The wonderful game of cricket that you and me both adore is famously known as the ‘Gentleman’s game’. Though the sport has given many an unforgettable moment during its 120 plus year history to the players and for the fans alike there have also been instances where the integrity and the good name has been severely tested. Various types of scandals and despicable events rock this wonderful game from time to time. Match-fixing scandals, ball-tampering sagas, failed dope tests, player misbehaviors, player and political protests, sex scandals, unruly crowds etc. rocks this lovely game. While most of the scandals are on the field, some players have also got involved in off-field scandals, which are sometimes heard of in lesser scale.
We are now living in a time and age where cricket is like a religion and players treated like gods in some countries. However, players also are human beings and them through their urge for money and other worldly pleasures tend to wander away from what is right and just thus bringing disrepute to themselves, to their country and to the game of cricket as a whole. The good moments sticks in our memory but the ugly tends to stick even stronger. We at premium cricket thought of looking at a few such significant events in the history of the game on the backdrop of the most recent event involving an opening batsman from the Sri Lanka cricket team.
One of the most common types of allegation leveled at players and officials is spot-fixing match-fixing. Cricket is a sport that involves a lot of money. Advertising, ticket sales, merchandising sales, match fees and prize money for players and money being circulated in cricket administration are some ways and means by which money gets generated and transferred in cricket. Players and officials earn thumping amounts but are susceptible for misconduct in their want to earn more money really fast. One of the most infamous match-fixing scandals occurred when Delhi Police accused then South African captain Hansie Cronje of fixing ODI matches during the side’s tour to India in 2000. Cronje confessed to South African board’s MD Dr. Ali Bacher and several players including Herchelle Gibbs and Henry Williams testified being offered thumping amounts to throw matches away. Hansie accused Mohammad Azharruddin of introducing him to bookmakers in India where investigations also found Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar also guilty of wrongdoing. During the same time period, Saleem Malik and Ata-Ur-Rahman of Pakistan too were found guilty of match fixing and handed life bans by the PCB. Introduction of T20 cricket and league cricket increased the possibility of match fixing with the most devastating incident surfacing in IPL where Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajith Chandila, Ankeeth Chavan along with 3 bookies including Mukesh Sharma being arrested by the Delhi police in 2015. Pakistan’s Danish Kaneria received a life-ban in 2013 for match fixing while playing for Essex in county championship matches while Mohammad Ashraful of Bangladesh received an 8-year term for match fixing during the Bangladesh Premier League in 2013. The list goes on with the South Africa’s Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Thami Tsolekile and Alfiro Petersen, Pakistan’s Sharjeel Khan and New Zealand’s Lou Vicent also been banned from international cricket due to the same offence.
Spot fixing is another type of misconduct players perform in an attempt to earn a quick buck. The most infamous incident surfacing in 2010 where Pakistan’s then test captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and 17-year-old Mohamad Amir get caught for spot fixing, and get suspension terms of different durations by the ICC. The charges leveled against them with clear video-footage and phone conversations as evidence shows them bowling deliberate no-balls at pre-organized times during the test match. Other similar misconducts include Kenya’s Maurice Odumbe obtaining money from bookmakers and Marlon Samuels being banned for 2 years for passing on team information to bookmakers. Even failure to report approaches for ‘fixing’ is an offence as Kaushal Lokuarachchi from Sri Lanka found out.
Players have also been identified for sex scandals and other forms of misconduct from time to time. Shane Warne, the spin king from Australia has been notoriously popular in this regard. His off-field antics first came to limelight with the story of harassing the British nurse Donna Wright. Then images of him getting naughty with 2 25-year-old models in England while playing county cricket for Hamshire in 2006, followed by stories of having fun with a Melbourne stripper rocked the cricket world. Chris Gayle known for his party antics was found with 3 British women in his hotel room in Sri Lanka during the 2012 T20 world cup. Then during the 2015 world cup, he was accused by a lady staff member for flashing his genitals plus for asking a female interviewer whether she was ever involved in a threesome. Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen who was involved in conflicts with players and management alike was publicly shamed by the star of the TV show Big Brother, Vanessa Nimmo when Pietersen dumped her by sending an SMS. Shahid Afridi, Hasan Raza, Atiq-uz-Zaman were accused of socializing with female fans in their hotel room in Singapore. Herchelle Gibbs, Mike Gatting, Andre Nel and Daryl Tuffey have all been accused at some point in time and this list is also a very lengthy one. In 2017 a video of Sanath Jayasooriya got leaked apparently by his ex-wife. The most recent incident to be added to this list is where the opening batsman of Sri Lanka Danushka Gunathilaka and a 26-year-old friend of his who is a British citizen of Sri Lankan origin were accused of molesting a 23-year-old Norwegian lady. Gunathilaka has been handed over a 6-match ban pending ongoing inquiry.
Other type of scandals includes the infamous ball tampering allegations or attempts to gain an unfair advantage by altering the condition of the ball. The 1994 ‘dirt in the pocket’ saga involving Michael Atherton, Waqar Younis, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, Shahid Afridi, 2013 saga involving Faf du Plessis and the mint and zip in his pocket are some popular such scenarios. The gravity of the offence came to the fore when Cameron Bancroft of Australia was captured using sandpaper to scruff up the ball during a test match against South Africa in 2018. Captain Steven Smith and David Warner admitted to planning the offence and the trio were banned from International cricket for a period of 1 year. Other types of offences include divulging pitch and team information, preparing pitches to force certain results and racist remarks on players. Monkey taunts on Sanath Jayasooriya and racist remarks on Harbhajan Singh by Australian players are such popular instances.
Scandals such as above crops up from time to time to tarnish the good name of this hallowed game of cricket. The weak at heart and mind are gullible under pressure of money and fame and players get themselves in to trouble. Rules and regulations and punishment for offences are getting tougher day by day. The ICC and the cricket boards of the cricketing nations are rallying around to protect the integrity of the game and of the players. It is thus up to the players, administration and officials to be conscious about staying away from wrongdoing.