The first ever one day International was played in Srinagar on October 13, 1983. A spirited Indian team having won the Prudential (World) cup at Lords expected a win at Srinagar. But in a few moments the team realised it was playing West Indies not in India but somewhere in Barbados. India lost the match and Kashmiris won a battle. The message was conveyed in clear terms. Indian captain, Kapil Dev was angry and the then Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah had to eat a humble pie.
The stadium was packed to capacity. The highly charged spectators were chanting anti-India slogans. The West Indian players were amazed. Could they get such support in West Indies? A spectator displayed Imran Khan’s poster urging Sunil Gavaskar to have a look. Gavaskar responded nicely. He raised his hand, bowed his head a little as if admitting Imran Khan’s greatness. The gesture had an impact. Gavaskar was spared and the spectators focused attention on other players.
Sunil Gavaskar later wrote in Runs ’n’ Ruins: “Being hooted at after a defeat is understandable, but this was incredible. Moreover, there were many in the crowd shouting pro-Pakistan slogans which confounded us, because we were playing the West Indies and not Pakistan.”
A pleasant breeze made the chinars shower their leaves on the spectators as if congratulating them for making a strong political statement. It was lunch time. Things calmed down a bit. Some people went outside to fetch snacks. The drama inside did not end even during lunch time. However, the scene changed. Three youths led by a bony chap rushed towards the wicket and started digging. The police chased them and finally grabbed them near the stands. The match resumed later on.
The trio tried to dig the wicket to disrupt the match. According to them, Kashmir was a disputed territory and could not, therefore, host international matches. It was later learnt that the trio had been detained under public safety act (PSA) for `endangering security of the state.’
The group had no political affiliations at that time. After digging the pitch, they ( Showkat Bakshi and Mushtaq-ul-Islam along with a tall but thin boy) were chased by police. They were held, beaten to pulp and then taken to the nearby police station. They dug the pitch inside the crease where it made not much difference. Had they dug it around what cricketers call good length spot, the match would have been abandoned.
As the match advanced, the pitch of the slogans and screams also increased. Kashmiris had the last laugh that day, West Indies won.
The trio attracted international attention. A chargesheet was filed in a court of law against the trio. After twenty-eight years, the court acquitted all the accused in 2011 for want of evidence. According to political circles, the match was a referendum against India. Around twenty-five thousand people from all parts of Kashmir were present and every boundary hit by Indian batsmen was welcomed with a mourning silence. On the other hand, a roaring applause erupted in the stadium for every wicket taken by a West Indian bowler. The atmosphere was so electric that the skipper, Clive Lloyd, said he felt that he was playing in the lanes of his village in West Indies”. This match became one of the reasons for Farooq’s ouster in 1984.
In 1986 when Jagmohan ruled the state, another match was played between India and Australia. However, this time, the civilians were not allowed inside the stadium. It was filled by police and army personnel in civvies. India lost the match. Indian players were shocked and so was New Delhi. In the evening Dr Farooq went to console the players but Kapil Dev, it is believed, gave him some tough moments.