As with any major tournament in the sporting world, cricket World Cups have had their fair share of controversies. As we head into the 2019 edition of the marquee event, we look back at some of those rare occurrences that left a bad taste behind, and will be remembered for a long time:
1992: The rain rule that trampled South Africa's maiden World Cup surge
South Africa had bossed their way to the 1992 World Cup semi-finals after returning to international cricket post-Apartheid. Electric in the field and dynamic with their pace attack, the Proteas were the toast of the World Cup until their hopes were squashed by a shambolic rain rule in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
A creation of Richie Benaud and a few others, the Rain Rule involved reducing the least productive overs of the side batting first to adjust the target of the chasing side when weather intervenes. It seemed a fairer system to the one that was in place prior to its inception, but its flaws made a glaring appearance in the semi-final match of the 1992 World Cup between England and South Africa.
England made 245/6 in 45 overs and South Africa needed 22 from 13 balls when rain played spoilsport. The umpires decided that the game could not continue and as time was lost, the least productive overs of England's innings were reduced. Initially, it was wrongly announced that only one over would be reduced but it turned out to be two overs and South Africa were left needing 22 off one ball to win. With a reserve day available and two minutes still left to close of play, it was safe to assume that the farcical rule spoiled South Africa's surge.
1996: Eden burns as India sink
The semi-final of the 1996 World Cup between India and Sri Lanka was viewed with much excitement. A large crowd had gathered at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata for the match but as India slipped to 120/8 chasing 252 for a win, the crowd grew disturbingly violent.
India were cruising in the run-chase at one point with Sachin Tendulkar scripting a half-century but Jayasuriya had Tendulkar stumped which triggered a collapse that saw India lose seven wickets for 22 runs. At 120/8 from 98/1, the game was virtually lost and the Indian section of the crowd was getting highly agitated by the team's performance.
The crowd threw bottles to the ground and set fire in the stands which forced the match referee, Clive Lloyd, to halt the game for 15 minutes. Attempts to calm down the crowd went futile and eventually the game had to be awarded to Sri Lanka, who made their first ever World Cup final, and went on to win it.
2003: Shane Warne banned a day before World Cup
The 2003 World Cup is known more for the events off the field than the ones on it, and Shane Warne's ban one day before the World Cup began sparked a huge controversy. The veteran Aussie had announced that the World Cup would be his final appearance in coloured clothing for Australia but he was unceremoniously banned after the Sports Drugs Agency revealed that he had tested positive for a prescription drug called Moduretic, which could act as a masking agent for steroids.
Warne and the Aussies were shocked and the leggie insisted that he had "not taken performance-enhancing drugs". He still had hopes of playing when returning to Australia for further tests but the Sample B he gave also tested positive which virtually ended his World Cup hopes. Warne later claimed he never read the ACB (Australian Cricket Board) anti-doping code. He was banned for 12 months and returned in 2004. Australia went on to win the World Cup without him.
2003: Zimbabwe and the black arm bands
The 2003 World Cup saw another large-scale controversy when Zimbabwe's then-skipper Andy Flower and premier seam bowler Henry Olonga wore black armbands for the opening match protesting Robert Mugabe's presidency. The two were vehement in their protest and savagely criticised that democracy was dead in the country. Though international media stood by the two brave Zimbabwean cricketers, senior politicians in the country took a dislike towards their actions.
ICC refused to intervene and the duo never played for Zimbabwe after the World Cup. They had released a statement which later came to be known as "mourning the death of democracy in Zimbabwe".
"In all the circumstances, we have decided that we will each wear a black armband for the duration of the World Cup. In doing so we are mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe. In doing so we are making a silent plea to those responsible to stop the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe. In doing so, we pray that our small action may help to restore sanity and dignity to our nation," the statement said.
The crowd were supportive of the protest and some wore black bands to back up the two players. Later, England boycotted their league match in Zimbabwe and the points were awarded to the home side who qualified to the Super Six stage.
2007: Bob Woolmer's death
The cricketing fraternity were sunk into gloom when the Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in a hotel room in Kingston the morning after his team's defeat to Ireland in the 2007 World Cup. Mystery surrounded Woolmer's death and the Jamaican police launched a murder investigation based on the pathologist's conclusion that he died of asphyxiation due to manual strangulation.
Everyone from players to the betting mafia were under scrutiny with former South African cricketer Clive Rice stating that betting was involved. The initial reports suggested Woolmer had a heart-attack but later the pathologist's report confounded things. Later, an official statement was released stating that the death was natural.
2007: Darkness engulfs the World Cup final
Woolmer's tragic passing wasn't the only controversy in the 2007 World Cup, with darkness descending at the Kensington Oval in the final as Australia and Sri Lanka fought for the trophy.
