@ Getty Images and AFP
@ Getty Images and AFP

“When a thing ceases to be subject of controversy, it ceases to be subject of interest,” English writer and philosopher, William Hazlitt had famously said. The gentleman’s game, cricket, saw numerous controversies apart from the bowling and batting exploits in 2016. There were some that caused furore while some other that were brushed under the carpet. Few players were sacked, banned; few others retired in the wake of controversies while some faced the adversities sportingly. Verbal wars, on-field clashes, some ‘boos and haws’.. As another dramatic year comes to an end, here is a compilation of some of the top controversies that brought cricket to a stand-still:

Gulam Bodi’s ‘fixed’ cricket term: Cricket and players’ involvement in match-fixing is not a new story. After former cricketer Hansie Cronje was exposed in the match-fixing scandal in 2000 during the India series, it was time for Gulam Bodi to face the wrath by ICC in 2016. Indian-born Bodi was charged under Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) anti-corruption code for “contriving to fix, or otherwise improperly influence aspects of the 2015 RAM SLAM T20 Challenge Series,” as mentioned by ICC.

CSA declined to provide much information until the entire investigation ended. On reaching the conclusion of the enquiry, Bodi admitted to the charges and was banned for 20 years. The ban was taken with immediate effect as announced by CSA’s chief executive officer Haroon Lorgat. Bodi had played just two ODIs for South Africa in 2007. He also played a T20I in the same year against West Indies and was member of the squad for the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup 2007, where he received no opportunity to play.

When Taskin Ahmed chopped off MS Dhoni’s head:  We have heard various remarks, social media meme’s on India and Pakistan rivalry. This time, for a change, one could witness a high-voltage clash between India and Bangladesh’s fans. The clash took  ugly turn when India and Bangladesh headed into the final of Asia Cup T20 2016. A Bangladeshi fan posted photograph of a rather aggressive Taskin holding chopped head of Dhoni in his hands. While some considered it hilarious, some found it demeaning and condemnable. This rivalry between fans of the two teams has been making the rounds since a no-ball decision was worked in the favour of Indian batsman Rohit Sharma during ICC World Cup 2015 quarter-final. India followed it not only with victory but also earned a spot in semi-final.

The incident occurred before India-Bangladesh Asia Cup T20 2016 final Photo Courtesy: Twitter
The incident occurred before India-Bangladesh Asia Cup T20 2016 final Photo Courtesy: Twitter

However, in the bilateral series that followed, Bangladesh’s Mustafizur crushed India’s hopes and won the series for his team by 2-1. Soon after, a Bangladeshi newspaper posted  an advertisement of a cutter brand  where Mustafizur could be seen  alongside Indian batsmen with half-shaved heads to show the after effects of his  cutters. India responded to all the meme’s in resounding manner as they won the Asia Cup T20 for the sixth time by eight wickets, putting all the floating pictures to rest. Someone was talking about spirit of cricket!

Mohammad Aamer’s cashless entry in cricket: The beginning of the year saw the return of Aamer in international cricket after span of 5 YEARS. A mistake that turned his entire career upside-down during England tour 2010, found him coming back to inappropriate taunts. The incident occurred during the T20I series against New Zealand when a veteran DJ appointed by New Zealand Cricket (NZC), played cash register sounds. The crowd also chanted “I’ve dollar for you.” The DJ was shortly censured and told it was ‘inappropriate and disrespectful’ to provoke the fast bowler Aamer after serving five-year ban. Aamer was also reportedly disturbed by the incident.

Taskin Ahmed’s illicit bowling action: A rather dull atmosphere spread amongst impulsive Bangladeshi fans when Taskin and Arafat Sunny were caught for illegal bowling action during ICC World T20  in 2016. There were once again images floating around of the various angles from which Taskin was bowling against Netherlands, which Bangladesh won by 8 runs. They were reported of throwing the ball as per the on-field umpires. The matter was further scrutinised by ICC under suspected bowling action. Both the bowlers were granted to play until the results were out. Few days later,  Bangladesh faced major blow when Sunny and Taskin were suspended from bowling. They were ordered to undergo Tests at Chennai. The Bangladesh team  was allowed to call for replacements.

Photo courtesy: @Istiaq258 on Twitter
Photo courtesy: @Istiaq258 on Twitter

After the tests, Sunny and Taskin lost their appeal against suspension from international cricket. It was in September, when Bangladesh speedster Taskin and spinner Sunny were cleared to resume bowling in international cricket. They passed the reassessment test paving their way to play against Afghanistan in ODIs.

