2018 wasn't a good year for cricket. The sandpaper episode in South Africa forced Australian cricket to reflect on the pitfalls of its ultra-aggressive on-field culture. It went on to cost them financially and sent two of their biggest names, David Warner and Steve Smith, into a year-long banishment.
If this controversy was not enough, Team India skipper Virat Kohli continued to attract the spotlight - not just for his stupendous achievements on the field, but for his faux pas off it.
The internal mess in BCCI continued as the members of Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), currently governing the board, got busy slinging mud at each other. And then there was that clash in Indian women’s cricket. More of it later.
First, we begin -- as talk around cricket these days begins -- with that man: Virat Kohli…
Virat Kohli snapping at the media
India’s loss in the three-Test series in South Africa in January this year saw the media get a taste of Kohli's in-your-face aggression. After his team lost the second Test by 135 runs in Centurion, the Indian skipper blasted a scribe for asking questions on the playing XI.
This did not stop India's 1-2 defeat from being attributed to the way Kohli kept out his deputy Ajinkya Rahane from the first two games. The skipper also copped a fair bit of stick for playing Ishant Sharma ahead of Bhuvaneswar Kumar (India's standout performer in the first Test at Cape Town) in the second Test.
No sandpapering the Australian duplicity in South Africa
Australian cricket plumbed to a new low during the team’s 1-3 Test series loss in South Africa in March.
During the third day of the third Test, Aussie opener Cameron Bancroft was seen rubbing the ball with a yellow object and then hiding it in his trousers. Confronted by the umpires, he showed them a sunglass pouch. After inspecting the ball, the umpires decided to carry on with the game.
Later in the press conference, both Bancroft and Aussie skipper Steve Smith admitted that they had tried to alter the ball's condition with yellow adhesive tape. Later it turned out that it was not a tape, but sandpaper, used to maintain bats. Cricket Australia launched an investigation and found Smith, Bancroft and opener David Warner guilty.
Both Smith and Warner received twelve-month international bans, while Bancroft was handed a nine-month punishment. Smith and Warner were also kept out of IPL 2018 and are currently playing domestic cricket in New South Wales.
Coach Darren Lehman stepped down after the series and Justin Langer went on to replace his former teammate. Senior players Aaron Finch and Tim Paine were handed over the leadership responsibilities in the shorter and longer formats.
Yo-yo! Bhuvneshwar Kumar's botched fitness report hurts India in England
The yo-yo fitness test came a cropper during Kohli and co.'s England tour in July.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was facing a recurring back niggle since the South Africa tour, was rested from the Nidahas Trophy T-20 tri-series in Sri Lanka, 12 IPL matches and the Afghanistan Test at Bengaluru. He got selected for India's limited-overs leg after passing the yo-yo test.
During the third ODI against England in Leeds, Bhuvi faced the same lower-back issue again and bowled only seven overs. India not only lost the ODI series, but also paid a bigger price as the pacer missed the entire five-Test series. Kumar's absence weakened the Indian bowling line-up as they didn't have a genuine swing bowler.
Ravi Shastri talks down previous Indian teams
After India lost the five-Test series in England by a 1-4 margin, coach Ravi Shastri made a controversial statement that the Virat Kohli-led side is the best travelling unit in the last 15-20 years.The comment didn't go down well with experts and the BCCI.
Shastri's former teammate and legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar reminded the India coach that previous teams had put up brilliant shows outside Asia. The BCCI Committee of Administrators, for their part, reminded Shastri that it’s up to the fans to judge which team was the best India has produced.
Kohli questions fan's loyalty
While celebrating his 30th birthday, Team India skipper Virat Kohli recorded a promotional video for his newly launched Official app. During this shoot, he came across a fan’s tweet that said, "He (Kohli) is an overrated batsman. Nothing seems special in his batting. I enjoy watching English and Australian batsman more than these Indians."
