Tensions Run High : Cricket Sledging through the Years
Ah, cricket. From a British import at the hedge of pre-independent India to a full-fledged religion in the country, we’ve come a long way. Whether it’s Javed Miandad’s hilarious antics or the legendary Monkeygate, there’s an arsenal of sledging incidents in this gentleman’s game.
Rumours, innuendos and internet trolls aside, India and Pakistan’s history of conflict has always drawn in crowds by the billion. With mesmerizing and unpredictable cricketing pedigree, both teams are bolstered by an avid fan base, inclined to indulge in the occasional chest-thumping and partisan sloganeering.
With the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final just around the corner, we revisit some of the most epic clashes in cricketing history:
1. More vs Miandad:
The1992 Sydney World Cup was witness to one of the most comical moments in international cricket. Pakistan’s intensively mercurial Javed Miandad seemed to get increasingly angered by Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More’s relentless appeals for a dismissal. The two indulged in a bout of verbal volleys when More leapt up and down the pitch, appealing for a run out. The next ball had More flipping the bails off when Miandad was clearly in. This was enough to raise Miandad to the pinnacle of fury, which resulted in him mimicking More by rapidly jumping up and down on worldwide television.
2. Venkatesh Prasad vs Aamir Sohail:
The 1996 World Cup proved to be tremendously iconic in more ways than one. Pakistan’s opener, Aamir Sohail was mercilessly hitting Prasad for one boundary after another. The taunting between the two was only increasing in frequency. Tensions built in the Chinnaswamy stadium, as the reparteé grew progressively heated. After punishing one loose delivery in particular, Sohail signalled the pacer to “go fetch” the ball from the boundary. The very next ball had Sohail stumped, quite literally, as Prasad gestured him to walk right off the field.
Pakistan lost that match by 39 runs, but it shall always be remembered for this particularly intense bout.
3. Wahab Riaz vs Shane Watson:
The 2015 World Cup was witness to some of the finest exploits by fast bowlers, Pakistan’s regiment in particular. So when Wahab Riaz was coming in at 150 kph administered by deceptive pace and bounce, Shane Watson did all he could to not get bowled over, and managed a 64 out of 66 balls. Riaz bowled one of the most exhilarating spells in World Cup history, being both intimidating and skilful in equal measure.
His fearsome short-pitched deliveries were peppered with sarcastic applause, as Watson remained undaunted and continued to support Maxwell at the other end of the pavilion. While Riaz ought to have been rewarded with a Watson wicket after all that hard work, Rahat Ali dropped an easy catch and sabotaged the plot.
The Australian all-rounder later admitted that he was lucky to have survived the lethal spell.
4. Miandad vs Lillee:
Miandad, yet again. Except this time, it wasn’t his fault. Cricket fanatics must be familiar with Dennis Lillee- a part of the ‘Australian Test Team of the Century’ and one of the best fast bowlers of the sport but quite frankly, immature.
Here’s the scene. It’s 1981 and Pakistan- a deeply divided team under Captain Javed Miandad- is on an overseas test series with Australia. Pakistan is already in deep trouble- playing a test series that they cannot possibly win in front of an unfriendly crowd. Miandad goes for an easy single but Lillee pulls off one of his routine antics and blocks Miandad. (To this day, Lillee claims he didn’t do it and that he was just returning Miandad’s verbal abuses but video evidence proves otherwise.) As tensions escalate, Lillee kicks Miandad who in turn raises his bat, intending to return the favor. The umpire and then Australian Captain (and former Indian coach) Greg Chappell intervene and help prevent what could have become an all-out brawl. Lillee was later fined a measly Australian $200.
5. Ranatunga vs Warne:
When the poster-boy of Australian cricket meets the man who put Sri Lanka on the world map, you can bet there’s going to be some drama- a rift that spans decades.
Arjuna Ranatunga, then Sri Lankan Test Captain, is known for his hostile attitude towards Australian cricket, but he seemed to have a particular distaste for leg-spinner Shane Warne. Ranatunga never had a pleasant experience ‘down-under’. From airport sniffer dogs to Ian Healy’s blatantly offensive ‘quip’ (that we can’t mention here for obvious reasons), the Lankans seemed to be having a tough time. However, when off-break Muttiah Muralidharan got called out for ‘throwing’, Ranatunga theorised that this was all one big Australian conspiracy against Sri Lanka.
During the 1996 World Cup, Ranatunga who commented Warne was “overrated”, ended up hitting a six off Warne’s misjudged flipper-turned-full toss and then stuck his tongue out at him. The resentment continued in the 1999 World Cup where Warne, in a column, called Ranatunga a “disgrace” for which he was suspended for a match by the ICC and lost half of his match fee. Ranatunga, in return, insulted Australian culture, but surprisingly faced no action from the ICC. Ten years later (talk about holding grudges), Warne teased Ranatunga over his figure, stating he looked like he’d “swallowed a sheep” for which he retorted saying it was better than swallowing whatever Warne was- a reference to Warne’s ban over drug use. However, both players did state that despite their obvious rivalry they did share great respect for each other.
