There is something about cricket which is unforgettable in England. Perhaps it’s because we have an impressive history, a legacy of winners to look back on and a current team with potential for future International success.
There is of course the ugly side of Cricket, which no-one wants to see. Every sport has a murky side muddled with drug allegations, drunken nights of partying hard and the occasional marital problem, that can often occur with highly paid, ego-full sportsmen who don’t know when they’ve got a good thing going. Unfortunately, it’s a trait in most sports, after all, they are only human. But Cricket, as beloved as it is to England, has seen some rather unsavoury moments. In Part One of our top ten list, let’s take a look at controversies surrounding this prestigious sport.
It seems that every sport at some point has to suffer the indignant appearance of racism which is astounding considering many of the World’s top athletes come from around the globe and from different backgrounds. This should be celebrated but instead is used as a derisive poke at a competitor. Cricket at times can be one of the most diverse sports in terms of cultures and in 2008 the second test between Australia and India was at the centre of a political storm. Poor sportsmanship wasn’t the only issue but it was Harbhajan Singh, the Indian batsman mocked Lee after a lucky edge strike and then replied to Andrew Symonds (who had come to Lee’s defence in a little gamesmanship) by calling him an offensive term. The only black Australian player at the time, it wasn’t the first time he had suffered this type of abuse and the cricketing world was appalled at the indecency of it, especially at a time when cricket was considered to be a “Gentleman’s Sport”.
Most England fans will remember this controversial moment from 1994, when England Captain and batsman Michael Atherton was seen on camera rubbing dirt from the ground onto the ball. This was before Twitter and Facebook, DVRs and live pause features. All caught on camera, he claimed to have dirt in his pocket to help dry his hands but of course, there was an uproar and accusations of foul play. Despite being fined £2000 by the Chairman of Selectors, he remained as the England Captain. Some doubted at the time whether he should have been retained as Captain, citing moral grounds as the reason for his resignation. It didn’t happen though and he continued to deny the incident was anything other than what he claimed; it was for drying his hands. Like others, we’re not sure this is a good enough cover for such an obvious ploy!
Incredibly, this was a controversy that centred around a player’s deformity. Sri-Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan’s bowling action created a lot of spin on the ball which helped take 800 test wickets, the current World Record. However, it was thought that his technique meant his arm was straightening during the bowling movement which was against the rules. He suffered from chants from the crowd due to the number of no-balls Darell Hair called during a Test Match. His action was tested using biomechanical equipment to ensure that it was his disability that was causing the unusual bowling technique. The congenital deformity was indeed the cause and the ICC cleared him of any wrongdoing but the fact that he had to suffer that sort of scepticism and harassment about something so personal in the first place, says something about the lack of trust we place in sportsmen when an advantage seems to be evident but unexplainable. He took it in good stead though and of course, he’s the one with the World Record!