From umpiring gaffes to coaching howlers, from players’ off-field attitudinal attributes to their tweeting idiosyncrasies, from decision reviewing glitches to warts in reputed tournaments and from scheduling stand-offs to questionable play-making. The 2013 cricketing season has seen all sorts of controversies and then some.
To cynical eyes, some of these controversies have been the nail on the head of the sport while for the more naively optimistic ones, these are naught but hardships that they expect the cricketers to overcome as only sportsmen can. The more shameful incidents however have come to be seen as the sport’s share of infamy, variations of well-known traditional practices that cricket has had to put up with as evolutions, in the few centuries of its existence.
Looking back – in perspective – at each of these incidences, however brings forth a bittersweet poignancy. Of chances that were lost and forfeited, of problems that still loom large in the horizon despite all efforts to keep them at bay and of changes that never took off in spite of all mechanisms to bring changes about.
The prominent controversial components include:
Stuart Broad’s Walking (not walking) incident
The first Ashes Test (English leg) at Trent Bridge saw the sowing of notorious deeds by England that saw them reaping rich rewards from the Aussie crowd in the return leg, Down Under. Stuart Broad’s actions of not walking off the ground despite knowing that he had edged to Aussie captain Michael Clarke in the slips, off Ashton Agar saw the Australian fans seeing red though many past Australian Ashes legends batted for Broad citing the spirit of rivalry.
The English team went on to win the match but Broad’s action dismissed him from the hearts of those who believed in the values of sportsmanship that the ‘Gentleman’s Game’ stood for.
James Anderson’s ‘Dubitable’ Reverse Swing:
Right before the start of the Ashes during the ICC Champions Trophy, James Anderson, the pick of the English bowling attack found himself fending off questions raised about his reverse swinging deliveries with the new ball, without any weathering. What made the allegations sound plausible were facts that leading fast bowlers from other countries were facing problems when it came to executing reverse swing in the harsh English conditions. Though Anderson continued to maintain that he was getting the desired results without any underhanded tactics, the matter still continues to linger on, unresolved.
David Warner’s Slapping Saga:
The ICC Champions Trophy match between England and Australia sure went England’s way but not without sparking off a few telling stories of ‘sour grapes’ syndrome. A night out at a pub following the match saw Australian batsman David Warner punch Joe Root in the wee hours of the morning that saw him getting axed from the already-hapless Australian squad for what was left of their Champions Trophy outing till the first Ashes Test.
Though Warner apologised for his conduct then, his taunting comments on Jonathan Trott’s departure from the English team during the Australian leg of the Ashes spoke of retaliation, leading to yet another round of heated arguments between England and Australia.
The Unique Chapter of Homework Assignments:
Aside of the battering that India gave Australia in the Border-Gavaskar series held at the start of the season, the series would be better remembered for Mickey Arthur’s unique homework assignment following Australia’s loss in the first two Tests. Four prominent Australian cricketers – including vice-captain Shane Watson – lost their place in the squad in the third Test because of the lack of their dedication to submit the ‘homework assignment.’
The South African’s decision received unanimous condemnation from most Australian ex-players and coaches and he found himself unceremoniously sacked from his position, just a fortnight before their Ashes campaign, turning not just his reputation, but also Australia’s into a huge embarrassing spectacle.
The Umpiring Decision that ‘Should-have-never-been’:
Usually an umpire known for his impeccable decision-making on-field, Aleem Dar found himself facing the wrath of countless Australian fans and former players thanks to a glaring oversight in the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. Australia being left out with no challenges to review the decision saw Stuart Broad stay on at his crease without any compunction that further compounded the Australians’ Ashes misery and angst.
The Story of Tampered Matches:
Spot-fixing plagued an otherwise interesting IPL season with three Indian players from Rajasthan Royals emerging to be the sport’s most distasteful antagonists. S. Sreesanth, the hero of the 2007 T20 World Cup final, was the man who infamously signalled to the bookies about fixed deliveries by tucking a white towel into his pants. It didn’t take for the incident to mushroom into bigger mire involving not just underworld elements, but also prominent names associated with administrative giants of Indian cricket.
The See-sawing Drama of Indian Cricket:
In the days and months following the unveiling of the spot-fixing incident, the entirety of Indian cricket found itself grappling with unsavoury sneak-peaks into its administrative side. The BCCI saw its reputation hanging in tatters even as some stubborn men wielding power refused to sidestep in the wake of the blighting home-truths. Even now, as the BCCI slowly tries to regain its pride of place in the international cricketing framework, these less-than-favourable happenings continue to loom in the minds of the Indian cricket fans.
The Reviewing System that was a Flop Show:
ICC’s brainchild UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System) saw a glaring number of loopholes emerge in its limited usage especially during the first Ashes leg. Hawk-eye and Hot Spot failed to bring an end to the chaos that only increased in each match with players and officials debating about the veracity of the on-field decisions aided by technology. The upheaval caused by UDRS led to quite a few noteworthy alternations that have given the sport a much-needed respite from technological glitches.
The Troubled Times of the South African Safari:
The much-talked about India’s tour to South Africa almost came undone thanks to CSA’s appointment of Haroon Lorgat as its CEO. Lorgat’s contentious past with BCCI prompted the latter to come up with a home series against West Indies that went on to be Sachin Tendulkar‘s last test series. The BCCI’s high-handed attitude didn’t win it any applause from the world’s cricketing eyes especially in the wake of South Africa’s meek acceptance of the heavily truncated tour.
Uneasy Social Networking:
Roger Federer‘s Twitter Q&A sessions got him more fans than ever before. But there were some Twitter users from the cricketing world who found themselves courting controversies. Graeme Swann became the social media website’s latest victim with his crass tweet likening England’s loss to rape following England’s to Australia at Perth. Before Swann, there was Cricket Australia with their tweet with a picture of turbaned Teletubbies that was removed by the offending party.
English cricketer Monty Panesar’s troubles in his personal life seemed to spill onto his professional life when the spinner ended up ‘taking a leak’ on bouncers at a pub in Brighton. Panesar’s actions saw him not only get removed from the English squad in the (then) ongoing Ashes series, but also ended up in Sussex suspending him from their squad. Thankfully, for Monty though, his slump didn’t linger on for long and he finds himself once again as the go-to guy for spinning options for the depleted English team.
The Darker Picture of Sledging Conventionality:
England’s tour to Australia for the return Ashes leg has seen a re-emergence of the low-blows of sledging from the Australians. Be it Stuart Broad whose name came to be banned or Kevin Pietersen who was toyed for mock-autographs or Australian Michael Clarke who had his own two pennies’ worth to stoke the raging Australian flames; the ongoing Australian Ashes series has seen a highly charged competitive atmosphere complete with the harshest of controversies.
Shameful Post-match Hysterics:
England’s successful defending of the Ashes urn at home, took yet another turn for the worst when some of the senior team members celebrated their win by urinating on the grounds of the Oval. Though the cricketers were let off after severe reprimanding, there were many who clamoured for their heads for their arrogant display of unheeded celebrating.
None of these controversies have however taken any attention away from the sport but have gone on to make fans even more involved in the proceedings and most of all, in the players in the midst of these turbulences.