The Kensington Oval did not have floodlights, and as the skies darkened, the umpires decided to ask the players to come back next day to complete the game. However, the minimum number of overs required to constitute a game was complete which meant that the umpires had got it wrong when they asked the players to return next day.
The stands for the presentation ceremony were being erected and the Australians, who were ahead by D/L system, the one in place then, were celebrating. But the umpires, led by Aleem Dar, intervened again stating that the match had to continue then or moved to the next day. Eventually, Mahela Jayawardene and Ricky Ponting decided to just use spinners in the dark for the last three overs. The proceedings in these overs were barely visible to the crowd in the dark and Australia won a hat-trick of World Cups.
The umpires and match officials involved included big names like Dar, Steve Bucknor, Rudi Koertzen, Billy Bowden and Jeff Crowe. All of them were later suspended from the World T20 2007, the next major tournament, with Jeff Crowe admitting it was an error on the part of the officials.
2011: The 2.5m rule that saved Ian Bell
In the 2011 World Cup thriller between India and England, controversy erupted when Ian Bell was saved by a minor chink in the ball-tracking technology. Yuvraj Singh was convinced that he had trapped Bell in front and despite umpire Bowden not agreeing with the Indian all-rounder, they reviewed the decision.
The DRS process played out and replays showed that the ball was hitting Bell in line with the stumps and crashing into the wicket on ball tracker too. Bell began to walk off seeing this but the fourth umpire, Dar, asked him to go back. As baffled as the Indians, Bell returned to the crease. The umpires explained that Bell was more than 2.5 metres down the stumps when the ball hit him and with that kind of distance, the Hawkeye tracking is considered less reliable. In such a case, the on-field umpire can either stick to his decision or trust the computer. Bowden trusted his own decision and Bell was saved.
"I didn't even know that rule existed. As soon as I saw it pitch in line and hit, I thought that was enough. It's strange, to be honest with you, if you see Hawkeye saying it's going to hit the stumps. It's a little bit strange. But that's the rule, I guess, and we're not going to be able to change that for this World Cup," Bell later said.
The rule was later revised.
2011: The two tosses in the final
In the final of the 2011 World Cup, the Wankhede crowd was so boisterous that Kumar Sangakkara calling the toss wasn't heard over the noise. Sangakkara had called 'heads' and it was indeed heads but Dhoni heard him call 'tails' and thinking India won the toss, opted to bat first. Sangakkara intervened stating that he had actually called heads and the two eventually settled for a re-toss.
This time around, the Lankan called it right again and everybody heard right. Sangakkara chose to bat first and as we know, India went on to chase the target set by the Lankans. Had the initial toss been accepted and India had batted first, would the result have remained the same?
2015: James Taylor stranded on 98 after umpiring error
The Australia-England clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the opening day of the tournament saw a major controversy when an umpiring blunder denied young James Taylor a hundred. At 98 and batting with James Anderson for the last wicket, Josh Hazlewood trapped Taylor in front and the umpires upheld the appeal by the Australians. Taylor called for a review in between taking a single and while the decision was being reviewed, Australia ran out James Anderson.
Taylor survived the lbw appeal but Anderson was adjudged run-out. However, the umpires had made an error. When DRS is called, the ball ought to have been declared dead and no further runs or dismissals would be possible. The blunder left Taylor stranded on 98, with the ICC later confirming that the umpires had indeed messed up.
2015: The alleged political interference in selection
South Africa and New Zealand jostled in the first semi-final of the 2015 World Cup at Eden Park and in an edge-of-the-seat thriller, New Zealand pipped South Africa in the final over to go through to the summit clash. However, South Africa's semi-final loss and the emotional display by their players on the field had a back story.
South Africa's decision to play Vernon Philander over Kyle Abbott prompted reports suggesting that there was transformation quota in play. CSA president Chris Nenzani, then-skipper AB de Villiers and then-coach Russell Domingo denied this allegation but the reason to Philander's inclusion for an important game immediately after he recovered from an injury remained a mystery.
Abbott had taken nine wickets in four matches in the tournament at an average of 14.4 and had the best economy and average among South Africa's bowlers. Philander, meanwhile, had taken just four wickets for 83 runs in the entire tournament.
Abbott, and later de Villiers, admitted that all wasn't fine about the decision to play Philander that night.
"It was generally assumed the same team would be named to play in the semi-final. That was my expectation as captain, until I was called to a meeting at 5.30 pm on the evening before the match, half an hour before our usual team meeting was due to start, and was told Vernon Philander, who had passed his fitness test a few days earlier, would play instead of Kyle Abbott," de Villiers wrote in his book, AB: The Autobiography.
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