Cricket is often referred to as the gentlemen’s game. Over the years the game has seen some great gentlemen like Rahul Dravid, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Shakib Al Hasan, AB de Villiers, Kapil Dev, Jacques Kallis and others, who with their gestures and on-field behaviour have kept the spirit of the game alive. The game will always be indebted to them for their contributions and fair play.
Just as gentlemanship is a part of the game, controversies too are a part of the game. The banters, the healthy competition, the slight nudging, all make the game more competitive and motivate the players to do better. The spice attracts more viewers and makes the game more interesting.
But there are occasions when things get ugly on the field. There are instances that degrade the spirit of the game and murder sportsmanship. Scenarios like these not only affect the teams or players involved but the entire sport as a whole. No one wants to watch their favourite players getting involved in a scandal.
Here, we have a list of 5 most controversial moments in Test cricket that scarred everyone to the core:
1. India vs Australia, 2008
India and Australia encounters have always been heated. Australians are often found bullying other teams at their den by means of sledging and body-line bowling and Indians never fail to retaliate. But things got pretty ugly in 2008 when India toured Australia.
India had lost the first game by a whopping margin of 337 runs. Coming into the second match at Sydney, Indians were under a lot of pressure. Controversy surrounded the game right from the beginning as umpire Steve Bucknor made multiple umpiring blunders, all in the favour of Australia. Australia were 45 for 2 when Ponting was caught behind. Indians appealed but were immediately denied. Indians somehow managed to bounce back and reduced Australia to 191 for 6, when Symonds too was caught behind but denied yet again. Symonds went on to make 162 not out and took Australia’s score to 463 in the first innings.
India fought back yet again, credits to centuries from VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar. India’s score was 451 for 7 when the bizarre incident happened that overshadowed the umpiring errors. Harbhajan Singh was on strike, facing pace machine Brett Lee, who was constantly bowling bouncers at Harbhajan’s body. Sachin was watching this from the non-striker end.
The partnership for the 8th wicket had crossed a 100 runs. At the end of the over, Harbhajan walked to the other end where he exchanged some words with Andrew Symonds, which looked like a normal banter at that moment. Things took a strange turn when Symonds and his fellow mates went to the on-field umpires complaining about racial abuse from Harbhajan Singh, that he allegedly called Symonds an Australian “Monkey”.
The umpires took notice of this and talked to Harbhajan and Sachin, but both of them denied Harbhajan making any such statements. Indian captain Anil Kumble requested the Aussie skipper to settle the matter on-field and play resumed. On the fifth day, India were searing towards a draw when umpiring blunders ruined India’s fun yet again.
This time it was with Dravid and Ganguly. Michael Clarke took 3 wickets in the final over as Australia won the game even after being behind by 69 runs in the first innings. By that time, things were so grim between the two teams that they even didn’t shake hands after the game.
After the game, the match referee Mike Procter in a 4-hour hearing found Harbhajan guilty and ruled a 3-Test ban on Harbhajan Singh. Dejected, India threatened to pull out of the series. Indians appealed against the ban and the hearing was done at Adelaide’s Federal Court. The ban was later lifted and Harbhajan was fined 50% of his match fee. Even after so many years, the infamous “Monkey-Gate” incident is still remembered every time the two teams face each other down under.
2. England vs Pakistan, 2006
Pakistan toured England in July-August, 2006 to play 4 Test matches. The first game of the series was drawn and Pakistan lost miserably in the next two games. Down by 2-0 in the series, Pakistan were under a lot of criticism for the decisions they had made during the entire series.
The fourth Test match was set to happen at the Oval. Having won the toss, Pakistan opted to bowl and reduced the hosts to 173 in the first innings, credits to 4 wickets each from Umar Gul and Mohammad Asif. Coming out to bat, Pakistan put up a mammoth total of 504, century coming from Mohammad Yousuf and nineties from the openers Imran Farhat and Mohammad Hafeez.
It was England’s turn to bat again and Pakistan were in a pretty comfortable situation having taken a whooping lead of 331 runs in the first innings. On the fourth day of the Test match, just before tea, umpire Darrell Hair convicted the Pakistan team of ball-tampering and awarded England five penalty runs along with a new ball. The convicted team protested against the verdict but Hair seemed adamant on his decision.
