Cricket, generally known as the gentleman’s game, hasn’t always been so gentlemanly, with players losing control of their emotions and work ethics on and off the field on numerous occasions.
Fans have sometimes made such players’ lives more difficult by bashing them on social media because they want the best from their heroes.
Every few years, like clockwork, conflicts erupt around the sport of cricket. Over the years, cricket has seen it all, from match-fixing to fights, ball-tampering to confrontations, bodyline to mankading, and everything in between.
Here are the 10 most controversial players in cricket history.
10. Mohammad Amir
The International Cricket Council (ICC) suspended Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, and Salman Butt for alleged spot-fixing during the contentious Lord’s Test match between England and Pakistan in 2010.
They were accused of doing particular on-field activities, such as bowling no balls at predetermined periods, at the request of a bookie. The ICC eventually sentenced the 18-year-old prodigy to a 5-year ban.
After his ban expired, he immediately began making an impact in domestic cricket and made his national team comeback in 2016. He was a major figure in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy victory in 2017.
9. Harbhajan Singh
One of the best off spinners in history, Harbhajan Singh, and controversy are like sugar and tea, created for one another. The Turbanator has done it all, from physical abuse to violence. He has been a part of both historic victories and scandals. Since we can’t cover everything, let’s focus on the more stunning ones.
The 2008 Border Gavaskar series is remembered for its poor umpiring and Harbhajan Singh. He allegedly called Symonds a “monkey” and racially attacked him. He was suspended for 3 tests and fined 50% of his match fees.
When we talk about Harbhajan Singh, we can’t help but bring up the slapping incident. It happened after the match in the inaugural season of the IPL in 2008, when he slapped his fellow Indian colleague S. Sreesanth.
He was not only penalised for the game but he was also suspended for the rest of the IPL. The BCCI further suspended him for 5 One-Day Internationals and threatened him with a life ban if he committed the offence again.
8. Herschelle Gibbs
Herschelle Gibbs, one of the best batters and fielders South African cricket has ever produced, was the architect of the highest-run ODI chase in history. He was possibly the most constant Protea to be involved in issues that wrecked some of his critical days in cricket, as well as his dream of becoming the best South African batter ever.
He was implicated in the most infamous match-fixing scandal in cricket history in the year 2000. When bookies and then-captain Hansie Cronje approached him about fixing a match, he agreed to accept money if he could score fewer than 20 runs. Despite getting 74, he was suspended for 6 months and refused to travel to India for the next 6 years for fear of being caught.
He and numerous other colleagues paid a fine to Cricket South Africa in 2001 for using marijuana while on tour in the West Indies.
Despite the fact that he is a cape-coloured player, Gibbs was accused of making racial slurs directed against Pakistani players and fans and received a 3-game penalty, one in each of the game’s 3 formats.
Later, he apologised and added that his statements were intended for the ears only of his teammates in his immediate vicinity and were directed in broad terms at the segment of the audience that had verbally insulted Paul Harris.
7. Shahid Afridi
He is well-known for his contentious responses in interviews, press conferences, and on social media. He has openly stated that he would not allow his daughters to participate in cricket or any other outdoor sport. When asked for a comment about the Pakistan women’s team, he said, “Our women have magic in their hands; they are good cooks.”
The best scandal, if we may say so, was the ball-tampering episode in which he bit the ball so that the seam was destroyed, allowing Pakistan bowlers to reverse swing the ball.
Later, Afridi admitted to tampering with the ball, apologised in public, and stated that the technique was prevalent among all teams. As a result of his conviction, he was barred from playing in 2 T20Is.
6. Andrew Symonds
Andrew Symonds, the original bad boy of the Australian Cricket Team, is the unquestioned king of controversy in Australian cricket history. His somewhat contentious off-field record was a good complement to his exceptional ability to easily overcome the most difficult obstacles on the field.
The squad sent Symonds home in August 2008 when he skipped a team meeting to go fishing, a feat no one could have imagined, let alone pulled off. He was encouraged to reconsider his desire to play and was subsequently dropped from the India tour squad.
