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Duanne Olivier

5 famous players whose careers ended because of controversies

Cricket has faced a plethora of controversies over the years. From the infamous ‘Bodyline’ Ashes series of 1932-33 and the ‘Mankading' incident, to the current issues of match-fixing and Kolpak contracts, unsavoury incidents have always been part and parcel of the game.


With the extensive media coverage nowadays controversial incidents rarely slip away without notice, and are instead often blown out of proportion. In some cases, these incidents were serious enough to end a player’s career.

Here we take a look at five such instances.

#5 Hansie Cronje

Hansie Cronje

When a cricket fan ponders Hansie Cronje’s fall from grace, the first thought that comes up in his or her mind is: how did it go so wrong?

Cronje, who represented South Africa in 68 Tests and 188 ODIs, was an inspiring captain and dependable all-rounder. For a majority of his international career that spanned from 1992 to 2000, he was an excellent role model too. It seemed like he had very few flaws in his character.

But then in 2000, it transpired that he had an unhealthy love for money. To the widespread shock and disbelief of cricket fans, Cronje was convicted of match-fixing in April of that year. He was given a life-ban and died an unhappy man two years later.


Cronje made his international debut during South Africa’s historic World Cup 1992 campaign (it was their first ever tournament). He was known for his powerful slog-sweeping – when he played the shot the ball often went for six – and good timing.

He displayed these attributes in full when he registered his maiden Test century in December 1992 against India.

The batsman experienced plenty of highlights in the next eight years, such as 1133 ODI runs in 1994 and a Test score of 126 against England in 1998.


Come 2000, Cronje was at the peak of his powers. As captain, he seemed ready to propel the Proteas to even greater heights. As a batsman, he was eager to score many more runs. But unfortunately for him, neither of those things materialized.

On 7 April 2000, a conversation between Cronje and bookmaker Sanjay Chawla was leaked to the media. Cronje, who initially denied any wrongdoing, had no option but to confess his sins.

To the consternation of South African fans, he admitted that he had received money to force a result in a recent Test versus England, as well as asking players to underperform.

Tragically, Cronje died in a plane crash near George, South Africa in 2002.


#4 Andy Flower

Andy Flower batting against India

Andy Flower carved out a stellar international career for himself between 1992 and 2003. With 4,794 Test runs to his name at an average of 51.54, he is regarded as one of the country’s greatest ever batsmen.

Although he also played 215 ODIs, Flower was evidently most at home in the Test arena, where he could accumulate runs at his own pace.

The left-hander was an expert at playing the ball into gaps. He was also a superb player of spinners, and executed the sweep shot with aplomb.

Flower played several standout innings over the course of his career, such as the 115 not out versus Sri Lanka on ODI debut and the 156 against Pakistan in his country’s first-ever Test match win (in 1995).

But just when Flower was at the top of his game, his career ended with a controversial incident in 2003. Flower and his teammate Henry Olonga were unhappy with the Zimbabwean government at the time and so decided to wear black armbands in protest during their team’s first match of the World Cup.


The incident provoked a huge storm at home and both players decided to retire from international cricket soon after.

Flower subsequently moved to England, where he has since forged a highly successful coaching career.

#3 Andrew Symonds

Andrew Symonds

Andrew Symonds is another example of a player whose career ended in controversial circumstances.

An all-rounder who could produce sensational performances when in the mood, Symonds played 26 Tests, 198 ODIs and 14 T20Is for Australia between 1998 and 2009.

The Australian was an intimidating presence on the field with his burly figure and long dreadlocks. On the playing front, Symonds was a destructive batsman who could hit towering sixes at will. He was also a gifted bowler who could take wickets with both medium-pace and off-spin deliveries.

But his career was hampered by a series of controversies that started in 2008.

The first such incident occurred during the SCG Test versus India in January of that year. On the third day of the match Symonds and Harbhajan Singh got involved in a heated altercation, after the latter allegedly called Symonds a ‘monkey’.

Singh was given a three-match ban by match referee Mike Procter, but managed to get it overturned.


The incident had a lasting impact on Symonds, who felt that Cricket Australia (CA) had not supported him enough. His career trajectory and confidence subsequently plummeted lower and lower.

In August 2008 he went fishing and consequently skipped a team-meeting, getting banned for a couple of months as a result. In early 2009, Symonds was disrespectful towards former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum during an infamous interview.

After another alcohol-related incident during the T20 World Cup 2009 in England, Symonds was sent home and he announced his retirement soon afterwards. It is unfortunate that the enormously talented Symonds’ career had to end on such a sour note.

#2 Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen, who played 104 Tests and 136 ODIs in an international career that spanned from 2004 to 2014, is one of the best players to have ever donned an England shirt.

Although he was also involved in his fair share of colorful off-field incidents, it was Pietersen’s batting that was more often in the headlines between 2004 and 2011. During this period, he enraptured cricket fans with his brilliant batting.

“KP”, as he is known, was an aggressive batsman who was not afraid to take bowlers on. In particular, he was a superb player against spin bowling.

Using these attributes, Pietersen helped win several matches for England.

But unfortunately, his last three years in international cricket were marred by a frosty relationship with the English Cricket Board (ECB).

The fallout started in August 2012, when Pietersen sent “provocative” messages to the South African team (his captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower were mentioned in the texts). He was consequently dropped from the side for the next Test.


After this incident, his international career seemed to be in tatters and Pietersen was duly omitted from the squad to tour the West Indies in early 2014. England moved on from the batsman because, according to then-managing director of England cricket Paul Newton, KP had looked disengaged in previous matches and soured the team atmosphere.

#1 Duanne Olivier

Duanne Olivier gets ready to release the ball

When Sri Lanka toured South Africa in early February 2019 for a three-match Test series, nobody expected them to win. After all, South Africa had a world-class bowling attack and had won their last seven series at home.

But the tourists showed good skills to upset the apple cart and win 2-0.

Although it was a highly entertaining series, it was soon pushed to the background when a big controversy erupted. On 26 February, Duanne Olivier, a promising South African fast bowler, announced that he had signed a three-year Kolpak contract (which prohibits players from playing for their home country).

That caused a heated debate, and Olivier’s decision was criticized from all corners of the cricket fraternity - including Cricket South Africa (CSA), South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis and former England international Kevin Pietersen.

With that, another immense talent was lost by South Africa.

Olivier made his international debut against Sri Lanka in February 2017. Using his pace and bounce to good effect, Olivier returned match-figures of 5-57.


Despite his brilliant debut, Olivier played in only five of South Africa’s next 19 Test matches (all of them in 2017 and 2018). The experienced trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel was preferred (when fit) and, by his own admission, this was one of the major reasons why Olivier left for greener pastures.

In the matches that he played though, the fast bowler impressed with his dangerous bouncer and wicket-taking ability.

Back in the side, Olivier pulverized Pakistan with these weapons in the three-Test series in January 2019, when he took 24 wickets. He then snared seven wickets against the visiting Sri Lankans to ensure that he bowed out of international cricket (at least representing South Africa) on a high.

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Edited by
Musab Abid
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