What followed was utter chaos and drama. Post tea, the Pakistan team refused to come back to the field. The umpires stood their ground and directed the team to resume play, but no response from Pakistan even after almost 20 minutes of waiting resulted in the umpires awarding the game to England on account of forfeiture by the opposition. England were 298 for 4 at that moment.
The Pakistan team, however, returned to the field after 25 minutes, only to find out that the match had slipped from their hands. What once seemed a comfortable victory was now a searing defeat. On 28th September, ICC acquitted Inzamam-ul-Haq, the then Pakistan captain, of ball-tampering but banned him for four one day internationals for marring the reputation of the game.
The controversy does not end here. Later, an e-mail leak revealed that Darrell Hair had written to the ICC that he’d resign from the Elite Umpire Panel if the ICC paid him a compensation of US$ 500,000. Further ahead, ICC announced that Hair would not be travelling to India for the 2006 Champions Trophy. Later on, he was banned from officiating in international matches. In 2007, Darrell Hair announced that he’d be suing the ICC and PCB on account of racial discrimination.
3. Australia vs India, 2020
India and Australia rivalry is not new; it dates way, way back. Even the ongoing Indian tour down under has had its fair share of controversy. This was India’s first Test series post-COVID and having defeated Australia in 2018, everyone expected India to put up a fight this time as well.
Controversies struck the series even before it had started as Ricky Ponting, the former Australian captain and Michael Vaughan tweeted that India had no chance at winning the series as Virat Kohli was leaving after the first game. The nightmare came alive when India were all out for 36 in the second innings of the first Test match. The second match brought with itself a lot of pressure. Virat was home, Mohammed Shami was injured, yet India managed to fight back and defeated Australia by 8 wickets.
Before the start of the 3rd Test match, controversy struck as Indian players Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini broke the bio-bubble and went out to have a meal at the restaurant. A fan tweeted that he saw the players, paid their bill and hugged Pant.
Sore from the defeat, the Australian media were looking for a reason to bash the Indian players and this was the perfect opportunity for them. Many comments were made about the irresponsible behaviour and players were severely trolled across all social media platforms.
Somehow, things settled down and the third Test match started. On the third and the fourth day of the game, the ugly happened. Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah went to the umpires, stating that they were racially abused by some of the fans sitting in the stands. The umpires immediately took notice of the players’ complaints and the drunk supporters were thrown out of the stadium. Later, Cricket Australia issued an official letter, apologising to the two players.
Controversy struck once again on the fifth day of the match when Steve Smith was found swishing Rishabh Pant’s guard during the lunch break. Twitterati started trolling Smith stating “Once a cheater, always a cheater”, clearly referring to the ‘ball-tampering’ incident two years ago. However, the Australian coach Justin Langer denied all claims stating that Smith did that with no such intent.
The banter in this game too was on a different level. On one such instance, Pant said to Ashwin, “I can’t wait to get you to the Gabba, Ash, I’ll tell you what, woohoo,”, to which Ashwin replied, “Just like we want to get you to India. That will be your last series.” The fourth Test match is still in progress and it’d be interesting to see what twists and turns the series takes.
4. South Africa vs Australia, 2018
Australia and controversy are inseparable. This, albeit was the biggest controversy the team has ever been involved in. This was an incident that shook the entire world, that defamed the spirit of the game and defeated the cause of good faith.
Australia went to South Africa to play a total of 4 Test matches. The first game was easily won by the visitors by 118 runs. The highlight of the game was a small fight between Quinton de Kock and David Warner, for which both the players were fined by the authorities.
The hosts fought back in the second game, winning it comfortably by 6 wickets. But this match saw Kagiso Rabada being suspended for two games on account of poor behaviour on-field which was later revoked. Such was the atmosphere that everyone knew a bigger controversy was just around the corner, and it happened in the third Test match.
The third Test match was played at the Newlands in Cape Town. Chaos struck on the third day when post-lunch, footage of Cameron Bancroft rubbing the ball with a small yellow object started telecasting on the big screen. When Bancroft realised that his little misconduct was being watched, he tried to hide it in his trousers, which was yet again showed on the big screen. The umpires, having taken notice of the entire incident, went to Bancroft and concealed the unidentified object.