A year later, in the middle of the ICC T20 World Cup, he was sent home from England due to an alcohol-related incident, which turned out to be his last appearance for the Aussies as his contract with the Cricket Australia (CA) board was terminated.
His most infamous interview was with comedians Roy and HG, in which he referred to Brendon McCullum as a “lump of sh*t” and obliquely confessed his adoration for Matthew Hayden’s wife while drunk.
CA finally charged him with breaking the code of conduct and declared him unfit for selection until he recovered completely.
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5. Marlon Samuels
Samuels was first entangled in a dispute when the Indian Police accused him of supplying critical match and pitch information to bookmakers. The ICC suspended Samuels for 2 years in 2008 after the Indian police released a transcript of his conversation with a bookie.
He’s also been involved in a childish feud with Ben Stokes, with the 2 constantly seen criticising each other. Later, Samuels even called Stokes the b-word, which enraged cricket fans all around the world.
None of his incidents were as well-publicised as his on-field brawl with Shane Warne during the 2013 BBL season. Warne screamed and physically abused Samuels while batting when Samuels grabbed David Hussey’s shirt to prevent him from getting another run.
Enraged, Warne hurled the ball towards Samuels, who responded by tossing his bat into the air and striding towards Warne. In what is widely regarded as the worst moment in BBL history, Samuels was then suspended for the rest of the campaign.
4. David Warner
Former players have repeatedly chastised Warner, with Martin Crowe even advocating for a red and yellow card system for players like him.
Fans still remember his infamous bar brawl with Joe Root in England during the 2013 Champions Trophy, in which the Aussie punched the Englishman. Later, he was pulled out of the Australian Champions Trophy squad.
However, the sandpaper event will be incredibly difficult to erase from the minds of the supporters, especially since he was the mastermind behind the plot. Cricket Australia suspended the then-vice captain, along with captain Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, for 12, 12, and 9 months, respectively, on the darkest day in Australian cricket history.
3. S. Sreesanth
Sreesanth gained notoriety for his excessive aggression during India’s 2006 tour of South Africa, when the ICC fined him for cupping his hands after taking Hashim Amla’s wicket and tossing his bat in the air after hitting a six off Andre Nel’s bowling
During a Test match in 2007, he was fined half his match fee for deliberately shoulder-barging Michael Vaughan.
However, the following dispute effectively ended his cricketing career. Sreesanth was detained together with two other Rajasthan Royals players, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, on suspicion of manipulating IPL matches.
The BCCI banned Sreesanth and teammate Ankeet Chavan for life in the worst match-fixing incident in Indian cricket history since 2000.
2. Shane Warne
In 1995, Cricket Australia sanctioned Warne and partner Mark Waugh for receiving money from bookies in exchange for information about key pitches and weather conditions during a match. In 1999, Warne openly voiced his dislike for Arjuna Ranatunga (then Sri Lankan captain), and the ICC suspended him for 2 matches just before the World Cup.
Warne’s career, on the other hand, hit rock bottom in 2003. Just before the commencement of the 2003 World Cup, Warne tested positive for Moduretic, a banned substance. The team’s management brought him home right after, and he was finally forbidden from playing cricket for a year.
Warne was suspended for the whole Big Bash League (BBL) season in 2013 after verbally and physically attacking Marlon Samuels during a league match. Later, he alleged that Samuels began the incident by gripping the shirt of Warne’s teammate David Hussey in an attempt to prevent him from taking an additional run.
1. Shoaib Akhtar
Akhtar was charged with ball tampering during the 2003 Triangular Series in Sri Lanka and banned from the game. During the 2005 tour of Australia, Akhtar was eventually sent home for indiscipline. He was out of the team after earning a 3-match ban — 1 Test and 2 ODIs — for allegedly insulting Paul Adams.
In 2006, a big drug scandal shook Pakistan cricket, and Akhtar was the main suspect, along with Mohammad Asif, who were both found guilty of using performance-enhancing chemicals. Akhtar was sentenced to 2 years in prison, but he was declared not guilty on appeal.
He was also barred from playing for 5 games after being accused of hitting teammate Asif with a bat during the 2007 T20I World Cup. After violating the code of conduct again in 2008, Akhtar faced a 5-year punishment but was acquitted barely a year later.