While 2017 brought many happy moments, ‘controversy’ too hogged the limelight and set some sad precedents for the game’s lovers and followers.
Staring from the Indian cricket’s infamous Coach Vs Captain clash to England all-rounder Ben Stokes’ street-fight moment outside a UK pub, the game’s popularity was tested at multiple occasions this year. Also, not to forget the growing administrative instability within the world’s richest cricket board BCCI.
Below are the flashbacks of some of the not-so-cricketing moments of 2017:
When Captain Kohli had the last laugh over coach Kumble: The iconic leg-spinner, who was appointed as Team India’s head coach on 24th June 2016, along with Captain Virat Kohli, helped India win 12 out of the 17 Tests in the last one-year, apart from clinching the numero uno status. However, reports of tension between the duo started emerging during the Champions Trophy in the UK.
After India’s 180-run defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan in the tournament’s final on 18th June, things started unfolding rapidly. The Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, met coach Kumble after Kohli expressed strong reservations on the former’s management methods.Despite Vinod Rai, chief of BCCI Committee of Administrators declaring on 12th June that Kumble will remain coach till the West Indies tour; the latter decided to stay back in England for a June 22 ICC meet.On June 21st, the 47-year-old resigned as India coach. While mentioning about the fallout with captain Kohli, Kumble expressed his shock over the Delhi lad's reservations on his coaching.
The cricketer-nightclub partnership again shamed the English cricket: On September 25, English cricket was rocked when the swashbuckling all-rounder Ben Stokes and opening batsman Alex Hales were arrested in Bristol, after an incident near a nightclub. Although Stokes was released later, he continues to remain under investigation. The England Cricket Board promptly suspended the duo. Further, Stokes was sidelined from the 2017-18 Ashes squad, when British newspaper The Sun released a video showing him involved a fistfight. However, the same publication later released a story about two men hailing the then English Test Vice-Captain for saving them from the homophobic slur on that particular night. Stokes is currently playing domestic cricket in New Zealand, while Hales was cleared off the charges.
After Australia upstaged England for ten wickets in the first Ashes 2017/18 Test in Brisbane, the home side’s opening batsman Cameron Bancroft described how the visitors’ wicketkeeper-batsman Johny Bairstow greeted him with a head-butt in a Perth bar. This led to the England Team Director Andrew Strauss imposing a midnight curfew on the team.
Virat Kohli Vs Steven Smith DRS Row in Bengaluru Test: The Indian and Australian Test captains were known not only as master batters but also aggressive skippers. In the second match of the Border-Gavaskar series in Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, the home side defended a meagre 187-run in the fourth innings. During that, Smith got out for 28 by pacer Umesh Yadav and then looked back at the dressing-room for consultation on reviewing his dismissal.
When Kohli charged towards him, on-field umpires Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong separated the two. The victorious Indian skipper later restrained himself from declaring his Aussie counterpart as a cheater. ICC, too, declined to punish the captains under its code of conduct. The Aussie skipper later called Kohli’s charges against him completely rubbish.
Australian cricketers’ successful agitation to claim fat pay cheques: The Australian cricket saw a stalemate situation on 1st July when the cricketers went unemployed due to the lack of an understanding between the Cricket Australia and the players’ association on the new pay deal. This also put a doubt on the Aussies’ international commitments, as they failed to send a team for a South Africa A tour, apart from putting the Bangladesh and India tours and the home Ashes series under a cloud.
However, on 3rd August, both the parties announced the new agreement, with the cricketers retaining the revenue-sharing model. The new deal also ensured that the Kangaroos would become the highest-paid of all team sports in Australia. The women cricketers too received a whopping payment increase from $7.5 million to $55.2 million.
Struggling Lankans saw more off-field troubles: The Islanders, who could manage only five ODI wins this year, witnessed further damages when the country’s selection Panel, led by the legendary Sanath Jayasuriya, quit after series whitewashes against South Africa and India. Also, the 1996 World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, on 16th September stayed out of a brainstorming meeting held by the Lankan sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekera.
