From riots to homework: 11 controversies from India-Australia Test matches
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India-Australia Test matches have been replete with controversies since inception. Abhishek Mukherjee lists 11 incidents.
1. Mankad enters cricket lexicon, 1947/48
On India’s first ever tour of Australia, Bill Brown left the non-striker’s end prematurely. Vinoo Mankad warned him once, then ran him out. Three days later, in another tour match, Brown stepped out again, and Mankad warned him again. There was no run out.
In the Test match that followed in Sydney, Mankad ran out Brown without a warning. Brown threw the bat on the pitch, then picked it up and walked back. Mankad found support from the Australian cricket fraternity, including Australian captain Don Bradman, but the mode of dismissal continues to remain an eponym.
2. The many riots of 1969/70
It took Australia 35 years to win a series in India after their 3-1 triumph in 1969/70. There were also battles to be won off the field.
In Bombay, umpire Sambhu Pan ruled S Venkataraghavan caught behind despite there being no edge, and Devraj Puri voiced his displeasure on All India Radio. Puri’s response got relayed over the hand-held radio sets inside the grounds, leading to an actual riot.
The Calcutta crowd protested under the erroneous perception that Doug Walters had been part of the Australian forces in Vietnam. A practice session had to be abandoned, and there was a crowd invasion.
In Bangalore, Australian captain Bill Lawry moved away while batting when a lady in a bright sari walked across in front of the sightscreen. Lawry was accused of insulting Indian women. It was a miracle that the series actually got completed.
3. Chappelli’s verdict, 1969/70
During Australia’s tour match against South Zone on the same tour, Alan Connolly’s ball passed EAS Prasanna’s bat, then the stumps, wicketkeeper Ray Jordon knocked the off-stump forward, appealed, and got Prasanna out bowled. Ian Chappell had a full view of Jordon’s act.
Later, when Lawry sought his vice-captain’s opinion on replacing a struggling Brian Taber with Jordon. The response was firm: “If you are going to pick Ray Jordon in the Australian cricket team, please don’t consider me for selection. I’m not available.”
Jordon never played Test cricket.
4. Rodney Hogg kicks stumps, 1979/80
Rodney Hogg lost his footing in the Bangalore Test match of 1979/80, and was no-balled 11 times in six overs. Under the impression that one of the balls was a legitimate one, he kicked the stumps towards umpire KB Ramaswami. Australian captain Kim Hughes rearranged them.
Still fuming, Hogg bowled a beamer in the next over, and Ramaswami signalled a wide. Hughes sent Hogg off the field. He was pelted with oranges as he left. Hughes apologised the next day.
5. Sunny walks off, 1980/81
In the Melbourne Test of 1980/81, umpire Rex Whitehead ruled Sunil Gavaskar leg-before off Dennis Lillee. Gavaskar pleaded that he had edged the ball, but to no avail. On his way back, Gavaskar signalled to Chetan Chauhan, his batting partner, to accompany him.
Sensing a potential forfeiture, Wing Commander Shahid Durrani, the team manager, came to the boundary ropes to prevent Chauhan from leaving. Later, Gavaskar revealed that he had asked Chauhan to leave because of the send-off he got from the Australians. He regretted the act.
6. Tendulkar’s shoulder-before-wicket, 1999/00
At Adelaide in 1999/00, Sachin Tendulkar tried to duck against a ball from Glenn McGrath. The ball did not rise, and hit Tendulkar on the left shoulder, the Australians appealed, and umpire Daryl Harper ruled him LBW.
The decision divided opinions back then. It continues to divide opinions well over two decades down the line.
7. Slater loses calm, 2000/01
Rahul Dravid pulled Damien Fleming in the Mumbai Test match of 2000/01. At short mid-wicket, Michael Slater dived in front of him and claimed a catch, only for the television umpire to rule Dravid not out.
Slater immediately walked animatedly towards Dravid, and some words – presumably not the politest – were exchanged. Slater got away with a warning.
8. ‘Monkeygate’, 2007/08
Steve Bucknor and Mike Benson made several umpiring gaffes during the 2007/08 Sydney Test match, most of them in Australia’s favour. “Incompetent, possibly even biased,” VVS Laxman slammed them in his autobiography. The excessive appealing of the Australians prompted Indian captain Anil Kumble to paraphrase Bill Woodfull and comment “only one team was playing in the spirit of the game.”
Yet, even that seemed insipid when Andrew Symonds accused Harbhajan Singh of calling him a “monkey”. Following a hearing, match referee Mike Procter banned Harbhajan for three Test matches. India wanted to abandon the tour – Harbhajan claimed to have uttered maa ki, a similar-sounding Hindi abusive word but not offensive enough to merit a ban – and appealed against a verdict.
The ban was overturned.
9. ‘Homeworkgate’, 2012/13
Australia were down 0-2 with two Test matches to go on the 2012/13, and head coach Mickey Arthur gave each squad member four days to come up with three points on how to improve their own individual performances and that of the team, via text, email, or a note.
Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson, and Usman Khawaja did not oblige. The support staff decided to suspend them from the third Test match, drawing flak from the Australian cricket fraternity. Captain Michael Clarke later hailed it as the “best decision for Australian cricket”.
10. Steve Smith’s brainfade, 2017/18
A ball from Umesh Yadav kept low during the Bengaluru Test match of Australia’s 2017/18 tour and hit Steve Smith on the pad. Smith, unsure of whether to refer, had a word with non-striker Peter Handscomb (within the Laws), then looked at the dressing-room (not quite legal).
Indian captain Virat Kohli intervened, and the umpires asked Smith to leave. Smith later admitted to having a moment of ‘brainfade’. The incident expectedly caused a furore. The BCCI filed a complaint with the ICC, only to withdraw it later.
11. Spectators expelled, 2021/22
During the 2021/22 series, a group of spectators at the Sydney Cricket Ground hurled racial abusive words at Mohammed Siraj on two consecutive days. On the second day, Siraj complained to captain Ajinkya Rahane, who raised the matter with the umpires. When the umpires offered the Indians to leave, Rahane insisted the culprits be expelled.
The authorities expelled six spectators.