6. Kohli vs The Aussie Crowd:
We’re all quite familiar with the infamous Kohli- Smith “brain fade” incident but let’s refresh our memory with another iconic event- Kohli flipping off the Aussie crowd.
In the 2012 Test series with Australia, India faced challenging odds with Australia’s lead becoming huger by the minute. An irate Indian team also faced, no surprise here, taunts and abuse from the crowd. Kohli, known for his temperament was quick to flash his middle finger at the crowd- an incident branded as ‘fingergate’, a reference to the notorious ‘Monkeygate’ (see below). Kohli was fined half his match fee and tweeted that he retaliated only because of the horrific abuse being hurled at him by the crowd. England cricketer Kevin Pietersen agreed with him, replying dryly with “Welcome to Australia.” Kohli also added that it was the worse abuse he’s ever received. Now, that’s saying something.
7. Yuvraj Singh vs Andrew Flintoff
The 2007 T20 World Cup is memorable for a host of reasons: It was Mahi’s first ever ICC outing as skipper, we beat our arch- rival Pakistan in a nail-biting finale to take home the cup, and, of course, the legendary six sixes.
When Yuvraj Singh knocked six sixes off of England’s Stuart Broad in the match’s penultimate over, we were awestruck. Yuvraj’s brilliant knock was partially fuelled by Captain Flintoff and Yuvi’s confrontation seconds before the over was bowled. Singh has recently revealed the details of the conversation which as an attempt at messing with Yuvraj’s head. Yuvraj, determined to prove his mettle, knocked every ball out of the park. Needless to say, Flintoff’s games didn’t quite work and Broad, along with England, had to pay the price.
8. Monkeygate: Harbhajan Singh vs. Andrew Symonds
The 2008 Test series with Australia was one embroiled in controversy. Then Captain Ricky Ponting was already facing flak for signalling a wicket- a job meant for the umpire, not a player. As allegations about unfair umpiring grew, things took a turn for the worse.
When Harbhajan hit a four off of Brett Lee, he also arrogantly remarked, “Hard luck”, to the Aussie bowler. Symonds, who felt this was unnecessary, decided to intervene, hurling expletives at Singh. Tendulkar stepped in to cool the situation down while skipper Ricky Ponting and players Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke also intervened. Symonds then accused Singh of calling him a “monkey” which Hayden deemed “racial denigration”. After the post-match enquiry, match referee ruled the situation in the Australians’ favour. However, an Australian judge ruled that there was no conclusive proof about whether Harbhajan had called Symonds a money or another Hindi expletive. Additionally, Clarke’s statements did not match his teammates’ statements. After the event, the duo settled their feud and were even teammates in the IPL, playing for Mumbai Indians.
9. Gautam Gambhir vs Shahid Afridi:
Who knew the infamous 2007 mid-pitch collision at the 3rd ODI of India vs Pakistan would lead the two sportsmen of volatile temperaments into a decade-long intense rivalry.
When it all began, Gambhir was an angry young man trying to establish himself in the Indian side with a stop-start career of five years, while Afridi was the seniormost player of the Pakistan team, reportedly sulking at the prospect of being passed up for captaincy.
Maturity seemed forever elusive for both. Multiple heated verbal spats progressed into the two colliding as Gambhir was going for a single, leading to further argument.
Although they claim to have moved on from the ugly altercation, things have never quite been the same between the two. While Afridi shares a good rapport with most Indian cricketers like Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, the tension is unfailingly paramount when these two collide.
10. Sourav Ganguly vs Freddie Flintoff:
14 years ago, India beat England in the Natwest final in one of ODI cricket’s most sensational finishes, chasing a total of 325. Reminiscence of the ripples of a blue jersey springs to mind, as a deliriously overjoyed Ganguly was seen baring his torso in a crowded Lord’s stadium, swinging his team shirt, hurling invectives, making quite a spectacle of himself.
When England toured India in 2001, the nail-biting 6th ODI had England leveling the series, which was tipped in India’s favour until then. Flintoff picked the last wicket of Srinath, and in an act of jubilation took his shirt off and ran all over the ground in Wankhede.
Ganguly’s act was in obvious retaliation to Flintoff’s, as his aggressively passionate captaincy reaffirmed ‘dadagiri’ in the home of cricket itself. The incident has made its mark in the foremost edition of Indian cricketing folklore.
Ahead of today’s final, Dada extends his wishes to both teams, saying,
I hope it’s a cracker of a final because you always expect world titles to be fought hard. Both teams should stand up and compete to the best of their ability.
As anticipations build for this monumental clash, here’s looking forward to a fine game of cricket. While there’s no telling how the match will unfold, it can be safely concluded that there is no dearth of comic value or theatrical flair when it comes to our cricketing greats.
Writers : Bhavna Subramanian, Ananya Roy