The iconic cricketer also urged the ICC to investigate country’s cricket board president Thilanga Sumathipala, accusing the latter of being involved in gambling. On 6th December, The national selectors had to announce the ODI squad for India tour again, as the previous 16-member team-list wasn’t sanctioned by minister Jayasekera. This led to the stoppage of nine players from going to the subcontinent.
Delhi pollution left its carnage on cricket too: The third Test between India and Sri Lanka was held in New Delhi from December 2-6. Despite the Indian capital being in headlines for over a month due to its poor air quality and dense smog, the match went smoothly on the first day. On the second day, soon after lunch, the visitors were seen wearing anti-pollution masks, while their pace spearheads Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage started gasping for fresh air. This went on for 26 minutes, forcing India to declare the innings for 536/7. On the following day too, the play went on amidst the poor environment (The air quality on 5th December in Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium was 18 times poorer than the WHO limit).
While Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal felt uneasy during his innings of 164, Lakmal fall prey to pollution again on day four. Interim Lanka coach Nic Pothas claimed that Lakmal and batsman Dhananjaya de Silva vomitted in the dressing room. On 5th, National Green Tribunal criticized the authorities for holding the match. ICC, two days later, decided to consult medical experts for examining the above incidents. The Indian medical fraternity called for no sports activities in the national capital. For Lanka, the drawn match was another troublesome Kotla outing, after the fifth ODI in December 2009 which was abandoned after 23 overs due to poor pitch.
BCCI’s struggles with Lodha Reforms and other legal issues: The three-member committee under the leadership of retired Chief Justice of India Rajendra Mal Lodha saw its reform proposals for BCCI facing severe roadblocks within the Indian cricket’s apex body. On 2nd January, Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke were removed by the Supreme Court as BCCI President and Secretary for not implementing the reforms. The court also appointed former CAG Vinod Rai as head of BCCI's four-member Committee of Administrators (CoA), which included historian Ramachandra Guha, former women's cricket team captain Diana Edulji and Vikram Limaye, the then managing director and CEO of IDFC limited. However, on June 1, Guha resigned. The CoA complained to SC on 12th July that N Srinivasan and Niranjan Shah attempted to stall the Lodha reforms. On the next day, Thakur issued an unconditional apology to the apex court with regards to the perjury case against him, following which he got acquitted. Srinivasan and Shah were barred from attending the BCCI Special General Meeting on July 24. On 30th November, the CoA submitted the BCCI’s draft constitution.
Amidst all these, Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined the Board on 29th November for its assurance to the IPL broadcasters of not entertaining any other T20 tournament. There were infightings in Board too, as acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary got displeased over CEO Rahul Johri publishing an advertisement for the Team Manager’s post for the Indian women's cricket team on his name without his consent. Also, Pakistan Cricket Board decided to file a compensation claim against BCCI in ICC for dishonouring the MoU on the bilateral cricketing ties. The only positive was the cricketers’ pay hike.
Sreesanth’s comeback yet again halted: The Kerala pacer, who was serving a life-ban due to his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL Spot-Fixing, saw a silver-line in September when the Kerala High Court ordered the BCCI to lift the ban. He even took part in an unsanctioned exhibition match in Kerala’s Kochi in the same month and moved to the HC for seeking a No Objection Certificate from BCCI for participating in a tournament in Scotland.
However, another Kerala High Court Division Bench of Chief Justice Navniti Prasad Singh, on 18th October, upheld the previous ban. The Kerala pacer, on 4th November, announced approaching the Supreme Court against the order.
Pakistan cricket yet again rocked by the spot-fixing scandal: In 2017, the Pakistan Cricket Board first suspended and then banned six cricketers, Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammed Irfan, Shahzaib Hasan and Mohammed Nawaz, after match-fixing allegations during the PSL’s opening match between Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United in UAE on 9th February. The actions were taken under the board’s anti-corruption code, backed by ICC.
The incident came to light when Sharjeel, Latif and Irfan were questioned by the anti-corruption sleuths, with PSL Chairman Najam Sethi claiming to have evidence of alleged bookie-cricketers link. Irfan and Jamshed were banned for one year. Sharjeel was found guilty of five counts of the charges and banned for five years. Latif also got the same punishment. Nawaz was suspended too, for two months, on May for not reporting suspect bookie approach.