10 biggest Cricket World Cup controversies of all time

For a gentleman's game, cricket has had more than its share of controversies. Those are amplified and magnified in magnitude when it comes to the Cricket World Cup. If you thought sledging in the recent Australia vs India Test series was a big deal, it's nothing compared to some of the things that have happened in the past. From protests to mothers allegedly prescribing drugs, to the organizers tripping over their own feet, the World Cup has seen it all.Here are 10 controversies which have marred some editions of the Cricket World Cup:

#10 Andrew Flintoff goes blotto in a pedalo

In the 2007 World Cup, Andrew Flintoff ended up being stripped of England’s vice-captaincy and received a one-game ban for commandeering a pedalo (paddle boat) while being intoxicated. Perhaps, it was after a screening of Pirates of Caribbean.

He even had his mateys with him – James Anderson, Liam Plunkett, Jon Lewis, Ian Bell and Paul Nixon were all sanctioned. It was reported that Flintoff had to be rescued after he fell off the pedalo.

#9 2.5-meter rule

India played England In the 2011 World Cup in a group stage match in Bangalore. Ian Bell would have been dismissed leg-before-wicket, but umpire Billy Bowden did not declare him out, and the decision wasn’t reversed by DRS as the distance between point of impact and the stumps was shown to be 2.5 meters.

This rule was in place because the Hawk-Eye ball tracker falters from the point of 2.5 meters and it is the umpire’s decision to make the call if a batsman is out after that distance.

"You can set that mark wherever you want - Dhoni was saying 2.4 and 2.6 - but the experts have decided on 2.5m, after which the umpire and not technology decides,” said ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat.

The rule was subsequently revised, and the revision was also criticised by Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara, who held the view that the rule shouldn’t have been changed during the tournament.

#8 The Eden Gardens Riot

Eden Gardens 1996

In the semi-finals of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, India were chasing a target of 252 against Sri Lanka. India fell to 120 for 8 and defeat seemed imminent.

The crowd at the Eden Gardens was in no mood for a slow death as they threw bottles on the ground and set fire in the stands. The match referee Clive Lloyd halted the match for 15 minutes to try to get the crowd to calm down and to let security bring things under control but to no avail.

Eventually, Sri Lanka were awarded the match when it became clear that the spectators were out of hand.

#7 Death of Democracy - 2003

It is easier to turn and look the other way when misdeeds are being inflicted, when those who facing the trials and tribulations themselves pretend that nothing is wrong. Two Zimbabwe players made a strong statement that they would not keep quiet and bear it.

Zimbabwe skipper Andy Flower and Henry Olonga wore black armbands for their opening match in Zimbabwe to protest Robert Mugabe's presidency. They later expanded on their stand by calling their act as "mourning the death of democracy in Zimbabwe."

England faced strong pressure from their citizens to boycott the match in Zimbabwe and later they announced that they would not play owing to fears for the safety of their players. With the help of the points awarded to the hosts since England didn’t turn up, Zimbabwe advanced to the Super Six stage.

#6 Sri Lanka get forfeits - 1996

Shane Warne

In the 1996 Cricket World Cup, Australia and West Indies chose to forfeit their group matches versus Sri Lanka.

Earlier that year, the Tamil Tigers had bombed the Central Bank and the two teams were concerned for their safety and decided to forfeit instead of taking a security risk. Sri Lanka were awarded the points for those matches and they went on to win the World Cup.

#5 2011 trophy - Real or fake?

World Cup trophy

After 28 long years, India finally got a chance to lift the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy. According to reports, the trophy which was lovingly adored by the Indian team was in fact a fake replica.

According to India Today, the real trophy was kept at a government godown after being seized by the Mumbai Customs on its arrival from Colombo after the Sri Lanka-New Zealand semi-final on 29 March. Apparently, import duty had to be paid for the trophy.

"The trophy is being taken back to Dubai," said Suru Naik, World Cup tournament director (India).

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's CEO told the Times of India: "It is very disappointing that media reports do not represent the fact. India got the trophy which was intended to be delivered to them." Reading between the lines, it seemed like Lorgat was calling the trophy "(one) which was intended to be delivered to them."

Now that seems evasive. If you look up tell-tale signs of lying, you'll see that a lie is embellished with unnecessary details to make it seem authentic. Did he mean that the fake was intended to be delivered? ICC officials claimed that the trophy seized by the customs was the fake one. So to recap, the real trophy was in the stadium. But people said that the real was languishing in customs.

Then, the ICC claimed that the one in the Customs office was a fake. But if it was a fake, why was a fake trophy claimed to be detained for duty? Because the fake was supposedly worth Rs. 60 lakh, but if it was so expensive surely it was real.

Around this point, we have descended into Judwaa (twins) territory.

"Contrary to some erroneous and mischievous media reports, the ICC can confirm that the trophy presented to India at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday was the original ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 trophy and the one that was always intended to be presented to the winner of the event," ICC later said in a statement.

But according to The Mail: "The trophy presented to Australia, the World Cup winners in 1999, 2003 and 2007, was the original one with the names of all the winning nations embossed on the base. By contrast, the replica handed to Dhoni's conquering team, had a blank base. Lorgat did not explain this difference."