West Indies ‘mankad’ Zimbabwe to reach Under-19 T20WC quarter-final:  It was the final league match for West Indies in Under-19 World Cup. The game was gripping and could have headed towards any direction. But one thrilling controversial action, changed the course of the game and saw West Indies reaching the semi-final and finally, winning the tournament. Zimbabwe, chasing West Indies’ 226, began the last over needing just three runs to win. However, West Indies bowler Keemo Paul whipped the bails off before sending down the first ball and catching the non-striker Richard Ngarava out of his crease.

As per the laws, the bowler can grab a run-out whipping the bails off if the non-striker is off the crease. That one incident added curtains to yet another nail-biting game. While some cricketers condemned the act, some supported the young talents.

Nepal’s ‘age’ old drama: A jubilant Nepal were excited to find their spot in ICC Under-19 World Cup after beating New Zealand and Ireland. But Nepal courted trouble when it was found their captain Raju Rijal’s age was not appropriate to participate in the U19WC. Kaustubh Pawar, was the first to report through his social media account. He further mentioned about Rijal playing with him during the Under-15 days at Mumbai.

Photo Courtesy: Kaustubh Pawar's Facebook Account
Photo Courtesy: Kaustubh Pawar’s Facebook Account

While Rijal was unaware of such claims, Nepal’s manager Sudeep Sharma asked for justification. The matter was left to ICC and two days after the claims, they confirmed that Rijal was eligible to play. As per the official documents, Rijal was born on September 26, 1996. As per ICC’ statement, “Players born on or after September 1, 1996 were eligible to participate in ICC U19WC.”

Marlon Samuels-Ben Stokes spat: Prior to being choked by Carlos Brathwaite with four consecutive sixes, Ben Stokes had his share of cold vibes with the Caribbean side since England tour of West Indies in 2015. However, things got worse during the ICC T20WC in which Stokes and Samuels exchanged verbal spat, especially when West Indies were 14 for 3, chasing England’s target of 156 in the final. Samuels was already under the spotlight for entering the post-match press conference with pads on and resting his legs on the table. The spicy bit came in when Samuels was confronted about his verbal volley with Stokes. Samuels provided perfect ways to describe the New-Zealand born bowler as ‘nervous laddie’ and someone ‘who does not learn’.

Stokes remained calm for months, until certain excerpts of his autobiography, Firestarter: Me, Cricket and the Heat of the Moment made rounds. He did not leave an opportunity to slam Samuels and elaborated the entire conversation that he shared with the batsman during the final of T20WC that included foul languages.

Mother to the rescue: After Stokes’s shell-shocking performance in the final over of T20WC, there were various comments that started floating around. Stokes, hailing from New Zealand, had to bear the repercussions further over radio channels and social media. After the Samuels incident, two RJ’s from Radio Hauraki in New Zealand were providing their hilarious take on Stokes’ last over against West Indies. Hearing the same, Stokes’ mother called the radio station in support of her son. The heated argument was aired and when she realised that it was all live, Deborah Stokes complained to the radio officials. Subsequently Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath were suspended for a day.

WICB and West Indies – a never-ending saga: A tale that began at the start of the year, has found no respite till date. This could be termed as one of the biggest controversies of this year. It all started ahead of the T20WC, as players took their time to sign the contract demands. The dispute continued and Sammy took the opportunity to take a dig during the post-match presentation at the T20WC where he was unsure if the same West Indies squad could play in the next tournament. It was followed by the announcement of West Indies tri-series squad where big guns like Chris Gayle and Sammy were rested. It raised several eyebrows when Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine were selected after span of one year.

Although Gayle, Bravo and Sammy had their share of banter with Pollard on social media, it all went to WICB on making such selection, especially after their T20WC heroics. It continued with a shocker when Jerome Taylor was dropped from the India Test series and that lead to his retirement from the Test arena. Meanwhile, Denesh Ramdin was sanctioned following his poor run in the Test arena as he had mentioned  in his tweets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One incident by WICB left the entire cricket fraternity amused and at loss of words. Sammy was sacked by WICB over a 30-second phone call. Sammy sent an emotional message to his fans over the Facebook page with a sad tune playing in the background. That paved the way for Carlos Brathwaite as shortest-format’s captain. The saga was carried forward with Sammy questioning on Phil Simmons being sacked as the coach due to differences in culture and strategic approach as per WICB.

Darren Bravo also took dig on Dave Cameron regarding WICB contracts, which fell beyond the rules and regulations of WICB. He was called mid-way from the tri-series at Zimbabwe following his tweet. There has been no solution, but this controversy has lead to suspension and retirement of classic West  Indian cricketers.

Chris Gayle never ‘Blushes’: A list of controversies and no ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle in it, seems unusual. The start of the year saw the most sensationalised news when Gayle hit on a female reporter from Ten Network, Mel McLaughlin during Big Bash League (BBL) 2015-16. During his pitch-side interview with the female reporter, Gayle passed a remark on her. Gayle was then playing for Melbourne Renegades and was out for 41. Before she could make a comment, Gayle said, “don’t blush, baby.” Once McLaughlin found her senses back and she replied, “I’m not blushing,” as Gayle awkwardly laughed. Gayle was ridiculed for his remarks by cricketers and was also fined $ 10,000 by Renegades. He later made an apology describing his comments as “simple joke.”

