Bob Woolmer was known for the way he used modern technology to the best effect, which included computer analysis and popularised the use of reverse sweeps as early as the 90s. However in one of the more innovative and controversial methods to improve communication during the game, Woolmer, South Africa captain Hansie Cronje and fast bowler Allan Donald used a pair of earpieces to communicate with each other, but was put to an end by the umpires during the first drinks break. The idea being the coach sitting in the dressing room sometimes has a different perspective of the game compared to players on the field.
It was Sourav Ganguly who found something fishy and quickly reported it to the umpires. Upon investigation, the umpires had a quick consultation with the ICC and asked the players to continue without the earpieces. Although it was not against the rules of the game, it was felt that it was an unfair tactic. The Proteas won the game by four wickets but went on to face a lot of flak from all corners after the game.
Here’s a look at some other big on-field controversies:
Afridi bites the ball (2010): We have witnessed many ways by which players have tried to alter the condition of the ball. Be it stopping the ball with their spikes, rubbing the ball on the zipper or even applying mint-flavored saliva to the ball. But never have we ever seen a player – a captain of an international cricket team biting the ball. Shahid Afridi in a bid to avoid an embarrassing 5-0 whitewash against Australia bit the ball on a couple of occasions before handing it over to Rana Naved.
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He was slapped with a ban for two T20Is and later on justified his action by stating that every team in the world tampers with the ball one way or the other.
Sandpapergate (2018): In one of the biggest controversies in Australian cricket, the trio of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Warner were banned by Cricket Australia for planning and executing of tampering with the ball with the help of a sandpaper. While it was Smith and Warner – the captain and the vice-captain respectively of the Australian side who planned the whole episode, it was opening batsman Cameron Bancroft, who executed it. He was caught applying the sandpaper on the ball and quickly shoved it inside his pants, which was recorded and aired on the big screen at Newlands, Cape Town.
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While Bancroft initially denied any wrongdoing on the field, he and Smith admitted to altering the condition of the ball in the press conference at the end of day’s play.
Forfeited Test (2006): Umpire Darrell Hair added five runs to England’s total after he had found the condition of the ball changed, during The Oval Test in 2006. An unhappy Inzamam-ul-Haq did not like the fact that his team was accused of cheating and he could not convince the umpire either. As a protest, he and his team walked off the pitch and never returned to resume play after tea on day four. As a result, the match was awarded to England.
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It was believed that Hair acted alone in making the decision and strong-armed his colleague Billy Doctrove and was hence banned by the ICC for two years before he returned to officiate once again in 2008.
Bodyline (1932-33): Primarily designed to stop the great Don Bradman, the bodyline was a tactic developed by the England team led by Douglas Jardine during their tour of Australia in 1932-33. The idea was the ball short on or just outside leg with fielders all around the bat. If the batsman defended, they were prone to edge the ball to the fielders nearby and if they missed, they would suffer blow to their bodies and suffer injuries. Despite England’s best efforts, Bradman who averaged more than 100 at that point, was Australia’s most successful batsman on the tour having scored 396 runs at 56.57 and at a spectacular strike-rate of close to 75.
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While England managed to win the series easily, it left sour tastes in the mouths of players from both sides and also threatened to derail the diplomatic relationship between the two nations.
ComBat (1979): Dennis Lillee, one of the fiercest fast bowlers stunned the world when he walked out with an aluminum bat in the middle of the Perth Test against England in 1979. After having used it against West Indies not too long before the Test, Lillee decided to use it once again in the next series. The bat was designed by former club cricketer and Lillee’s good friend Graham Monagham, who aptly named the brand ComBat. However, with the ball not going as far as it should when struck and a complaint from England captain Mike Brearley saying that it was damaging the ball, Lillee was forced to change the bat, which did not go down well with Lillee, who showed his frustration with the ball by dismissing both the England openers for a duck.
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The bat incident certainly fired up Lillee and Australia went on to win the match by 138 runs.
Denness the menace (1997): Match referee, Mike Denness, who was also a former England cricketer, decided to ban six Indian players for one Test – Sachin Tendulkar (Ball tampering), Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Sunder Das, Deep Dasgupta (all for excessive appealing) and skipper Sourav Ganguly for one Test and two ODIs for failing to control his team. It created a huge uproar in India, with the matter even discussed in Parliament. Denness refused to provide any explanation in the press conference when questioned which prompted former India cricketer Ravi Shastri, who was present at the press conference to ask, "If Mike Denness cannot answer questions, why is he here? We know what he looks like."
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The BCCI threatened to pull out of the tour if Denness was not replaced for the next Test at SuperSport Park, Centurion. The ICC stood by Denness but Cricket South Africa supported the BCCI and replaced Denness with Denis Lindsay. The ICC however, deemed the final Test unofficial and eventually it turned out to be a five-day friendly match.
Underarm (1981): Australia captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl an underarm delivery to prevent New Zealand’s No. 10 batsman Brian McKechnie from hitting a six off the final delivery, which would have tied the game. Trevor obliged and bowled the ball as per his brother’s instructions and McKechnie defended the ball and threw the bat away in disgust, leaving his partner Bruce Edgar unbeaten on 102, which is considered as one of the most under-rated centuries ever. New Zealand captain Geoff Howrath pleaded with the umpires stating that it was an illegal delivery as per the rules in English tournaments.
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Greg was criticized heavily by his elder brother Ian and Richie Benaud, who was in commentary. The state heads of both countries too expressed their disappointment over the incident. On-field umpires Donald Weser and Peter Cronin never officiated another international match after that.
Miandad vs Lillee (1981): In one of the ugliest incidents on a cricket field, Pakistan captain Javed Miandad and Australia pacer Dennis Lillee almost came to blows after an on-field altercation. Miandad was furious with the fact that Lillee tried to stop him from competing the run and shoved him aside as a result. When Miandad reached the crease, Lillee kicked Miandad and Miandad spontaneously, lifted the bat like an axe with the intention of hitting Lillee.
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Luckily, the umpire interfered and diffused the situation. Lillee was slapped with an A$200 fine for his act.
Harbhajan slaps Sreesanth (2008): The Indian Premier League (IPL) had been well-received by audience all around the world, but the ugly incident between Harbhajan Singh (Mumbai Indians) and Sreesanth (Kings XI Punjab) left a sour taste. After losing the match by 66 runs, MI offspinner Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth, which left the pacer crying and was consoled by his team-mates. Harbhajan was apparently unhappy with some of the comments Sreesanth had made, which led to his actions. KXIP captain Yuvraj Singh and coach Tom Moody were miffed with the incident terming it ‘unacceptable’. Harbhajan received an 11-match ban for his actions.