This Day in History (26-Jan-1788) – Australia Day

A number of European explorers sailed the coast of Australia, then known as New Holland, in the 17th century. However it wasn’t well known until 1770 that Captain James Cook claimed it for Britain. The new outpost was put to use as a penal colony and on 26 January 1788, the First Fleet of 11 ships carrying 1,500 people, half of them convicts, arrived in Sydney Harbour under leadership of captain Arthur Phillip. The first years of settlement were nearly disastrous. Cursed with poor soil, an unfamiliar climate and workers who were ignorant of farming, Phillip had great difficulty keeping the men alive. The colony was on the verge of outright starvation for several years, and the marines sent to keep order were not up to the task. Phillip, who proved to be a tough but fair-minded leader, persevered by appointing convicts to positions of responsibility and oversight.

The first official celebrations as ‘Australia Day’ on 26th January, were held in 1818, marking the thirtieth anniversary of white settlement. In a show of imperial strength meant to dazzle the inhabitants, Governor Macquarie ordered a salute of 30 guns to be fired from the battery at Dawes Point and in the evening gave a dinner at Government House for civil and military officers. Mrs Macquarie hosted the ball which followed. Convicts were also encouraged to celebrate the colony’s founding by way of a holiday and ‘an extra Allowance of One Pound of Fresh Meat as a Donation from Government‘.

By the 1820s, many soldiers, officers and emancipated convicts had turned land they received from the government into flourishing farms. News of Australia’s cheap land and bountiful work was bringing more and more boatloads of adventurous migrants from Britain. Settlers or ‘squatters’ began to move deeper into Aboriginal territories, often with a gun,  in search of pasture and water for their stock. In 1825, a party of soldiers and convicts settled in the territory of the Yuggera people, close to modern-day Brisbane. Perth was settled by English gentlemen in 1829, and 1835 a squatter sailed to Port Phillip Bay and chose the location for Melbourne. At the same time a private British company, proud to have no convict links, settled Adelaidein South Australia. Until penal transportation ended in 1868, 160,000 people came to Australia as convicts.


This Day in History (5-Jan-1996) – Muralitharan no-balled for throwing in ODI v WI at the Gabba

During the second Test between Sri Lanka and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day 1995, Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing in front of a crowd of 55000. The off-spinner was no-balled seven times in three overs by Hair, who believed the then 23 year old was bending his arm and straightening it in the process of delivery; an illegal action in cricket.

Ross Emerson, an Australian cricket umpire, made his ODI debut in a match between Sri Lanka and the West Indies in Brisbane on 5th January, 1996. He immediately became controversial, no-balling Muralitharan several times, and continuing to do so even when he switched to bowling legbreaks, which are regarded as being impossible to throw. This led to Muralitharan being dropped by Sri Lanka for the rest of the tour, as he was unable to bowl without being called.

Just before the 98/99 tour, Muralitharan’s action was tested in Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The tests had concluded that Muralitharan could not straighten the elbow due to congenital deformity. The end result of the Test was that the throwing appeared as an optical illusion. The tests in Hong Kong and the green signal by the ICC allowed Muralitharan to play.

On 23 January 1999 in Adelaide, standing at square leg, Emerson once again called Muralitharan, leading to Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga to lead his team off the field in protest and consult team management and the match referee. The match later continued after Emerson threatened to award the match to England, with Muralitharan confined to bowling legbreaks; Emerson claimed that cricket was controlled by Asian countries. The match turned out to be the last international match for Emerson as an umpire.

Ross Emerson admitted in 2010 that his decision to call the bowler was not entirely his own. Emerson told the The Daily Telegraph in Australia that he no-balled Muralitharan due to orders from an unnamed Cricket Australia official.



This Day in History (21-Aug-1770) – James Cook Declares Eastern Australia for Great Britain

In the first of his three expeditions to the South Pacific, Cook managed to be the first man from western Europe to lay eyes upon what is today New South Wales. When he took on the mission, Cook received a grant from the Royal Society to observe the rare celestial occurrence of Venus passing across the sun in the South Pacific and use the information to determine the distance between the Earth and its nearest star.  Seen in 1761 by scientists from Britain, Austria and France at locations all over the world, the Royal Society wished to see if Edmond Halley’s calculations about the transit of Venus were correct.  Dispatching Cook to Tahiti in 1768 for observations, the following year allowed the young navigator ample time to plan his route and gather supplies.