The controversy that was silenced brewed up once again when Gayle named his and his girlfriend Natasha Berridge’s first child Blush. Then Gayle was playing for his team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in IPL. He also announced it over social media saying, “Thank you all for all the sweet and kind messages. Blush won’t Blush, my baby.”

Kings XI Punjab forget to roar: The saga of IPL and controversies has been on since its inception. Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have been facing topsy-turvy journey in IPL for a long time now. Their performances have been below par and they have been last benchers of several IPL seasons. This time it got dirty when KXIP lost the final league match against RCB. A Mumbai tabloid reported that KXIP owner Preity Zinta lashed out on KXIP coach Sanjay Bangar in the team dugout, right after the defeat. Bangar clarified on the reports being false before Preity Zinta gave her account. Preity posted a long message on Facebook clarifying the actual incident and demeaning Mumbai reporters.

Drought hits IPL: The year also saw water crisis taking toll on IPL. Mumbai High Court raised tremendous pressure on the organisers of the tournament. The council and IMG that handled the tournament operations raised red signal on three franchises Mumbai Indians (MI), Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). They were asked to move their baggage to different venues apart from Maharashtra. The shifting had to happen before May. RPS had another task on hand as they had match lined-up on May 1. High Court agreed for the May 1 match to be held at Pune and wanted the rest to be moved. After joint-meeting, MI and RPS opted for Visakhapatnam as their neutral venue.

The clash of former Indian cricketers: The last thing that BCCI wanted to see was their former Indian cricketers’ verbal clash over the appointment of new Indian coach. The contention list was long and had some of the prominent names. Amidst  them was Ravi Shastri, who was the team director earlier, Anil Kumble, Sandeep Patil and Stuart Law. The selection of candidate was handled by Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. The problem  arose when Ganguly missed Shastri’s interview which was through video conferencing as the latter was in Bangkok. When Kumble was the chosen one for India, Shastri blasted  Ganguly for disrespecting him and the job was entrusted on him.

In reply, Ganguly questioned Shastri’s absence from the country and asked him to be present for an important event. The controversy, however, did not bear any result once Kumble took his position, with the former India cricketers moving ahead with their daily routines.

Pakistan’s unusual celebrations that went wrong: Some celebrations are out of respect while some are out of sheer excitement. It was a big moment for Pakistan as they won the first Test against England at the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s. Misbah-ul-Haq, who is 42, showed his side importance of fitness when he  celebrated his century  at this iconic venue with some press-ups and army salute. Once Pakistan took the  lead in the four-Test series, the team marked respect to their army camp with a salute and five press-ups. However, the ruling party back home, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz  was unhappy with the unusual celebrations and raised questions on the incident. The lawmaker Rana Muhammad Afzal wanted the players to offer prayers instead of this odd  celebration.

Misbah defended his team’s celebrations post victory, despite the criticisms. In just few days, PCB President Najam Sethi who agreed to the lawmakers remarks, debunked the claims and cleared the air regarding the press-up celebrations.

On-field clash turns serious: The inaugural edition of PSL saw some early fireworks between their own countrymen. It was Valentine’s Day and there were several eyebrows raised. No, not because of any unusual incident but an on-field clash that halted a PSL game. During the Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi match, Ahmed Shahzad and Wahab Riaz indulged in a heated argument that had to be interrupted by field umpires and teammates. In the 5th over, Shahzad smashed a six off Riaz.  On the next delivery, Riaz bowled a slower delivery and let out a loud scream to Shahzad. The batsman was not pleased with the incident and Shahzad raised his bat to Riaz. That built up the anger in Riaz and sparked the fight. PCB took immediate action and penalised them with 30% and 40% match fee along with a heavy warning.

Underworld connection? Shahid Afridi had been mulling over his retirement from international cricket for a long time. However, Afridi’s on and off plans have been confusing many around. Ahead of the T20I series between Pakistan and West Indies, Afridi requested PCB to provide him a final T20I match. PCB were also in agreement for a farewell match to the veteran. But Pakistan’s current chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq had other plans and wanted a new face in the squad. He also added “every player is matured enough to decide till when they want to continue.” The actual fun began when Javed Miandad verbally attacked Afridi. Miandad claimed Afridi wanted a farewell game only for money. On this Afridi fittingly replied, “Money was the difference between one of Pakistan’s greatest batsmen and their former captain Imran Khan.”

