Cricket is a sport full of skill, passion, and drama. However, when unexpected circumstances and heated arguments occur, the game of cricket becomes a source of contention.
The Cricket World Cup, as the game’s grandest platform, has seen its fair share of contentious matches over the years. The tournament has had its share of scandals, from crowd disturbances causing the umpires to call off the 1996 World Cup semifinal to Shane Warne being suspended for a year just a day before the 2003 World Cup.
Here are some controversial moments from the history of the Cricket World Cup.
1. Rain Rule Wiped Away South Africa’s Final Chances
South Africa made a good comeback to international cricket in the World Cup following the breakdown of racism in 1991.
South Africa appeared to be well-positioned to make the finals after cruising to the semifinals, but the rain gods had other plans.
Chasing the target of 253 set by England, the Proteas required only 22 runs off 13 balls to win the match.
After the rain stopped and the players returned to the pitch, it appeared that 22 runs were still needed off seven balls. It was later stated that 21 runs had to be chased down in only one delivery in compliance with a rule that involved reducing the least productive overs of the side batting first in order to alter the chasing team’s objective.
After Brian McMillan hit a last-ball single, he stormed off the pitch as South Africa missed out on yet another World Cup.
2. Uncontrollable Crowd at the Eden Gardens
An enthusiastic crowd that couldn’t stand seeing India leave the World Cup just before the final overshadowed the 1996 semifinal match between India and Sri Lanka at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
India sailed on, reaching 98/1 after losing Navjot Singh Sidhu early, thanks to a magnificent performance from Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar. But when Sanath Jayasuriya removed him for 65, all hell broke out.
The Indian batting order crumbled after losing the following six wickets for 22 runs. When a crushing defeat appeared imminent, the crowd erupted and tossed bottles on the ground. Some even set their seats on fire.
As all efforts to calm the crowd failed, including the intervention of match referee Clive Lloyd, the match was given to Sri Lanka, who went on to win the title in the 1996 final.
3. Teams Refusal to Travel to Sri Lanka
India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka were the co-hosts of the 1996 World Cup. The island nation was to host four games during the tournament.
However, Australia and the West Indies opted not to travel to Sri Lanka to play the scheduled matches due to safety concerns. The move was launched in response to a bombing in Colombo by the militant and political Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
4. Cronje Using Earpiece on the Field
It’s fair to say that controversies surrounded the late South African captain Hansie Cronje. Cronje’s activities on the pitch during the 1999 World Cup were called into doubt when he wore an earphone on the ground during his team’s opening match against India.
When India opener Sourav Ganguly noticed it, he quickly requested that on-field umpires Steve Bucknor and David Shepherd intervene. Cronje, who was in the dressing room receiving strategy advice from coach Bob Woolmer, was later requested to remove the earpiece after the umpires consulted the match referee.
5. Shane Warne’s Disqualification
Shane Warne made headlines one day before the World Cup, but for all the wrong reasons.
He tested positive for Moduretic, a prescribed medication. The prohibited drug was known to conceal the presence of steroids.
Although Warne first denied using such substances, his Sample B also tested positive. The famed leg-spinner later said that he had never completely comprehended the Australian Cricket Board’s anti-doping policy.
Australia, on the other hand, bounced back quickly and went on to win the title that year. Warne, on the other hand, was banned for a year.
6. Zimbabwe’s Protest
Shane Warne wasn’t the only one who got into trouble at the 2003 World Cup. In a statement sent to the media, then-Zimbabwe captain Andy Flower and pacer Henry Olonga revealed that they would be wearing black armbands to protest Robert Mugabe’s presidency.
The protest by Flower and Olonga, which was then dubbed the “death of democracy” in Zimbabwe, attracted widespread support. However, the outcry in their home country was so harsh that they were forced to abandon their cricketing ambitions after the World Cup.
7. Death of Coach Bob Woolmer
Pakistan struggled in the West Indies during the 2007 World Cup. The death of coach Bob Woolmer under strange circumstances the day after the team’s defeat to Ireland shook the entire team even more.
Woolmer was discovered dead in his hotel room, and a heart attack was initially suspected. The Jamaican police, on the other hand, initiated a murder probe after a pathologist’s report claimed death by asphyxiation.
The investigation, which had placed practically all of the players and other officials under scrutiny, was finally concluded after an official statement stated that the death was natural.
8. Andrew Flintoff Removed from Vice Captaincy
Andrew Flintoff was forced to resign as vice captain after being proven to be involved in a drunken tragedy that saw him fall off a boat in Saint Lucia. Following the incident, he was also given a one-game suspension.
9. The Saddest Conclusion to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007
Perhaps the most contentious events occurred during the 2007 World Cup. Even the finals day was not immune.
The final between Australia and Sri Lanka was played at the Kensington Oval, which lacked floodlights. As the skies darkened, making play impossible owing to a lack of light, the umpires requested the players stay for the reserve day in order to be fair to both teams.
However, because the minimum number of overs required to apply the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) criterion was completed, the umpires summoned the Australian players, who had already begun celebrating their third consecutive title, for another consultation. After much deliberation between captains Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene, it was agreed that spinners would bowl the final three overs.
Australia did celebrate again that evening, and all of the match officials and umpires were suspended from officiating in the T20 World Cup the following year for their errors on the big day!
10. The Toss Happened Twice in 2011 Final
Not only did India win their second World Cup on that day, but the toss was also done twice.
When Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara yelled ‘heads’ for the first time, Mahendra Singh Dhoni misheard him due to the noise of the Wankhede stadium. Dhoni had chosen to bat if he had won the toss.
However, Sangakkara intervened, and both captains agreed to another toss, which Sri Lanka won.