The dictionary meaning of the word controversy is “prolonged public disagreement or heated discussion”. Now, although cricket is labelled a ‘Gentleman’s game’, it is not devoid of controversy. Even as children, while playing in the streets, we did come across incidents which could be deemed controversial.
So, it should not come as a surprise when we see controversies playing a part in international cricket as well. When players are representing their nation, disagreements and heated discussions are bound to occur.
India and Australia have produced some remarkable games in the history of cricket. But at the same time, the two teams have had their share of contribution to the world of controversies. Let’s take a look at some of the famous controversies involving the Indian and the Australian teams.
#5 Decision Review System, 2017 Bengaluru
Neither for the first nor the last time, India and Australia were at loggerheads against each other. And it is the latest technology to have entered cricket – the Decision Review System (DRS) – which was at the centre of all discussion. Indians, who have been criticised by one and all for not making effective use of the DRS, found another reason to hate this system.
Steve Smith, who had been adjudged leg before against Umesh Yadav, in a moment that he referred to as a “brain-fade” later on, looked up to the dressing room to get advice on whether he should take a review.
This was against the laws of the game and the umpires immediately intervened, as did the Indian captain Virat Kohli.
R Ashwin, meanwhile, compared the incident to something that would take place in an under-10 game while the Australian assistant coach David Saker said that they were horrified when Smith looked up towards the dressing room.
Australia eventually lost the match but Smith got away without any sanctions. But do expect some more verbal volleys during the remainder of the series.
#4 Simon Katich-Gautam Gambhir fight, 2008 Delhi
Gautam Gambhir is one Indian cricketer who has been in the thick of things throughout his career. The incident in question took place in the third Test match of the 2008 series in Delhi.
Gambhir had been in tremendous form in the series and believed in giving the Aussies a taste of their own medicine. VVS Laxman had played a straight drive off Simon Katich’s bowling and the ball deflected off Katich’s hand.
Gambhir, who was at the non-striker’s end, found himself behind the bowler. The result was that Katich could not field the ball and Gambhir couldn’t take a run.
This irked the Delhi batsman and he began his rant aginst Katich following which umpire, Billy Bowden, had to step in to bring back normalcy.
It is interesting to note that on the same day, Gambhir got involved in an elbow-pushing incident with Shane Watson. Gambhir, though, went on to score a double century but was later on banned for one Test match.
#3 Michael Slater-Rahul Dravid fight, 2001 Mumbai
The 2001 Border-Gavaskar Trophy was a landmark series in many ways. And this series also witnessed the famous Kolkata Test match.
But much had happened before that match. Australian skipper Steve Waugh had declared before the series that India was his final frontier. The first Test match at Mumbai saw one of the ugliest spats in modern day cricket.
The fact that it involved one of India’s coolest heads, Rahul Dravid did surprise many. Slater appealed for a catch against Dravid in India’s second innings and it was turned down by the third umpire.
Then began what Peter Roebuck described as “Slater’s moment of madness”, the Australian fielder walked up to umpire S Venkatraghavan and began arguing. He then turned to Dravid, who had rightly stood his ground, and exchanged some not-so-pleasant words.
Later on, though, the Australian opening batsman apologised to Dravid and the two sat down together for a pint of beer after the game. So, while it was indeed a controversy which did not go down well with the fans, it ended in a mature manner.
Slater was later fined half his match fee and given a one-match ban for discussing this incident in a radio interview.
#2 Sachin Tendulkar given out shoulder before wicket, 1999 Adelaide
It was the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Adelaide in 1999. Sachin Tendulkar was leading a young Indian side and his team was under tremendous pressure chasing a target of 396 runs.
Not for the first time in the 1990s, the hope of the Indian team rested on its skipper, Tendulkar. The Little Master, who with a score of 61 was India’s highest scorer in the first innings, had come in with the score at 3/2 in the second over.
Along with Rahul Dravid, he tried to restore the Indian innings but Dravid did not last long. However, Tendulkar was still at the crease and the home team was wary of this.
Then, the infamous “shoulder before wicket” incident occurred. Tendulkar was facing Glenn McGrath and seeing the ball land in the middle of the pitch, he tried to duck side-on. The ball did not rise high enough and hit the great man on his left arm, just below the armpit.
Also read: Leg before wicket (lbw): How does it work?
Umpire Daryl Harper felt that the ball was going to hit the stumps and as a result, he adjudged Tendulkar out LBW. Now, many ignorant cricket fans were furious since they could understand how a batsman could be given out leg before when the ball had not hit his leg.
But as per Law 36 written by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), a batsman could be given out LBW even if the ball did not hit his leg and was going to hit the stumps. However, it wasn’t just the fans, even the experts were of the opinion that the ball was not going to hit the stumps and therefore Tendulkar should not have been given out.
The dismissal did stir up a huge controversy and, needless to say, the Indians lost the match after being bowled out for 110 runs.
#1 Monkeygate, 2008 Sydney
It was the mother of all controversies involving the two cricketing giants. The stage for this drama was the famous Sydney Cricket Ground.
The match was marred by questionable umpiring decisions which had a definite impact on the result. Australia eventually went on to win the match by 122 runs.
Such was the impact of the umpiring decisions that the Indian team had threatened to abandon the tour. ICC then intervened and umpire, Steve Bucknor, whose decisions were termed as controversial, was dropped from officiating in the third Test.
The other controversy in this match involved two players who were never shy with respect to showing emotions on the field – Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh. The Indian off-spinner was accused of racially abusing Symonds, a charge which Harbhajan denied.
According to Tendulkar, Harbhajan had only said “Teri Maa Ki” (your mother) to Symonds, who instead believed that the spinner had called him a monkey. Indian captain Anil Kumble had famously said after the match, “Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that's all I can say".
Criticising the turn of events, even commentator Harsha Bhogle had said; “Australia won! But did they deserve it?”
Steve Waugh put it perfectly when he said, “It's a real pity this magnificent Test match will probably be remembered for all the wrong reasons – and not for the outstanding quality, pressure and the excruciating drama it ultimately provided.
Cricket was indeed the loser in Sydney in that match.