In the future, this kind of controversy ought to be avoided. For the 2015 World Cup, we will see the trophy having a logo of the event on its base as it was in 2007.

#4 2007 World Cup final descends into darkness

Sri Lanka Australia 2007

In the 2007 World Cup, after the dark cloud of Bob Woolmer's death, a literal darkness descended upon the final. In front of 28,000 spectators, the consummation of the final was dictated by the weather and Duckworth Lewis method.

The final was being played at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, a ground without floodlights. When it got dark, the officials bungled up the regulations and told the captains that they have to come back the next day to complete a few overs. Had they got it right, they would have realised that enough number of overs required to constitute a match, i.e 20 overs, had already been played and they didn't need to continue.

Australia were ready to go off and celebrate, but they were called back to complete the match.

"I'm very embarrassed for the playing control team," said Jeff Crowe (match referee) later. "These circumstances are very difficult and it is a bit of a crisis. We hope we can learn from this mistake and get it right. We must make sure we look at the black print which says the game is over when the 20 overs have been completed - we got our minds clouded over that whole simple issue. It was some voices reiterating when the end of the match was, that tomorrow was the way forward - and that was incorrect."

Mahela Jayawardene and Ricky Ponting agreed to not run up the scoreboard and play only spinners respectively for the last three overs. Sri Lanka added 9 runs during a spell which was largely indistinguishable to the spectators and perhaps to some of the players as well.

The umpires – Steve Bucknor, Aleem Dar, Rudi Koertzen (third umpire), Billy Bowden, and Jeff Crowe (match referee) – were all suspended from the inaugural ICC World T20 later that year.

“Bit dark at the moment, but loving every minute”. said Glen McGrath, man of the series, trying to make light of the moment.

#3 The Rain Rule

World Cup 1992 England v South Africa

As I've mentioned in this piece tracing the changes in the Cricket World Cup format over the years, the 1992 Cricket World Cup marked a first of many things. It was the first World Cup to feature coloured clothing for the teams along with the use of white cricket balls instead of red ones. It was also the first World Cup to feature the Rain Rule, it would also be the last.

The Rain Rule was the brainchild of Richie Benaud among other experts, and judging by its reception this child ought to have been disowned at birth. This convoluted rule stated that in rain-affected matches in which the overs had to be adjusted, the least-productive overs from the side who batted first would be discounted.

Before this rule came into play, the runs per over of the first innings would be counted and then deducted for each over lost by the side batting second. The older convention would put the team batting second at a severe disadvantage. Necessity being the mother of invention, the new Rain Rule was born to bring parity to a flawed system.

The Rain Rule reared its reprehensible head in the semi-finals of the 1992 World Cup when England met South Africa. England scored 252 for 6 in 45 overs and since South Africa bowled their overs slowly, the innings were shortened.

South Africa began their chase and whittled the target down to 22 runs needed from 13 balls. At this point, the rain grew heavier. Umpires Brian Aldridge and Steve Randell, decided that the conditions were unfit to continue and the game would be stalled. Since time was be lost in the break, the least productive overs for the side batting first was deducted without reducing the target.

It was wrongfully announced that one over would be deducted. It turned out that two overs were deducted and only one ball remained. There was heavy booing since a reserve day could have been availed of and 2 minutes were still left on the scheduled time to complete the match.

From chasing 21 off 13 balls to chasing 21 off 1 ball, that is what the Rain Rule did to South Africa. It was scrapped in favour of the Duckworth-Lewis system following the 1992 World Cup.

#2 Shane Warne banned before the 2003 World Cup

Shane Warne

This controversy is by far the funniest of the lot, but not if you’re Shane Warne.

The leg-spinner, being a key member of the Australian Cricket Team, was banned from the 2003 World Cup just a day before it began. Warne tested positive for a banned diuretic, a prescription drug named Moduretic, given to him by his mother to improve his appearance.

That's right, it allegedly didn't make him stronger, faster, resilient or a hundred other things which could have given him an edge in the competition. He just wanted to look good.

Perhaps, his plan was to charm his opponents en route to victory or to distract their wives and by proxy distract the players. Regardless, the World Anti-Doping Agency criticized the year-long ban imposed on Warne since the ban still allowed him to play in charity matches.

#1 Bob Woolmer\'s death during the 2007 World Cup

Bob Woolmer

The morning after a Pakistan vs Ireland group match, Bob Woolmer, the coach of Pakistani Cricket Team, was found dead on 18 March 2007 in his hotel room at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. Four days later on 22 March, Jamaican police announced confirmation that a murder investigation had been launched based on a pathologist's report stating that he had died of asphyxia via manual strangulation.

There were a number of theories regarding what happened. Mafia involvement was alleged. “These mafia betting syndicates do not stop at anything and they do not care who gets in their way,” said former South African captain Clive Rice.

Former Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson had sad “it might not be about money, it might be about extortion, and all the things that go on. In Pakistan, there’s lots of extortion so it’s not necessarily about money. It could be ‘your career’s over if you don’t do X, Y and Z’. It’s a whole myriad of factors; it’s a different culture and community to ours, and, as a result, you get different pressures.”

One of the theories was that Woolmer was livid after the match and he was murdered so he wouldn't publicize Pakistan's alleged match-fixing. Whatever the case maybe, this was a dark moment for cricket.

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