Cricket has cultivated a certain reputation in its centuries of popularity, widely regarded as a noble game in which sportsmanship trumps all else.
While much of that still rings true in the respect shown to officials and the camaraderie evident between rival fans in the stands, cricket is not immune to the controversy that courts elite sport.From contentious tactics to unusual equipment, here is a look at some of the most notable moments when the cricketing world has been hit for six by controversy.
The Bodyline Series
The Bodyline strategy was devised by the England cricket team during their 1932-33 tour of Australia, a tactic so divisive that it defined the Test series.
It was created with the primary intention of negating the powers of the legendary Don Bradman. This strategy consisted of balls bowled directly at the body of the batsman rather than the more traditional method of actually trying to hit the stumps.
At best, a batsman could hope to agriculturally carve the leg-stump delivery to the boundary in a pull shot. More often than not, they were reduced to defensive measures, with leg-side fielders in proximity hoping to snaffle any loose balls.Such intimidatory bowling unsurprisingly angered the Australians and had them fearing for the safety of their batsmen.
Diplomats were forced to get involved to quash accusations of unsportsmanlike behaviour on part of the Brits in order to safeguard relations between the two nations.
Rule-makers also jumped in, restricting bowlers to one bouncer per over. That rule change was too late for the Bodyline series that England won 4-1, although their failure to win the six subsequent Ashes series gave Australia comprehensive retribution.The balance is much closer now, with England 17/20 favourites to triumph at home in the 2019 Ashes series.
While many pace bowlers are able to operate in the constraints of cricketing laws to deliver reasonable but intimidating attacks, others have sought more sedate methods to gain an advantage.In 1981, New Zealand required a six off the last ball to tie an ODI match in Melbourne. Australian captain Greg Chappell came up with a cunning plan: he instructed his younger brother Trevor to deliver the last ball of the match underarm.This denied batsman Brian McKechnie the chance to secure enough power and elevation to hit anything even closely resembling a six, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone in the cricketing world.New Zealand and Australian politicians alike voiced their disgust at the tactic, while underarm bowling was subsequently banned in limited-overs cricket.Amusingly, bowling giant Glenn McGrath threatened to recreate the moment in the first ever Twenty20 International, miming an underarm delivery to New Zealand’s Kyle Mills.The Kiwis needed 44 runs off the last ball so McGrath’s act was received with more humour than Chappell’s. The sheer cheek of the Chappells to instigate such a strategy at a crucial moment remains unparalleled in cricket.Imagine if T20 Big Bash League favourites Hobart Hurricanes sealed victory with an underarm delivery; thank goodness they didn’t have Twitter in 1981, as the consternation would be monumental.
That’s Not Cricket
Few things in sport are more scandalous than the notion of an insider dishing the dirt on a dressing room.The Secret Footballer received a great deal of attention for offering a new and unfiltered perspective on life behind the scenes, while inevitably attracting speculation over his identity.It was almost like an Agatha Christie come to life and played in a Reading shirt, if the eventual deduction that Dave Kitson was behind the revelations is an accurate one.Cricket had its own experience of a supposed mysterious insider lifting the lid on drama in a dressing room full of stars.
At the start of the 2009 IPL season, a blog titled Fake IPL Player was launched by an anonymous individual who was commonly considered to be a member of IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders.At a time when KKR were in relative turmoil, it didn’t take a huge leap to believe that a disillusioned player would be taking to the blogosphere to voice their unhappiness.
The blog’s content spoke of KKR players and coaches with cutting familiarity, leading audiences to believe that the author was a player frozen out of the starting eleven.
Audiences should have taken the blog’s title at face value; Fake IPL Player was created by marketing specialist Anupam Mukherji, someone who was very much not a cricketer.
His fictional stories were thoroughly devoid of insider information, compounding the disappointment of KKR fans as they finished bottom of the IPL.
The Monster Bat
While it may sound like something that plagued Gotham City rather than a Surrey cricket ground, the Monster Bat incident marks one of the most barefaced attempts to manipulate the rules of cricket.Remarkably, this incident occurred in 1771; cricket may have existed for several centuries, but so has sporting controversy.
In a match between Hambledon and Chertsey, the latter’s Thomas White attempted to alleviate fears of his stumps being hit by using a bat as wide as the wicket.
Hambledon players were less than enamoured by White’s approach, writing a formal complaint after the match that led to an obvious, but apparently necessary, inclusion in cricketing laws stipulating that the bat cannot, in fact, be as wide as the wicket.This ruling formalised the dimensions of cricket bats that remain in place today. If not, perhaps 66/1 outsiders Bangladesh would have been tempted to deploy the Monster Bat at the ICC World Cup 2019 to attempt to level the playing field.The Monster Bat may have been really big but it wasn’t particularly effective; Chertsey still lost the match by one run.While today’s cricket bats are more substantial than the equivalents in baseball, it’s probably better for the sport as a spectacle if a batsman cannot simply just plonk their bat down in an attempt to cover the entire wicket.
Heavy Metal Batting
That 18th-century escapade is far from the only controversy regarding types of bat. In 1979, Australia’s Dennis Lillee confounded English opposition by bringing out an aluminium bat.Lillee is renowned as one of the all-time great fast bowlers rather than a talented batsman, but observers may have believed that this tool known as the ComBat would have aided Lillee in upsetting the cricket odds and outscoring the specialist batsmen.England captain Mike Brearley voiced his concerns over the ball’s integrity if it were to be pummelled by metal, so an angry Lillee was forced to change bats.As it turns out, Lillee’s bat choice was ostensibly an advert for the ComBat, with sales of the aluminium bat soaring in subsequent months. Cricketing laws were soon changed to stipulate that the blade of a bat must be made of wood.The recent ball-tampering controversy has been well-documented, while any instances of sledging are usually plastered all over the back pages of newspapers.The controversies listed above are perhaps among the more unique cricketing controversies, influential in shaping the laws of the game. While it would be intriguing to watch Joe Root stride out with a Monster Bat, it wouldn’t be in the spirit of cricket.
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