaintiff has been injured in his credit and reputation as Commissioner of Police … and has been brought into public ridicule."

The aggrieved official sought unspecified damages as well as legal costs in bringing the action, that was to be heard in the Barbados Supreme Court.

It therefore had the potential to delay Waugh's departure from the island for the World Cup, and so a local Queen's Counsel was enlisted by the then Australian Cricket Board to try and ensure their men's team captain was not forcibly detained.

Following a tense week that included meetings with legal representatives and an injunction that prevented all parties from publicly discussing the case, Waugh was accompanied to Barbados airport by Australia's High Commissioner.

The diplomatic presence was a safeguard to ensure there was no last-minute snag before Waugh boarded the team's Saturday night flight to London.

He arrived there in the early morning cold of British spring, warmed by a blaze of camera flashbulbs and television lights.

In what would become a regular ritual over the ensuing month and a half, Waugh batted back inquiries about harmony within his team, about the playing future of his vice-captain, about his own stuttering form, and the crises with which he and his players had been forced to contend.

Forty-two days later, he and Warne stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the balcony at Lord's, beaming as they hoisted the World Cup aloft.

The travails of their journey to that moment all-but erased by the cure-all of success.