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Australia - A haven for controversial umpiring decisions 

Image result for virat kohli slip catch in perth
Ashwin Srinivasa

India-Australia Test series have always had memorable performances, at the same time there has been a fair share of controversies as well. We obviously remember the "Monkeygate" episode as well the "brain-fade incident.

Over the years, one of the major setbacks for India has been the umpiring howlers Down Under which have not stopped even with the advent of advanced technology at our disposal. There was a time where home umpires used to adjudicate the matches and there were some shocking decisions for the touring teams. Darrell Hair, Daryl Harper and Ross Emerson were some of the most loathed umpires during the 90s.

Whether it was the hostile Aussie crowd or the players, controversial decisions have become a regular occurrence in Australia during the Border Gavaskar Trophy. This has ignited multiple debates around the cricketing world and the Sydney test became a harbinger to embrace DRS in International cricket.

It would be really difficult to rank the decisions as each one of them which are considered in this segment are equally controversial.


#9 Sachin Tendulkar's LBW decision in Brisbane - 2003

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Steve Bucknor, an international umpire who had a very good reputation in the 90s, had a very frosty relationship with the Indian team during 2000s. When India was playing Australia in 2003/04 tour Down Under, India was reeling at 62/2 having lost both Virender Sehwag and the dependable Rahul Dravid when Tendulkar walked into bat. Jason Gillespie was bowling with pace and hostility and tested the great man with a couple of out-swingers.

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He bowled an accurate in-swinger which stuck Tendulkar high on the front-leg and would have easily gone over the stumps. Since Sachin did not offer a shot, the Aussies appealed and to everyone's astonishment Steve "Slow-death" Bucknor raised the dreaded finger. Tendulkar without opening his account had to make the long walk back.

#8 Sachin Tendulkar's LBW decision in Perth - 2008

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In the wake of the contentious Sydney Test, India made a spirited comeback in Perth and Anil Kumble's men showed the grit and temperament. After having won the toss and opting to bat, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were in the midst of a well composed century stand with both batsmen having made well-compiled fifties.

When Tendulkar reached 71, he was struck above the knee-roll to Brett Lee's sharp in-swinger. Even though he was stuck in line with the stumps, the ball would not have disturbed the woodwork considering the bounce in Perth. However, to everyone's amazement, umpire Asad Rauf raised his finger and Tendulkar had to banish his plans of scoring a second Test hundred in Perth.

#7 Sunil Gavaskar's LBW decision in Melbourne - 1981

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One of India's famous test victories in Australia, where they won by 59 runs defending a paltry 143 was masked by a controversy over an lbw decision. India had their backs to the wall when they had conceded a 182 run lead to Australia in the first innings. Captain Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan got off to a promising start and India had notched 165 runs for the opening wicket.

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When all was going too well for India, Gavaskar (70) was struck in line with the stumps of a Lillee in-swinger and umpire Rex Whitehead ruled him out by not noticing the big inside-edge. Protesting the decision, Indian captain vehemently threatened to walk-off along with his opening partner. However, sense prevailed when the Indian team manager controlled the situation well.

#6 Rahul Dravid's Caught Behind decision in Sydney - 2008

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The most contentious test match in the history of cricket. There were complaints on racial abuse, issues with playing in the spirit of the game but the umpiring howlers that went against India was quite unbelievable. The cricket that was played over five days were literally forgotten as the on-field incidents took centre stage and rocked the headlines.

India was asked to chase 333 in 70 overs and lost 3 wickets for 59. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly resurrected the innings with a composed 61 run stand. When it seemed that India had weathered the storm, he was given caught behind by umpire Mark Benson when there was daylight between bat and ball. Even though Dravid shook his head in disbelief, he had to go make the long walk back.

#5 Sourav Ganguly's slip catch in Sydney - 2008

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If India were jolted to see the back of Rahul Dravid to a howler, Sourav Ganguly's decision was one of the poorest displays of umpiring ever seen in cricket which erupted a massive controversy.

Ganguly who was India's last hope to save the test match edged a Brett Lee outswinger to Michael Clarke at second slip and it seemed like a bump-ball. Clarke vociferously appealed along with other members and Australian captain Ricky Ponting suggested to umpire Mark Benson that it was out.

Mark Benson without consulting the third umpire took the captain's word and ruled Ganguly out. Commentators were furious with what happened and India even threatened to abandon the tour after the Test match was over.

#4 Andrew Symonds's caught behind decision in Sydney - 2008

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Steve Bucknor was the chief protagonist in this incident. When India had reduced Australia for 134 for 6 on the first day of the second test, people expected an Aussie fightback. Andrew Symonds lead the Australian fightback by counter-attacking the Indian bowlers in the company of Brad Hogg.

When it looked like he would run away with the game, Ishant Sharma produced an out-swinger which did a bit of the surface and produced a big nick. Indian players started celebrating only to see Steve Bucknor ruling the decision in the batsman's favour. It seemed as if the whole of SCG had heard the nick except the umpire. Symonds survived the appeal and went on to score a big century to bolster Australia to 469.

#3 Sachin Tendulkar's LBW decision in Sydney - 2000

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Sachin Tendulkar is destiny's child when it comes to umpiring howlers. Whenever he made the trip Down Under he had had to endure some really tough decisions. Being a true gentleman of the game he never criticized or reacted to those dismissals and just took them in his stride and moved on.

One such dismissal was in Sydney in 2000, India was batting first and they had lost four wickets and Sachin was the only hope to help India reach a decent total. After hitting McGrath for three consecutive boundaries, Sachin had reached 45. McGrath produced the perfect in-swinger which clearly struck the great man above the knee-roll. Ian Robinson ruled that in the bowler's favour and Sachin impressive 45 came to an end.

#2 Virat Kohli's slip catch in Perth - 2018

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Virat Kohli also cannot escape umpiring howlers in Australia. After all, it was Kohli who advocated for DRS to save India from umpiring blunders overseas. The great man was batting like a dream by compiling a masterful century on a difficult Perth wicket. The game was hanging in balance and it was up to the Indian captain to seize the momentum and help India to gain a first innings lead.

When Kohli was batting on 123, Pat Cummins bowled a wide teaser and the Indian captain went after it edging the ball to second slip. Peter Handscomb who caught the ball suggested that it was a clean catch which prompted the umpire Kumar Dharmasena to rule Kohli out on the field.

However, they went upstairs and Nigel Llong, the third umpire did not find any conclusive evidence to overturn the decision. Since the on-field decision was out, Kohli had to walk back in disbelief.

This also proved to be a game-changing decision as India handed Australia a 43 run lead. We just hope that it won't be a series-changing decision !!

#1 Sachin Tendulkar's SBW i.e LBW decision in Adelaide - 1999

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When India was playing Australia in 1999/00 after eight long years, many expected some good cricket. But the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was marred with umpiring controversies and Sachin Tendulkar, then India's captain received three dubious decisions. But nothing came close to the one he received in the second innings in Adelaide and remains to be one of the most ridiculous decisions ever.

India was tottering after at 24 for 3 after Australia had set them an impossible 396 to chase in the fourth innings. Sachin Tendulkar walked into bat carrying a billion hopes and in no time the hopes turned into disappointment.

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Tendulkar ducked to a short ball from Glenn McGrath and the ball stayed low on a wearing pitch and struck the great man's shoulder. Australians went up on a spirited appeal and umpire Daryl Harper obliged by ruling him out leg-before the wicket.

Even to this day, many people still call it Shoulder-before-wicket, at least that's how it looks!

Edited by Vineet Aiyer

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