In the 21st century, print and digital media have greatly influenced the game of cricket. Now the cricketers can share their opinions on any platform and the audience can also support their heroes. It has definitely brought the fans closer to the game. Also, in the coming years, it is going to play an increasingly important and crucial role in the growth of the sport.
Nowadays, not only the admirers follow the players but also the media who want to analyse them in order to create fresh content. They even go through cricketer’s biographies to churn out stories. In such cases, many players have found themselves in trouble due to their statements.
Most of the times such remarks are perceived in a wrong manner, but such is the nature of media and 24/7 coverage nowadays. Everyone is looking for something said by a cricketer in any source that can cause or stir up a controversy.
Keeping the popularity and fame that cricketers can get owing to media and social media, there is also the flip side which has come back to haunt cricketers. They have made statements in the spur of the moment either in a tweet or in a show and that has hurt their image tremendously.
Here’s looking back on 10 such controversial statements made by cricketers in this decade:
James Anderson – “Virat Kohli isn’t good enough”
James Anderson didn’t win too many Indian fans when he questioned Virat Kohli’s talent and skill as a batsman. Post the 2014 series to England where Virat Kohli struggled against the moving ball, especially against James Anderson. Ahead of their series in 2016, the English speedster had this to say about Virat Kohli:
“I am not sure if Virat Kohli has changed. I just think any technical deficiencies he has got are not in play out here. The wickets just take that out of the equation. There is not enough pace in the wicket to get the nicks, like we did against him in England- with a bit more movement.”
If there was one team which has troubled Kohli in the past, it’s been England. And so it was very important for him to put the ghosts of the 2014 tour to England behind him and start fresh in the five-match Test series at home. As a captain and as a batsman Kohli was almost flawless in the series.
He scored 655 runs in five games including the highest score of 235 and became only the third player after Don Bradman and Ricky Ponting to score three double hundreds in a calendar year. Kohli had scores of 40, 49*, 167, 81, 62, 6*, 235 and 15 throughout the series as India won 4-0. James Anderson’s controversial only helped Kohli to demolish the English team.
Virender Sehwag – “Dhoni’s captaincy alone didn’t win World Cup for India”
Unlike his colleagues, Virender Sehwag is a cricketer whose interviews are full of catchphrases. There is never a dull moment whether he is sending the bowlers on a leather hunt or giving his opinions on teammates. Nowadays he is playing his second innings behind the scenes in the commentary box. He is someone who never holds back, sparing no one in the process.
After his retirement, the dashing opener has been vocal and entertaining on all social platforms especially on Twitter where everyone waits for his tweets. His banter against Piers Morgan on various topics deserves a special mention. The audience loves him because of his witty replies and quirky one-liners which sometimes gets him into trouble. One such instance was his comment on the World Cup-winning captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
In the latter half of Sehwag’s career, there were reports regarding the tension brewing between him and Dhoni. He constantly tried to downplay Dhoni’s success as an Indian skipper. He went a step further when he stated that the Men in Blue was a strong team and MSD was not the sole reason behind India’s World Cup triumph. Still, Sehwag doesn’t miss an opportunity to crucify Dhoni’s actions on the field which gives an idea of his relationship with the former Indian captain.
Shoaib Akhtar –” Tendulkar and Dravid are not match-winners”
The Rawalpindi Express has always found himself in the soup as he never shies away from making bold statements. Shoaib Akhtar has a habit of taking pot-shots at his fellow cricketers. Throughout his career, his controversial rants and comments and his bowling speed never dipped.
Even after his international journey, Akhtar is still continuing his long run-up in the wrong lane and it was clear from his correctly named Autobiography “Controversially Yours”. In his book, the former Pakistan speedster has clearly mentioned his hard times and glory days coupled with his thoughts on arch-rivals, Indian cricketers.
According to Akhtar the legends of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid lacked particular skills. In his report, these two players were not the exact match-winners of their side. He also went on to add that they usually struggled to cope up with his pace which caused a storm in the cricketing circle. Whether he is right or wrong is for others to decide, but one thing is for certain- Rawalpindi Express never shied away from making it to the headlines for his bold and controversial statements.
Chris Gayle – “Don’t blush, baby”
Chris Gayle is one of the easy-going personalities in world cricket. Though he has scored a truckload of runs for the Caribbean team he is mostly remembered for his franchise cricket exploits around the globe. The left-hander entertains his audience with six-hitting skills that come along with his bubbly and jovial personality.
During his career, Chris Gayle has been part of many controversies knowingly and unknowingly. The latter happened when he was giving an interview after a BBL tie to Mel Mclaughlin, Network Ten commentator. The explosive batsman cheekily praised the presenter’s beauty and invited her for drinks which didn’t go down well with anyone who came to know about this controversy.
Within hours Gayle’s comments were the headlines of various news channels and some people remarked him as a misogynist. The ‘Universe Boss’ was fined $10000 for his misconduct and several other women came up with their bad experiences. After that Gayle has not participated in BBL and in his book “Six Machine” he has given a detailed explanation on how his comments were blown out of proportion.
Shahid Afridi – “Indians not as large-hearted as Pakistanis”
The feisty all-rounder from Pakistan is one of the most loved cricketers around the world including India. Afridi is known for his warmth towards his counterparts but sometimes he has intentionally stirred uproar by being politically incorrect. Off late, he is also receiving a lot of flak for some startling revelations he has made in his biography.
Afridi is one of the players who has always rooted for India-Pakistan ties irrespective of the administrative relations between the two countries. He was the captain when the team played the semi-final against India in the 2011 World Cup. It was supposed to be a new beginning but what followed after that was a cheap publicity stunt by the Pakistan skipper.