It all did not end there. Miandad further accused Afridi of ‘match-fixing’ over a TV show and mentioned all the team players have been involved in this several times. Afridi was of course miffed with such allegations. But the serious part arrived when Dawood Ibrahim warned Afridi during the dispute to take no further steps against Miandad. There was finally some respite in the week-long spat, when the two formers exchanged sweets at Miandad’s house, and the  pic of the same was posted by Miandad over social media.

Bengal players roar on-field: Bengal might not have found place in the quarter-final stage of Ranji Trophy 2016-17, but they surely roared on-field during the league matches. Bengal’s top players Pragyan Ojha and Ashoke Dinda were involved in an on-field feud that turned ugly. Bengal’s next match was against Tamil Nadu at Rajkot. Both nearly came to exchanging blows during the training session. The incident happened when Ojha and Dinda were engaged in a football match. A close source from CAB had recited the entire incident. It was Dinda who fizzled with Ojha’s cool temper. Dinda took a powerful shot that went past Ojha’s ears. Ojha got annoyed and started an argument with Dinda. The latter then charged at Ojha wanting to create a scene out of the incident. The incident fumed when Ojha pushed Dinda. He fell to the ground but by then the other members had come in between to calm down the matter.

The incident was reported to CAB President Sourav Ganguly, who requested the players to move on. Dinda has had a history of altercations with Bengal teammates earlier as well.

The tigers let loose on Englishmen: Tempers were flaring in the entire series between Bangladesh and England. It started with Jos Buttler, who was given LBW on Taskin Ahmed’s delivery. The storm entered when Bangladesh celebrated in an inappropriate manner. Tempers flared and the spectators had plenty to see on the field. The umpires had to stop the argument between Buttler, Mashrafe Mortaza and Sabbir Rahman. Buttler along with Mortaza and Rahman were reprimanded by ICC for the scene created. It did not stop there.

After Bangladesh levelled the ODI series against England winning the second ODI by 34 runs, Bangladesh and England arrived for customary handshake. When Jonathan Bairstow shook hands with Tamim Iqbal, the latter held his hand on Bairstow’s shoulder. Stokes did not take it in the right spirit and stormed at Iqbal pushing him aside. Shakib Al-Hasan had to step in as mediator to end the argument. Stokes also took the entire scene on his social media account reasoning out his behaviour.

 

The Kohli-Anderson-Ashwin verbal row: Indian Test captain Kohli had a stupendous year with three double-centuries in Tests. Kohli smashed 235 against England in the final Test against England, which was his third one in the year. England bowler’s patience  was tested at regular intervals. One of them was England’s pace bowler James Anderson who remained wicketless in the final Test. When asked about Kohli’s double-century, Anderson’s remarks spread tremendous controversy amidst Indian cricket fanatics as well as India’s carom bowler Ravichandran Ashwin. Anderson said, “I am not sure if he (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 that pace in the wicket to get the nicks, like we did against him in England – with a bit more movement.”

When India were on the brink of winning the series, Ashwin  expressed how disappointed he was with the statement made by the veteran bowler. Kohli, usually known for his aggressive nature, was rather found calming down the situation. Kohli even issued a statement post the match, asking Anderson to ‘move on’. England captain Alastair Cook was unhappy with the way the match ended amidst the controversies. A lot of senior cricketers including Inzamam-ul-Haq and Michael Vaughan backed Indian Test captain after watching the entire incident.

Kohli has been the soft target this series with Stokes once again coming under the limelight. Both the players showed varied expressions on their respective dismissals during the tour. Stokes was also reprimanded for using foul language against Kohli.

Some ‘minties’, some saliva and some ‘boos’: If there was one highlight from the entire South Africa tour of Australia, it has to be Faf du Plessis. After losing the ODI series by 5-0, Australia also lost the three-Test series by 2-0. The Hobart Test was a disastrous loss for the Australians and South Africa, under their new captain du Plessis, had all the reasons to cheer. Soon after South Africa won the second Test, video of du Plessis chewing lolly and applying saliva on the ball surfaced across social media. On November 18, du Plessis was charged by ICC under ball-tampering. The Proteas found it as some sort of joke; however, ICC was serious about the entire situation. Dale Steyn even took a dig on ICC as well as the Australians through his tweet. The entire South African cricket clan supported their captain. Du Plessis had also appealed against ball-tampering and on the hearing was found guilty.

Faf du Plessis had to face signboards while entering Adelaide Oval against Australia © Getty Images
Faf du Plessis had to face signboards while entering Adelaide Oval against Australia © Getty Images

The incident was further fuelled when du Plessis arrived at Adelaide airport and an Australian reporter harassed du Plessis on his arrival that caused furore as well. When du Plessis entered his favourite Adelaide Oval, he was welcomed with ‘boos’ and signboards. But that resounding century answered all the critics. Du Plessis had once again appealed against the ICC charges, which the latter dismissed in the recent hearing.