Cricket Mired in Controversies, One After Another


Cricket No Longer a Gentleman’s Game

Why Is BCCI Shying Away From WADA Code? Controversies Plaguing The Game.

Cricket was always known as a ‘Gentleman’s game’ played with utmost respect and enthusiasm. But of late, it is mired in controversies that marr the reputation of the game. There were several incidents, starting with the famous ‘bodyline’, ball tampering, to match fixing that landed the gentleman’s game in a crisis.

During the English tour of Australia in 1932-33, cricket caused a diplomatic row due to use of ‘bodyline’ or ‘leg theory’ adopted by the English Captain to check the batting exploits of Don Bradman. This incident also forced the authorities to enact laws to curb use of ‘bodyline’ style of bowling to protect the lives of the cricketers as no helmets were used against short pitched deliveries. Even today, that storm is remembered in the cricket world.

In another incident, the Chappel brothers brought disrepute to the game, when Trevor Chappel under instructions from his brother – Captain Greg Chappel, threw an under-arm ball to McKenzie, to prevent the Kiwis from scoring six runs from the last ball in the Benson & Hedges World Cup Final in 1980-81. The batsman threw the bat in utter disgust.

Of the incidents that marred the game most, ball tampering by bowlers using artificial substances to roughen one side of the ball or tamper with the seam. The main architect of ball tampering were the Pakistanis starting with Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, down to Asif, not to speak of Waqar and Wasim. It again surfaced recently with a cry to legalise ball tampering, a cause spearheaded by Allan Donald, once a fast bowler from South Africa.

Other incidents include verbal abuse between players, playes vs umpires, wagging of fingers, tossing of bats, kicking off the stumps, hitting other players with the bat. The famous ‘kangaroo’ jump by Javed Miandad to tease Indian Wicket Keeper Kiran More, rebel tours of South Africa and Kerry Packer’s colourful matches added to the woes of the game.

In a bizarre incident, controversial umpire Darrel Hire and Ross Emerson were guilty of calling Murali seven times that led Ranatunga to leave the field and created animosity between the two sides. This also led Muralidharan to undergo a biometric test that ultimately proved his bowling action legal.

In a 1997 Sahara Cup match against India, Inzamam assaulted a member of the crowd who compared Inzamam to several kinds of potato. He was arrested on two charges of assault but later relased on a bail of $3000.

In a shameful instance of match fixing, players like Hansie Cronje, Azharuddin, Malik, Jadeja and others were accused of playing into the hands of a betting mafia. Later some of the players like Hansie Cronje, Azhar and Jadeja were banned from playing in their respective countries. In this particular match fixing, the players were lured with money, to throw away their wickets to lose the match. The game was soon pushed into the gamblers’ den. This brought disrepute to the game and people were unwilling to believe even a genuine result. That was the height of the match fixing controversy. Yet after the incident, these players are still roaming with heads high. One has even become a Member of Parliament.

The famous war of words between Harbajan Singh and Andrew Symonds led Harbajan to a three Test ban punishment, only to be acquitted later after an enquiry and let off mildly, and Symonds was accused of swearing at the off spinner.

In another incident Pakistani Coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in a Hotel room in Jamaica after Pakistan went down to minnows Ireland in a 2007 World Cup match. This incident had brought several Pakistani players under scanner of suspicion, but it was later proved to be a natural death.

Perhaps, cricket was the only game, where dope testing was not made compulsory. However, some incidences forced the authorities to conduct dope testing on certain players. In one such famous incident, Shane Warne was sent back from the 2003 World Cup tour of South Africa after testing positive to a banned diuretic. Warne claimed that he took the pills for weight-loss, but all the leg spinner got in return was a one year ban from all forms of cricket.

Even Asif and Shoaib Akther were found guilty of using banned substances, in a dope test.

The question arises as to why the BCCI is risking alienation by rejecting the WADA code. The board’s idea of having its own dope body would not go well with the ICC. India’s Sports Minister Gill also favoured the idea and wanted BCCI to go along with ICC in signing the WADA code. The general sentiment is that what is good for the entire sporting world is good for Indian cricketers also. There are no exceptions to the law.

ICC was a signatory to WADA code in 2006 and is a party to the revised International Standard for Testing (IST) since Jan 2009. When BCCI were asked to sign the WADA code before the 31st July deadline and particularly when all other playing nations have signed it already, it refused. When players from Roger Federer to Yalena Isinbayeva can be a signatory why not Sachin Tendulkar or MS Dhoni? Despite reservations, Rickey Ponting and Andrew Flintof have signed it already.

Refusing to sign means, BCCI is risking ouster from the Olympic Committee and the non-participation of India in future Olympic games. If not resolved, this would lead to India being banned from playing in ICC sponored events. Many of the former cricketers have opined against the BCCI’s demand for an independent Dope Testing body as it is not credible since BCCI cannot prevent use of unethical medical methods. All the former Test Cricketers and Captains were in favour of BCCI signing the WADA code.

When the game of cricket itself is facing challenges like fading spectator interest in Test Cricket, throwing of tantrums by BCCI at this stage could hasten its demise. It is in the interest of game and spectators, that the BCCI should fall in line with ICC and sign the WADA code forthwith before any adverse action is taken by ICC. Its revenue generation capacity alone would not bully the Game’s world body ICC. It is imperative international norms are followed at all levels, so that the image of the game is preserved and spectator interest is sustained.

I Hope BCCI will not risk having its players marginalised by ICC and be a signatory to the WADA code. Jai Hind.

Editor’s notes:

BCCI is the Board of Control for Cricket in India

ICC is the International Cricket Council

WADA is the World Anti-Doping Agency

A.M. Jamsheed Basha is a Chennai-based columnist, political commentator, who writes on matters of importance, political, social and self-improvement.