Leaving Plymouth, England on August 26th, Cook sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and down the coast of South America before turning west into the Pacific after rounding Cape Horn.  In mid-April 1769, a minor collection of observations of Venus’ path were made. But the mission also had a hidden military agenda. Cook carried sealed orders instructing him to seek out the “Great Southern Continent,” an undiscovered landmass that was believed to lurk somewhere near the bottom of the globe. Within a few weeks of leaving Tahiti, Cook sailed the HMS Endeavor along the edges of New Zealand, creating a detailed map of the coastline, proving it was a pair of islands and not connected to a larger landmass.   Then he turned toward New Holland – what is now known as Australia – to serve as his guide back toward Southeast Asia on a westward course to Britain.  Early on the morning of April 19, 1770, the southeastern edge of Australia came into view.  Cook and his men entered history as the first Europeans to record seeing that stretch of coastline as they slowly skirted along to the north around the land mass.

While Cook’s journeys took place during a time when Britain was variously at war with the United States, Spain and France, his reputation as a pioneering explorer allowed him to travel the seas with relative impunity.



This Day in History (11-Jul-1979) – Skylab crashes to Earth

Launched in 1973, Skylab was the world’s first successful space station. The first manned Skylab mission came two years after the Soviet Union launched Salynut 1, the world’s first space station, into orbit around the earth. Unfortunately, NASA spent far less time and energy planning how to gracefully bring the space station back to Earth at the end of its mission. Skylab carried the most varied assortment of experimental equipment ever assembled in a single spacecraft to that date. The crews of Skylab spent more than 700 hours observing the sun and brought home more than 175,000 solar pictures. They also provided important information about the biological effects of living in space for prolonged periods of time. Five years after the last Skylab mission, the space station’s orbit began to deteriorate–earlier than was anticipated–because of unexpectedly high sunspot activity. On July 11, 1979, Skylab made a spectacular return to earth, breaking up in the atmosphere and showering burning debris over the Indian Ocean and Australia. No one was injured.

All week there had been mounting speculation over where the spacecraft would come down. In India, the police in all states were put on full alert and the civil aviation department was planning to ban flights across the sub-continent during the crucial hours of re-entry. Beginning in June of 1979, as Skylab’s re-entry approached, many American newspapers jokingly proposed “Skylab insurance”. The San Francisco Examiner went one step further, offering a $10,000 prize to the first person to deliver a piece of Skylab debris to its office within 72 hours of the crash. Knowing the orbiter wasn’t coming down anywhere near the United States, the newspaper felt it was making a safe bet. In Australia, 17-year-old Stan Thornton of tiny Esperance awoke to the commotion when Skylab broke apart in the atmosphere and pelted his house with space station fragments. Thinking quickly, he grabbed a few charred bits of material from his yard, hopped on a plane without so much as a passport or suitcase and made it to the Examiner’s office before the deadline.



This Day in History (25-Jun-1983) – India Wins the Prudential World Cup in England

The 1983 World Cup (also known as the Prudential World Cup) was held from June 9th to June 25th 1983 and was the third edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup. Eight countries participated in this world cup and this was an exciting series of matches right from the start. Non-performing teams at that time, like India and Zimbabwe scored surprising wins over teams like the West Indies and Australia. India and the West Indies qualified for the semi final which came as a surprise since the Indian was considered the underdog back then.

When Kapil Dev led India against the West Indies after defeating England in semi finals, bookmakers odds on India were 66-1. This was a young team (seven of the players were in their twenties) being led by a twenty-four-year-old, confident captain. From being the dark horses to world champions, India stunned the world by beating the defending champions who had won two world cups consecutively. Andy Roberts, Malcom Marshall, Michael Holding and Joel Garner took eight wickets between them, ensuring India walked off the field with just 183 runs in 54.4 overs. India took their critics by surprise when Madan Lal and Amarnath took three wickets each. Vivian Richards was batting on steadily and enthusiastically when Kapil Dev took a splendid catch running backwards. The West Indies lost the match by 43 runs.

Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup trophy over the Lord’s balcony and this remains India’s greatest victory ever. What makes it more special was how a team which was considered a dark horse by many won the game against a team who were till then indisputable world champions. Kapil Dev was the captain who led this team to victory and Mohinder Amarnath was the Man of the Match. The 1983 victory ignited such a passion for cricket that many youngsters were inspired to take up cricket professionally, including a ten-year-old Rahul Dravid (who would later go on to captain the Indian team).