When Virat Kohli walked out to bat in the 2011 World Cup final on April 2, the entire Wankhede Stadium was behind him, praying for him to succeed after Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed by Lasith Malinga for 18.
Kohli went on to score 35 and put a vital 83-run partnership with Gautam Gambhir.
Two years later, the same player was booed and called a cheater at the same venue in an Indian Premier League game following a controversial run out of Mumbai Indians’ batsman Ambati Rayudu. Cricket’s strange ways never fail to amuse.
However, this is not the first time that the Wankhede crowd lost its manners with regards to their response to cricketers.
We turn back the clock to those instances involving big names…
In the 1987 World Cup semi-final against England, chasing a total of 254, Gavaskar was cleaned up for just four by pacer Phillip DeFreitas. During his long walk back, he was jeered by the same crowd which had enjoyed his batting for 13 seasons. It also turned out to be his last International appearance at Wankhede.
In India’s previous game – at Nagpur – against New Zealand, Gavaskar scored a scintillating century despite running high temperature. Chetan Sharma was also India’s hero when he claimed at hat-trick which demolished New Zealand.
India’s loss in the semi-final was heartbreaking to fans since India were favourites to win the tournament after being defending champions.
England, who faced Australia in the final at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, ended up as runners-up.
Another Mumbaikar, another big achiever! Shastri somehow was not the crowd’s favourite at Wankhede. They booed him and he never took it lying down.
Chants of ‘Ravi Shastri hai hai’ were not rare. The heckling was mostly because of his slow batting, according to those who witnessed the booing.
Probably, the unsporting section of the crowd kept forgetting Shastri’s immense contribution to Mumbai cricket. Remember, he equalled Sir Garfield Sobers’ amazing six- sixes-in-an-over feat in a Ranji Trophy game for Mumbai at Wankhede in 1984-85. Also, it was Shastri, who helped Mumbai break an eight-season jinx of not winning the Ranji Trophy when his side clinched the trophy in 1993-94. Shastri, whose first-class career for Mumbai began in the 1979-80 season, retired after that season. His first Ranji Trophy game at the Wankhede Stadium was in 1980 when Mumbai played host to Baroda.
In 2006, the unthinkable happened. The ‘God of Cricket’ as they call Sachin Tendulkar was reportedly booed in his landmark 132nd Test match which made him India’s most capped player.
Tendulkar had been going through a lean patch and England defeated India comprehensively in the third Test of the series. After being dismissed by James Anderson in the first innings, the Wankhede crowd, which proudly points out to Tendulkar’s association to the city, vented their frustration on the legend himself by booing.
However, Tendulkar downplayed the episode and was later quoted as saying, “It was not that bad. I have more well wishers than the small section at the Wankhede present on that day. I have to ignore them.” The Wankhede loss to England meant the series honours were shared 1-1. In 2011, during the India vs West Indies Test match, some spectators made their disappointment when Ravi Rampaul dismissed Tendulkar for 94. It would have been Tendulkar’s 100th international hundred.
In 2007, it was the turn of a foreigner to be attacked by a section of the Wankhede crowd. Aussie Andrew Symonds was hurled with racial taunts and actions in the last ODI of the bilateral series after he was dismissed for a golden duck. The matter was not done and dusted as the Australians filed an official complaint with the ICC.
Cricket Australia’s chairman Creagh O’Connor and then BCCI chief issued a joint statement which said: “Cricket crowds in all cricket nations are often noisy and boisterous, which is part of the fun of cricket. But all cricket nations have to be on guard to ensure that the fun does not cross the boundary into unacceptable behaviour.” — Compiled by Parth MN