Cricket is a gentlemen’s game. However, there are plenty of cricketers whose conduct on the field would challenge this notion. These are the top five most controversial moments in the history of cricket.
Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft get too playful with the ball
The most recent controversy in this list, this makes the cut for being so incomprehensively stupid and also very recent. Ball tampering is not new to cricket; in fact, it’s been going on for decades. However, it has been illegal for a while now, as tampering with the ball can give the bowling team many unfair advantages, such as getting reverse swing much earlier than usual out of the ball. It has also become exceptionally difficult to tamper with the ball and not get caught, as camera technology has gotten exponentially better over the years. Yet, the Australian skipper and his colleague, Bancroft, thought it would be a smart idea to mess with the texture of the ball in front of dozens of cameras during their third test against South Africa this March. Bancroft was caught by the camera and the 3rd umpire trying to scrub the ball with a tiny piece of tape with dirt on it, basically turning it into a poor man’s sandpaper. Smith was later removed from his position, as was David Warner, vice-captain at the time and also co-conspirator. Both were banned for one year by the Australian Cricket Board. Bancroft was also given a 9-month ban from all forms of cricket, while also not being considered for the leadership role for one year after then end of his ban.
Amir fixes obvious no-balls
During the 2010 tour of England, Pakistani pacer and the most promising teenager in the world at the time, Mohammad Amir, was alleged to bowl no-balls on purpose in exchange of money, a crime known as spot-fixing. An undercover reporter had bribed Mazhar Majeed, a Pakistani-British bookmaker, one hundred and fifty thousand pounds for Amir and fellow Pakistani pacer, Mohammad Asif, to bowl no balls on specific deliveries. The whole process was video recorded, and later as the two bowlers did as they were told, the video was posted online by News of the World. As a result, Mazhar Majeed was arrested by the Scotland Yard for defrauding bookies. ICC later on would have a trial and suspend the three cricketers in the match who were found guilty, as Salman Butt, the captain of the team, was also found to be guilty. Amir was banned from any kind of first class cricket for five years. Butt was banned for 10 years, while Asif was given a 7-year suspension. Mazhar Majeed would go to jail for 32 months. All three players would also serve short jail sentences in England.
Ranatunga walks out in protest
The only entry of this list that’s not cricketers outright disgracing the game, Arjuna Ranatunga leading his team out of the field as protest of a Muralitharan no-ball is no less shocking than the any on the list. The Sri Lankan skipper at the time, Ranatunga and his team were playing a ODI match against England in January of 1999. Muttiah Muralitharan, already one of the best off spinners of his generation, was cleared by the ICC to have a legal bowling action. This did not stop leg umpire and former Aussie cop, Ross Emerson, from calling a Murali delivery during the 19th over as a no-ball for chucking. This would enrage the Sri Lankan skipper, usually renowned for his calm, as Emerson was one of the umpires that had called Murali’s action into question three years prior. Tempers flared as Ranatunga argued with the umpires and the rest of the Sri Lankan team consoled a dejected Murali. Play was halted for 12 minutes as Ranatunga rallied his team and started walking off the field, apparently forfeiting the match. They would not, stopping at the very edge of the boundary and play would continue. Sri Lanka would win the match by one wicket, a result that is all but forgotten in the wake of this controversy. Ranatunga would later be fined for his conduct.
Holding loses his calm:
Perhaps the holder (pun intended) of the coolest nickname of all time, Michael Holding too was not immune to losing his cool. During West Indies’ tour of New Zealand 1979-80, Michael Holding would appeal for a caught behind against John Parker early in the second innings of the first test. Despite being one of many clear dismissals, the umpires would not raise the finger for Holding. By this point, much of the decisions had gone New Zealand’s way, even though most spectators of the match would tell you that it should not have been the case. Holding was understandably very cross, and on his way to the bowler’s end, he would kick over the stumps in frustration. The picture of Holding kicking the stumps would be a fairly accurate mascot of the tour, as decisions against West Indies team kept getting more and more biased. However, the ridiculous image of the whispering death himself kicking over stumps would become etched in cricketing history.
The fall of a South African hero:
Hansie Cronje was a hero of the South African public. He held the respect of a demigod in that country, and similar amount of respect in the cricketing world. Yet, if you are reading this article, that means you already know how this story ends. In the year 2000, a conversation between Cronje and Sanjay Chawla, a representative of an Indian betting syndicate, was revealed. Cronje was heard accepting Sanjay’s request to fix the match. South African Cricket Board would end up suspending Cronje for life, as well as handing out shorter suspensions to others related to the incident, namely Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom. That’s where the story should have ended, but it didn’t. Cronje later died in a plane crash as the only passenger, along with the two pilots aboard it. Cronje’s original flight had been cancelled. The authorities have officially attributed the crash to the pilots having unusable navigational equipment. Yet, due to the strange circumstances of his death, many still believe it to be a sabotage by any number of betting syndicates, enraged at Cronje for exposing the fixing. Even though it is not an officially supported theory, many believe that the South African government are hiding something about it. They are not wholly wrong, as many of the details of the crash are still unavailable to the general public. His death might have been a direct result of his match fixing, and that’s why Cronje’s fall from grace is the biggest controversy in cricketing history.