Back home after the team’s loss, Afridi was invited as a special guest in on a news channel. There he discussed various details regarding their match against arch-rivals but the talk show ended on a controversial note. Afridi slammed the Indian media for their negative approach and also termed Pakistanis as better human beings than Indians. It was a needless statement that became a heated debate in media.
Very much like the ‘Rawalpindi Express‘ Shoaib Akhtar, Afridi is large-hearted but makes statements that are instinctive and can misfire. Both of them have been found wanting when their statements are controversial and are blown out of proportion.
Hardik Pandya – “Sexist comments”
With his talent and ability to strike the ball a long way at will, Hardik Pandya is surely going to be a big name in the upcoming years of world cricket. Since making his debut in 2016 he has come a long way and now he is an integral part of the Indian unit.
According to his teammates, Pandya is an Indian boy with a Caribbean flavour. He himself has elaborated on his fondness for Kieron Pollard and how the Windies all-rounder has helped him improve as an all-rounder.
His power-hitting game and relaxed character completely match the traits of a West Indian cricketer. Due to his flamboyance, Hardik was on the guest list of a popular TV show hosted Karan Johar. It is a candid chat show where he was accompanied by his colleague KL Rahul.
Everything was going smooth until the host slipped some of the ticklish questions, he is known to put to his guests on the talk show. In a light-hearted manner, Pandya replied to all the questions with indecency, which blew out of proportion. When the interview was posted online his sexist comments were not welcomed and he was mercilessly roasted on social platforms. Legal action was taken against both cricketers and BCCI also suspended them for their behaviour.
Vinod Kambli – “Sachin has forgotten me”
Twenty-six years ago, Harris Shield tournament presented the Indian team with two cricketing gems. One being the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar and the other one was the extremely gifted left-handed batsman, Vinod Kambli. Considered as a genius Kambli instantly gained popularity in the international circuit with his attractive stroke-making.
In his early days, the left-hander outshined Sachin Tendulkar and nobody can forget his three consecutive centuries in Test cricket at the young age of 21. Kambli was making headlines with his talent but as fate would have it, he got involved in various off-field antics and disciplinary issues. Since then his career derailed quickly and he never regained his touch. One wonders how good a player he would have ended up if he had stayed away from the off-field antics.
Due to his frustrations, Kambli took the help of alcohol and drugs which made matters even worse for him. He started blaming his former best friend, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar for not helping him in his tough times. In a reality television show, Kambli even admitted that he was shocked when Sachin didn’t mention his name in his retirement speech. For a couple of weeks, the broken friendship between two players became a national debate.
Kagiso Rabada – “Virat Kohli is immature, can’t take abuse”
In the modern-day cricket, the two names which reverberate in the entire cricketing spectrum are Kagiso Rabada and Virat Kohli. The former being the spearhead of the South African bowling unit was supposed to be a star performer in the 2019 World Cup. Due to indifferent form, the speedster wasn’t at his best in the tournament.
Rabada’s bad patch definitely dashed the Proteas World Cup dreams. They lost their initial fixtures against England and Bangladesh. Rose Bowl was their third pit stop where they were going to take on tournament favourites, India. Before the game, Rabada used the classic fast-bowler technique of sledging the best batsman of opposition in the pre-match conference which in this case, the batsmen happened to be Virat Kohli.
The pacer termed the Indian skipper as immature who cannot take sporting banter in his stride. He also added that Kohli is a difficult character to understand. In reply, Virat downplayed the comment and suggested a man-to-man discussion with Rabada. Though the Indian skipper didn’t take the comment seriously his fans really got annoyed and it became a piece of front-page news.
Arjuna Ranatunga – “2011 World Cup final was fixed’’
The Sri Lankan cricket is going through a dark phase with many match-fixing allegations raised in the last couple of years. Even the cricketing system has taken a hit as many of the former players are questioning the current scenario of the sport in the country. One of them is their World Cup-winning captain, Arjuna Ranatunga.
Nowadays though the Sri Lankan legend is busy with his political affairs he has always shown his interest in the country’s cricket. In 2015 Ranatunga even contested for the vice-president role of Sri Lanka Cricket but he suffered a humiliating defeat from the hands of Sumathipala. In 2017 when the island nation lost an ODI series against Zimbabwe, Ranatunga made a shocking revelation on his Facebook page.
In that post, the former Sri Lankan skipper explained how he was shocked by his countrymen’s loss in the 2011 World Cup. He demanded an immediate probe and added that he has doubts on a couple of individuals of that team. The former Sri Lankan skipper made a sensational claim that the 2011 World Cup final was fixed and that’s the reason India became champions.
Kevin Pietersen – “Matt Prior was the Big Cheese”
In the last decade, some of the best innings of English cricket was played by the stylish right-hander, Kevin Pietersen or KP. He was one of the pioneers who changed the outlook of the Pommies in white-ball cricket. Be it the famous 2005 Ashes series or the 2010 T20 World Cup triumph, Pietersen was the central figure when England won major championships.
Pietersen was an individual who was always in the limelight for both right and wrong reasons. The year 2012 turned out to be a nightmare for him as he was dropped for disciplinary and dressing room issues. Though he was called back in the 2013 Ashes series the problems never got resolved. A mediocre performance led to a complete fallout with the ECB which brought his glittering career to a disruptive end.
Exactly after one year, KP released his biography where he claimed that Andy Flower was one of the reasons why his cricketing expedition ended on a sorry note. He also criticized Matt Prior for his bossy attitude when the wicket-keeper was the vice-captain of the team. According to Pietersen, Prior was the main reason why everybody fell out with him in the dressing room. Some of the England players came out in his support and it took some time to get the dust settle.
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