If you are an Indian, you would be aware of the stress and strains the umpires have to face in ‘Gully Cricket’. One wrong decision from the standing umpire and there is a furore on the pitch. All the fieldsmen encircle the umpire and heated arguments take place which mostly end with the ‘change in the decision‘.
But fielding sides in international matches have no such privilege. There are a set of rules imposed by the ICC where the umpires live the life of monarchs but with sheer integrity and honesty towards the game. Yet cricket has its history of controversies. Few notable incidents include the Bodyline series in 1933 where Harold Larwood, Kerry Packer series in 1977, Jeff Lawson surviving twice for hit-wicket in 1984, Barker’s change of decision after Richards charged towards him in 1989, Steve Bucknor’s blunder in the 2008 Sydney test, Sarwan’s no-rechecking of run-out appeal against Zimbabwe in 2013 and Kumar Dharmasena’s bizarre decision on the overthrow in World Cup 2019 finals.
Proteas & Drama
Cricket has its share of glorious moments too but it also shares some disheartening controversies and the most famous one involves Mike Denness, the match referee in the Test matches of India’s tour of South Africa in 2001.Embed from Getty Images
Despite centuries from Sachin Tendulkar and debutant Virender Sehwag, India lost the first Test match and in the second test at Port Elizabeth, Herschelle Gibbs crafted a magnificent century. On the afternoon of the third day, Kallis defended a ball on the leg and middle stump from Harbhajan Singh and was caught by Sehwag standing at forward short leg. In the excitement of catching the ball Sehwag ran towards the umpire with a huge shout supported by fellow teammates, but rather the appeal was turned down. Sehwag, who was playing his second test match could not control his anger and hurled an abusive word at the umpire.
The Denness Affair
Next, Tendulkar was brought in by Ganguly, who started bowling his medium pacers with more swing than any other bowler could get. An irregular bowler who was swinging the ball more than any other fellow bowler was seen with suspicion, and that’s when a local television producer asked his cameraman to zoom in on his hand to check with the grip he was using. And what was recorded was seen with more suspicion as it was visible that Sachin had his thumb and forefinger of the left hand moving on the seam. He was charged for tampering. The commentators started the analytical discussions and replays were shown continuously on the screen. The copy of the video was sent to the match referee, Mike Denness, who after seeing the clip had no doubt that anything weird had happened.
The clip showing Sachin’s alleged ball tampering
On the 4th day, Denness informed India that he will be banning Sachin for one test match. Harbhajan, DD Gupta and SS Das will be banned for one match for excessive appeal, Ganguly will be facing a one-match suspension for not controlling the behaviour of his team and Sehwag will face an immediate test match ban for hurling abusive word on the umpire and all 6 players were fined 75% of their match fees. Denness did not make any punishments public, but all the team players were infuriated and the news was leaked and then started the news-room wars.
Indian players who initially refused to take the field on the final day, displayed sportsmanship and played the test which ended in a draw, but Mike Denness refused to explain and answer the questions in the post-match press conference which made the Indian commentator Ravi Shastri ask,
“If Mike Denness cannot answer questions, why is he here? We know what he looks like.”
BCCI backed by the Government, sided by the team players, and threatened to boycott the third test if Mike Denness was not removed. South Africa could not afford to cancel the third test as it meant the loss of huge financial earnings. Both the Cricket Boards backed by their government snubbed ICC and Mike Denness was sacked for the third test.
This incident caused a furore among the fans
Sachin later explained that he was cleaning the seam of the ball but the fact that the umpires were not taken into consideration while cleaning made it more suspicious. ICC had to revoke the suspension of 5 players but declared the third test as an unofficial one and Sehwag was rested.
The entire cricket fraternity backed Sachin Tendulkar and eventually, he was exonerated of the charge of ball-tampering
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