Ian Chappell reminisces times when cricket was played in empty stadiums

Test matches were suspended in early 1914 and didn’t resume until late 1920 because of the First World War.

Aware of the enormity of the situation, the unprecedented developments of the past couple of days took Ian Chappell to the days of the two world wars.

Aware of the enormity of the situation, the unprecedented developments of the past couple of days took Ian Chappell to the days of the two world wars.   -  Vivek Bendre

Cricketing great Ian Chappell feels a sportsman “doesn’t necessarily” need a crowd to be “spurred on” but he acknowledges the eeriness of empty stands at SCG where Australia thrashed New Zealand in Friday’s ODI.

In a game played behind closed doors amid the COVID-19 threat, Australia beat New Zealand by 71 runs before the three-match series was called off.

“I’m one who believes you don’t necessarily need a crowd to be spurred on as a sportsman; it’s the thrill of a close contest that gets the juices flowing,” Chappell wrote in ESPNcricinfo.

“Nevertheless it was a strange silence that accompanied scintillating boundaries and landmark scores at the SCG.”

The astute former Australia captain also spoke about the positive side of watching a cricket match without cheering fans.

“The upside was the absence of mindless chatter over the PA system; it was good to enjoy a game of cricket where you could hear yourself think.”

Aware of the enormity of the situation, the unprecedented developments of the past couple of days took Chappell to the days of the two world wars.

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“The cancelling of major cricket matches is a rare occurrence and casts the sport back to the dark days of the two world wars.

“Test matches were suspended in early 1914 and didn’t resume until late 1920 because of the First World War. The gap in competition was slightly longer during the Second World War, stretching from August 1939 until March 1946.”

He also shared an anecdote from a game held at a time when the second world war was at its peak.

“Jack Robertson, a successful opening batsman for Middlesex and England, was batting at Lord’s in 1944 when the air-raid sirens erupted. The players and umpires all lay flat on the ground as they had been trained to do until the danger passed.

“On resumption, Robertson casually lifted the first delivery over the boundary for six,” Chappell wrote.

On Friday, in keeping with the guidelines issued by the higher ups, the cricketers from both sides maintained safe distance, something that did not escape Chappell’s attention.

“The finish provided another unusual sight: the opponents didn’t shake hands or hug but acknowledged each other in a variety of different ways from the recommended safe distance of a couple of metres.

“These are indeed strange and difficult times but the main priority is to stay healthy -- a worthwhile objective,” he concluded.

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