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Bad Blood: A history of India v Australia cricket controversies


Cricketnext Staff,Cricketnext
Feb 21, 2013 at 08:38am IST

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It's not just the quality of contests between bat and ball that have made India versus Australia arguably the greatest rivalry of recent times. There have been many ugly, heated and controversial moments on and off the field that have added to the drama and intensity of Test matches between the two countries. From Michael Slater's outburst to the notorious Sydney Test of 2008 to the Gambhir-Watson shoving episode, the tension has been noticeable between the two sides.

Here's looking at the on and off-field incidents that have simmered and boiled over when India and Australia have squared off against each other.

Not so Sunny days

Bad blood: India-Australia cricket controversies

The controversy between Michael Slater, Rahul Dravid and umpire S Venkatraghavan in the 2000-01 series is one of the ugliest in India v Australia clashes. (Getty Images)

In Melbourne in 1981, India's famous series-leveling win was marred by Sunil Gavaskar's decision to march off the field with fellow opener Chetan Chauhan in response to an lbw decision against him by umpire Rex Whitehead. Gavaskar had broken out of a rut and reached 70 when Dennis Lillee rapped him on the pads. Adjudged out, a fuming Gavaskar refused to accept Whitehead's decision and gave Chauhan the marching orders to follow him into the pavilion. Thankfully the Indian management acted swiftly and Chauhan was asked to return to the middle. Gavaskar later said that it was not the decision but personal abuse on Lillee's part that triggered him to walk off.

McGrath traps Tendulkar lbw ... with a bouncer

The 1999-00 series in Australia was billed as the contest between Sachin Tendulkar and Glenn McGrath, who had openly fancied his chances of dismissing the in-form Indian batsman. In the first Test in Adelaide, McGrath picked up his man when umpire Daryl Harper ruled Tendulkar out when he ducked into a ball from McGrath and was struck on the shoulder while he was crouching. A roaring controversy ensued, with the media and fans and former players debating the dismissal. How could Harper adjudge Tendulkar out? How could Tendulkar duck into a low-rising bouncer? The matter was given great detail and viewed from various angles and played its part in the removal of neutral umpires.

Slater loses his cool

The 2001 Mumbai Test match was a one-sided affair as Australia pummeled India, but one incident was notable for its unsportsmanlike conduct. Rahul Dravid had mistimed a pull shot and Michael Slater had taken a diving catch. Unconvinced with the fielder's effort, Dravid refused to leave the pitch and the umpire, former India captain S Venkatraghavan, gave him not out. Replays showed a considerable element of doubt, but an incensed Slater claimed it was a clean catch. Slater lost his cool and argued with the umpire before verbally abusing Dravid. He was subsequently fined minimally for shouting at the batsman and the on-field umpire.

Toss ka boss

That epic 2001 series in India had an undercurrent of tension running through it that it was later revealed stemmed from Sourav Ganguly's repeated late arrivals for the toss. In his autobiography Out of My Comfort Zone, Waugh writes of how he was "wound up" by Ganguly's "continued petulance" in being late for the toss, and alleged that Ganguly was late for the toss "seven times" during the series. Ganguly, eight years later, said the delay was not deliberate but few were buying it.

"That's racial vilification, mate"

Who knew the moment Matthew Hayden was heard over the stump microphone condemning Harbhajan Singh over his apparent racial comments to Andrew Symonds during the 2008 Sydney Test that the incident would so quickly escalate into a full-scale diplomatic crisis?

What looked like a verbal spat between Harbhajan and Symonds took dangerous connotations when the Australian allrounder alleged the offspinner had called him a monkey. The matter reached a Sydney court and a disciplinary panel was set up to investigate the charges. The Australian media gunned for Harbhajan, while the Indian board threatened to call off the tour. Harbhajan was banned for three Tests, which was later revoked after the BCCI towed a stern line. Needless to say, the Australians churned in anger.

Kumble's Bodyline bouncer

India captain Anil Kumble's claim that "only one team was playing in the spirit of the game" came after what was the most acrimonious and bad-tempered match in the history of India-Australia cricket, invoked Australia's disgust at Bodyline. Australia had claimed a 122-run win with just seven balls to spare in the Sydney Test to equal its 16-match winning streak, but Kumble claimed it did not come in the spirit of cricket.

It was very similar to the immortal line uttered by Australia's Bodyline captain Bill Woodfull when England's pace attack continually bowled at the body of Australia's batsmen. The Sydney Test was marred with dubious umpiring with India at the received edge, as well as the infamous 'Monkeygate' controversy, and left a bitter taste for the remainder of the series.

Elbow room

The 2008 series didn't have much controversy off the field, but there was an incident during the second Test in Delhi that hinted at the aggression between the sides' younger players. During the course of his maiden double-century, Gautam Gambhir was needled relentlessly by the Aussies and in particular Shane Watson. Riled by the allrounder's chatter, Gambhir elbowed Watson while turning for a second run. The matter was spotted immediately and Gambhir, having scored a double-century, was banned for the next Test.

Zaheer crosses the line

In Mohali in 2008, Harbhajan had just dismissed Hayden. As the Indians ran to the jubilant bowler, Zaheer Khan came close to the Australian opener and began celebrating his dismissal in ungainly manner. Hayden wisely kept walking, but the incident did not go unnoticed by the match referee Chris Broad who deemed Zaheer's action unsporting and against the spirit of the game. The Indian fast bowler was fined 80 per cent of his match fee for bad behavior.

Zak attack

During the Mohali Test in 2010, Zaheer and Ricky Ponting ensured a generally calm series got its share of tension. Ponting was walking to the dressing room after being run-out, when Zaheer had a go at him with a few jibes. Ponting, clearly miffed, turned back towards Zaheer and walked up to where the Indians were in a huddle. Words were exchanged, but umpire Billy Bowden quickly intervened.

Finger-flippin' bad

India's 0-4 whitewash in Australia on the 2011-12 tour was given a sour note when Virat Kohli 'flipped the bird' to a section of fans at the SCG during the second Test. Kohli was pictured showing his middle finger to the crowd on day two when fielding near the boundary as the Australians piled up a mammoth total, and was subsequently fined 50 per cent of his match fee for his rude gesture.

He used Twitter to present his personal viewpoint on the matter. "I agree cricketers don't have to retaliate, what when the crowd says the worst things about your mother and sister, the worst I've heard," he tweeted.

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