Bodyline for Bradman
A cricket series so acrimonious it ended a talented fast bowler's career, led to the ostracising of a famous captain, soured relationships between two countries, and led to a permanent change in cricket's rules. By the time the 1932-33 Ashes rolled around, Don Bradman was well on his way to becoming a cricketing God - he had scored 974 runs at 139.14 in the previous Ashes. To counter his brilliance, Douglas Jardine, the England captain, a man who, reportedly, had a special hatred for Australians, decided to employ "leg theory", a tactic of placing a ring of close fielders on the leg side and bowling short at the batsman's body. Harold Larwood, one of the fastest bowlers of the time, was charged with attacking the batsmen's heads and ribs and left many of them bruised. While England won the away series 4-1, the Australian board protested, declaring the tactic unsportsmanlike, and the MCC eventually agreed it was not in keeping with the spirit of the game. Bodyline bowling was subsequently outlawed.
"West Indies aren't coming out"
West Indies in New Zealand, 1979-80
Clive Lloyd's mighty West Indians had already won in India, England, and Australia. It seemed a foregone conclusion they would add New Zealand to the list. But, when they travelled there in 1979-80, umpiring took centrestage. West Indies were already upset at having seven lbws given against their batsmen over two innings in the first Test, and things kicked off, literally, when Michael Holding was refused a caught behind in the fourth with New Zealand 28 for 2, chasing 104. The batsman, John Parker, was already removing his gloves, prepared to walk back to the pavilion after watching the keeper complete the take, but umpire John Hastie ruled not out. Exasperated, Holding kicked down the batsman's stumps. New Zealand ended up winning by a wicket.
In the second Test, incensed by another caught-behind denial on the third day, West Indies threatened not to take the field after tea, eventually coming out 12 minutes late. They seemed to intentionally play below par from then on and even threatened to leave the tour. Things got ugly when Colin Croft deliberately flicked the bails off at the bowler's end after umpire Fred Goodall had given a no-ball. Croft then barged into Goodall while bowling the next ball. That Test and the next ended in draws, but not before there was another threat from some West Indies players to take early flights home. There were also reports that Goodall had made racist remarks about the West Indians, which led to a tense relationship between the two teams for several years after.
"A little war erupted"
Pakistan in Sri Lanka, 1986
Fights between the players, with someone in the stands, a walk-out by the umpires, a letter to a president - there was drama enough for a mini-series when Imran Khan's Pakistan visited Sri Lanka in early 1986. There was already some tension between the sides as Duleep Mendis, the Sri Lanka captain, had complained about biased umpiring when his side toured Pakistan the previous year. Early in the series, Sri Lankan umpire Alane Felsinger allegedly told the visitors this was "not Pakistan" while turning down an appeal. Defiant, the Pakistan players appealed more often and longer, causing the umpires to walk off in protest. Khan had to apologise to convince them to return.
In the second Test, Javed Miandad first got into an altercation with the Sri Lanka fielders and then with someone in the stands who had thrown a stone at him. After losing, Pakistan were in such a forlorn mood they considered going home before the third Test. "We felt as though we were locked in a darkened room without a chink of light," Khan wrote in his book All Round View. He wrote to Pakistan president Zia-ul-Haq, who told them to stay put.
As a result of that series, Khan became an advocate for neutral umpires, setting an example by inviting them to stand in Tests in Pakistan.
The summer of suspicion
Pakistan in England, 1992
Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis took 43 wickets between them as Pakistan beat England 2-1 over five Tests. The world heralded the coming of two generational talents, but the British press could not wrap their heads around how the duo could get the old ball to swing so much, and so late. Akram and Younis, along with Aaqib Javed, had played on the county circuit, and there were already murmurings about them tampering with the ball, which only got louder as they ripped through England again and again. Things came to a head during the fourth ODI, at Lord's, when the ball was changed during the lunch interval of England's innings. The ICC never made it clear why the match referee changed the ball, leaving a cloud hanging over the incident.
The atmosphere was made even more edgy by contentious umpiring, with memories of Mike Gatting's ugly spat with Pakistan umpire Shakoor Rana from England's 1987 tour of Pakistan quickly resurfacing when umpire Roy Palmer warned Aaqib Javed for intimidatory bowling at the tail in the third Test, before appearing to dismissively toss Javed's sweater at him at the end of the over. Javed and his captain, Javed Miandad, were livid. In the next Test, Roy's brother, Ken, adjudged Graham Gooch not out when he had fallen well short of the crease, and then Mervyn Kitchen turned down a Mushtaq Ahmed appeal for caught-behind, causing the Pakistan fielders to vociferously protest.
Writing in The Independent, journalist Martin Johnson summed up the series: "As far as Pakistan are concerned, cricket in England is run by arrogant racists. As far as England are concerned, Pakistan cheat. Today, the two countries are as far apart as ever."
This was the first of several series in which Asian teams playing against cricket's old powers, England and Australia, were accused of bending the rules. In 1995, Muttiah Muralitharan was called for chucking in Australia, and then in 2006, Inzamam-ul-Haq forfeited a Test at the Oval after his side was accused, this time officially, of tampering.
"Only one team was playing in spirit of the game"
India's tour of Australia, 2007-08
It takes a fair bit to make the usually even-keeled Anil Kumble angry, so when he accuses a team of not playing in the spirit of the game, you know a series has become really heated. In the Sydney Test, the second of the series, umpire Steve Bucknor made several mistakes that went against India. But what irked Kumble and his team was first that the Australians refused to walk, even when the edges seemed clear, and second that Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, insisted a catch taken by Michael Clarke close to the ground was clean, raising his finger to signal to the umpire it was out. Replays suggested the ball may have hit the ground, but since the teams had a pact to take the fielder's word for close ground catches, Sourav Ganguly had to walk off when Ponting made his gesture to the umpire.
For their part, Australia were left fuming when Andrew Symonds accused Harbhajan Singh of using a racial slur against him. India denied the accusation, leading to a situation so acrimonious India reportedly considered pulling out of the tour before the third Test. After Kumble's famous "spirit of the game" statement and Bucknor being withdrawn from the rest of the series, India played on and won the next Test, in Perth.
Dressing-room threats and Sandpapergate
Australia's tour of South Africa, 2017-18
On the second day of the four-match Test series, Australia players were heard using ambush marketing tactics in protest of having the stump mic volume turned up. By the end of the series, that would be barely a footnote as they lost their captain, vice-captain, opening batsman and coach before the final ball was bowled.
The series was bad tempered from the off. Nathan Lyon appeared to drop the ball near a diving AB de Villiers in the second Test, and then Quinton de Kock and David Warner got into an argument on the staircase leading up to the dressing-rooms. The incident was caught on camera, and Warner was seen being held back by team-mates as he yelled at de Kock. Warner was at the centre of more controversy when CSA officials were shown photographed next to fans wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks in an attempt to ridicule Warner, whose wife had been involved with Williams years before.
In Cape Town, Kagiso Rabada shoulder-barged Steven Smith and Warner confronted a fan, but nothing could prepare the cricketing world for what would transpire on the third day. Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera shoving a piece of sandpaper down his trousers, and Australia were accused of ball tampering. Bancroft and Smith, his captain, made an apology at the end of the day, but the Australian public called for long bans, and even the prime minister decried the incident.
Eventually, Smith, Bancroft, and Warner, who was identified as chief conspirator, were handed lengthy bans, coach Darren Lehmann resigned, and Cricket Australia ordered a cultural review into Australian cricket.