Kohli lost little time in asking the fan to leave India. His reaction didn't go down well with the Twitterati, and some of them quickly highlighted Kohli's self-introductory video during the 2008 Under-19 World Cup, where he was seen naming former South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs as his favourite cricketer.
After the online backlash, the Indian skipper responded saying he was all for "freedom of choice" and urged fans to take the whole matter lightly.
The Mithali Raj-Romesh Powar clash
India made it in the semi-final of the 2018 ICC Women's World T20 in West Indies. But after comprehensively beating powerhouses like Australia and New Zealand in the first round, they got outplayed by England in the semis.
After the tournament, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and her deputy Smriti Mandhana called for interim coach Ramesh Powar's re-appointment. The former India cricketer's three-month contract had ended on November 30.
But that did not happen as a series of emails from senior most cricketer Mithali Raj and Powar to the BCCI blaming each other took centre stage.
Mithali struck out against Powar writing that she only came to know about her exclusion from the playing XI for the semis, despite being fully fit and in form (she scored two fifties in group games against Pakistan and Ireland), after the toss.
Powar in return alleged that the veteran India cricketer was playing only for individual records. The coach added that Mithali didn't give proper inputs during team meetings. He, however, admitted that the relationship between him and Mithali wasn't cordial.
Apart from accusing Powar, Mithali also pointed the finger of blame at former India cricketer and current BCCI CoA member Diana Edulji accusing her of misusing her power to shield the entire coaching staff.
#MeToo controversy hits BCCI
During the height of the #MeToo campaign, BCCI CEO Rahul Johri too got named by an anonymous Twitter user, who accused him of misbehaving with a woman journalist before joining the board.
The BCCI immediately sought an explanation from Johri. CoA chief Vinod Rai set up a three-member panel to examine the charges against the BCCI CEO, while his colleague Diana Edulji strongly pitched for Johri's removal.
The panel surprised everyone by laying down deposition rules, as those willing to appear were asked to establish their stance and how they were connected in the whole matter. Johri eventually got cleared in November and resumed his office.
Clash between Diana Edulji and Vinod Rai gets bigger
While the Johri episode triggered the first clash between BCCI CoA members Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji, the fallout spilled over into the hiring of the women's team coach.
In a letter to Rai, Edulji called for the whole process to be scrapped telling Rai that Ramesh Powar be allowed to continue during the 2019 New Zealand tour, as the former India offie had the backing of T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and her deputy Smriti Mandhana. Rai, however, ignored her request.
This angered Edulji and she asked BCCI office-bearers and senior employees to not follow Rai’s instructions unless she endorsed it. She also questioned the move to set up an ad hoc committee consisting of Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy to select the coach.
Edulji blames Kohli for Kumble's exit as Team India coach
Edulji hit the headlines again as she raised the controversial exit of legendary leg-spinner Anil Kumble in 2017. In a leaked email, she suggested that captain Virat Kohli had frequently worked against Kumble. In the mail addressed to Vinod Rai, she also accused Kohli of frequently sending messages to the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri.
"Mr Kumble, a legend in his own right, was subjected to loss of face and made to look like a villain. He was gracious enough to move on for which I respect him. There also, rules were broken and I had raised objections back then," she wrote.
Kumble, who helped India reclaim the number one Test ranking during the 2016/17 home season, quit his post immediately after the defeat against Pakistan in last year's Champions Trophy final in UK.
He was replaced by former India cricketer and commentator Ravi Shastri, who was the interim Team India manager during 2014-16. Shastri is known for having a warm relationship with skipper Kohli.
Karun Nair selection controversy
Karnataka batsman Karun Nair, best known for his triple ton in his third-ever Test in the 2016/17 home season, got selected for the England tour earlier this year. However, he didn't get the opportunity to play there and went on to be omitted from the two-match Test series against West Indies at home during October too.
The middle-order batsman told media that neither the team management nor the selectors had let him know about his exclusion. Chief selector MSK Prasad, though, refuted the claims, saying that his colleague Devang Gandhi had spoken to Nair in England when he was not being picked in the playing XI.