Addressing the press later that day, Bancroft accepted trying to alter the conditions of the ball using an adhesive tape. It was only revealed later that the object was sandpaper. In an investigation conducted by Cricket Australia, David Warner, Australia’s then vice-captain admitted coming up with the plan of altering the ball.
Steve Smith, the skipper, admitted having full knowledge of the plan and took full responsibility for the incident. David Warner and Steve Smith were immediately sacked from leadership roles and Tim Paine was appointed as the stand-in captain of the team for the remainder of the Test series.
South Africa managed to win the game by a mammoth margin of 332 runs. What would’ve been their biggest victory against Australia in terms of runs was overshadowed by controversy and scandal. On 28th March, Cricket Australia announced that it had found Smith, Warner and Bancroft breaching article 2.3.5 of Cricket Australia’s Code of Conduct.
Warner and Smith were banned for a period of 12 months and were not to be considered for leadership roles 12 months post their return whereas Bancroft was banned for a period of 9 months. Smith was heavily bashed globally for his behaviour and was coined as a professional cheater as the memories of him contacting the dressing room while making a DRS call in a Test match against India last year were still fresh.
Cricket Australia called Smith, Warner and Bancroft back home and they were replaced with Glenn Maxwell, Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns. The incident was infamously called the sandpaper incident, and is so far, the biggest scandal in cricketing history.
5. New Zealand vs West Indies, 1980
A Test series from the era where West Indies were unofficially considered the most superior team in the game. After defeating Australia in their home, West Indies were all set to face New Zealand at the Kiwi’s home for 3 Test matches. The series, that saw a great display from the legend Richard Hadlee, also saw conflicts, ugliness, acquisitions of cheating, the worst of umpiring and the death of sportsmanship.
West Indies decided to bat first after winning the toss and went on to make 140 in the first innings of the first match. The controversy started right from the first session of play as Fred Goodall, the umpire gave out all the three LBW appeals made by Richard Hadlee. Hadlee went on to take 7 LBWs and a total of 12 LBW decisions were given in the game, which became a record for the most LBWs in a game.
Things got even more bitter on the second day when a ball by Michael Holding clearly brushed off the gloves of John Parker and was taken at first slips by Deryck Murray. Parker knew he had edged it and started walking off the pitch but umpire John Hastie gave him not out. Frustrated, Holding kicked the stumps and the image was captured by a local freelance photographer. In the end, New Zealand managed to win the game by a mere one wicket but the game sparked controversies between both the teams.
Things started to cool down as the second match began but picked up flares once again on the third day. Umpire Goodall turned down an appeal against Geoff Howarth, similar to that of John Parker. Howarth was batting on 68 at that moment. Post tea, West Indies refused to get back to the field until Fred Goodall was removed from umpiring.
The New Zealand management persuaded them to play and West Indies came out 12 minutes late but the session saw sportsmanship being murdered brutally. West Indies lost all interest in the game and started dropping catches and boundaries on purpose. The next day’s play was washed down by rain and West Indies had already packed their bags and were all set to leave for home, forfeiting the series. On the orders of the Caribbean Board, the team stayed but hostility towards the umpires grew more and more.
On the final day, Hadlee while attempting to slash a bouncer from Colin Croft edged it and everyone immediately went up in appeal. Yet again, the appeal was denied by Umpire Goodall. Dejected, Colin knocked off the bails at the non-striker end and refused to pick them up. The very next ball, Colin carried straight through his run-up and bashed into umpire Goodall, knocking him sideways.
The injury was not serious but the emotional damage to cricketing fans was very huge. Even after these consecutive events, Clive Lloyd, the Caribbean skipper kept standing at the slip region. The umpires had to walk all the way to him to talk and ask him to keep his players in check. The second Test ended in a draw, so did the third game.
By the end of the third match, many West Indies players had booked early flights to home but were dissuaded from doing so. The post-match dinner party saw umpire Goodall making racist comments against the Caribbean team. West Indies captain Llyod and manager Rodriguez made forward the request of having neutral umpires in Test matches. This was West Indies’ only defeat in Test matches till the 1994-95 season.
Source: The source of this content is our cricket news platform Crictracker.
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