“Indian Cricket’s Most Shameful Moment 1990-91,” read the headline from The Essential Wisden: An Anthology of 150 Years of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
It is one of Indian cricket’s most shameful moments but what transpired, what really happened that led to such a disgraceful moment in Indian cricketing history? It seemed like yet another good day for North Zone, especially with the way they had batted in the clash but on day five, everything changed.
North Zone won the toss, and skipper Kapil Dev didn’t hesitate one bit to bat first. It was a decision that didn’t backfire, in fact, it was a decision that was perfect for the moment. The Indian domestic First-Class competition is constructed in such a way that having a good first innings often transpired into the team winning the competition.
Despite losing his partner Ajay Jadeja at the other end, Raman Lamba stood like a rock, and stood true to his name – Lamba. For today’s generation, the right-hander might be well known for this incident or how in the most tragic of fashions his career ended abruptly.
But for the cricketers growing up in 90s, the opener was a complete ‘bravado’ and some even considered him as their idol for the way he had tackled some great bowlers in his illustrious First-Class career, that spanned 20 years where he scored 8776 runs at an average of 53.84.
In short, he was quite a personality back then and scored runs for fun. It wasn’t any different in Jamshedpur, he was robust, gritty and feisty all in one. Lamba’s innings single-handedly made a stellar difference to the North Zone, who went on to post a mammoth 729 on board, a score that was always going to be enough, on most days than not.
If not for Sachin Tendulkar, the right-hander could have scored a double-hundred as well in Jamshedpur. Okay, what does it have to do with what transpired on the fifth day of the final?
West Zone had scored just 561 in response, meaning that North Zone were already leading the race to the Duleep Trophy quest, courtesy of a first-innings total. And, that meant that they didn’t have to really take any pressure with the bat in the second innings of the encounter. Their batting was a testament to that.
Several short-deliveries flew Lamba’s way but the right-hander kept moving around to leave the delivery, which really irked the West Zone left-arm pacer, Rashid Patel. What transpired next was probably the culmination of all the frustration that had been built over the last four days in Jamshedpur.
Rashid Patel attacks Raman Lamba with a stump during the ill-tempered 1991 Duleep Trophy final at Jamshedpur. Patel was for banned for 13 months and Lamba for 10. Lamba died in 1998 after being hit on the head fielding a short leg in a game in Bangaldesh pic.twitter.com/l642Ud4u8t— Historic Cricket Pictures (@PictureSporting) July 5, 2022
In fact, the legal documents indicated that there were several deliveries that had the name of the batter on it, literally and figuratively. Kiran More, who skippered the team in Ravi Shastri’s absence, uttered in Gujarati to the bowler, and the events that followed were quite daunting.
“Rashid Patel complied with the instructions of his captain as a corollary whereof a tourney of violence was let loose with the ball as a weapon,” the legal report stated what proceeded. The left-arm pacer followed it up with a beamer, almost threatening to take Lamba’s head.
BCCI in their letter, mentioned clearly that Lamba, who was on the receiving end of some threatening deliveries clearly had a verbal exchange with Patel, and added that the right-hander waved his bat towards the bowler, something that led to the transpiring events, wherein the pacer pulled the stump from the non-striker’s end with an attempt to take Lamba down.
“Lamba certainly was not an innocent bystander, and his act of showing the bat to Patel and calling names must have had its effect too,” Suresh Menon had written for his column on the Indian Express, back on January 30, 1991.
On the other hand, The Hindu’s R Mohan had written “A short exchange of words later Patel pulled out a stump and chased Lamba around the ground to land a blow or two on him.".........some action will also be recommended against Lamba for having provoked Patel. But one shudders to think what may happen if justice fails to differentiate between one who provokes and one who assaults.”
The aftermath of these incidents on the field was that the fifth day of the play in Jamshedpur was cancelled and North Zone, courtesy of their first-innings lead was declared as the winner. Cricket though, was not quite on the winning side with the exchange of words and actions resulting in a severe ban for both Lamba and Rashid.
While the left-arm pacer was banned for 13 months, the right-handed batter received a ten-month ban, which was upheld in the court.
“Look cricketers are generally good guys, but things happen in the heat of the moment when the pressure gets to you. In my case, the North Zone piled up 700 plus runs. To me, they were playing defensive cricket. I was provoked by Raman and got very angry,” Patel recalled the events to Mid-Day but as it happened that day, it was yet another dark day in Indian cricket history.
As Wisden had put it down, it was quite a series of unfortunate events which even led to the crowd coming onto the pitch and creating ruckus. The stumps were quite literally pointed at the Delhi batter.
(Image credits and courtesy: PV Vaidyanathan, Indian cricket (1991))
Yusuf floats like a butterfly, stings South Zone like a bee
When things turned ugly quickly between Lamba and Patel
With sights set on Asian Games gold, Sai Kishore is 'ready' to step up
What did Deodhar Trophy teach Indian cricket?
Young players who impressed in Deodhar Trophy 2023
Twin failures put Sarfaraz behind the eight ball, again
Bastab K Parida
Meet India's next crop of Test players ft. Rinku, Sarfaraz, Avesh, and more
Yusuf floats like a butterfly, stings South Zone like a bee
Duleep Trophy 2022: How have India prospects fared?