Controversies have now become part and parcel of the game and 2021 was the same despite major cricketing events that took place in the year including World Test Championship Final and T20 World Cup. The biggest one of them was Yorkshire’s racism row which rocked the English cricket and later the year ended with the sacking of Virat Kohli as Team India’s ODI captain. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 outbreak continued to affect the world and became part of several cricket controversies in 2021.
Here are some of the biggest controversies that rocked the cricketing world in 2021.
Cricket Australia Cancels South Africa Tour
The COVID-19 again had a major impact on cricket in 2021 and it all started in February when the second wave of the novel virus forced Cricket Australia to postpone their tour of South Africa which was scheduled to start from March. “Due to the public-health situation in South Africa, which includes a second wave and new variant of the virus, and following extensive due diligence with medical experts, it has become clear that travelling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community,” Nick Hockley, Cricket Australia’s interim CEO, said.
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Cricket South Africa, which was going through a tough period, suffered a massive financial blow after CA’s decision. In terms of television rights, CSA forego USD1.5 million. The loss was expected to be around Rand 30 million (US$ 2 million) to Rand 40 million (US$ 2.6 million), further adding to CSA’s woes.
Meanwhile, the Australian cricket team also suffered a huge blow as they failed to reach the final of inaugural World Test Championship final. With the three-match Test series, the Aussies were in contention to make it to the summit clash but the postponement helped New Zealand to pip and reserve a place alongside India.
COVID-19 Outbreak in IPL 2021 Bio-Bubble
The COVID-19 was center of attraction for several controversies in the cricketing world in 2021. After a successful 2020 season in the UAE, the BCCI decided to bring IPL back in India for 2021 and it started off well with their 6-city schedule plan. In the middle of season, the novel virus breached the BCCI’s bio-secure bubble and members of Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad were tested positive which caused chaos in the tournament.
The cricket board had to postpone the tournament midway as it stated, “The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect. The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind.”
However, the tournament moved to the UAE in September where Chennai Super Kings lifted their fourth IPL trophy.
Taliban Bans Women’s Sports
Taliban took over Afghanistan in August and it changed the landscape of the country in almost every way. Cricket also suffered a huge blow in Afghanistan after the takeover. Taliban banned major cricket coverage in the country especially the Indian Premier League over the presence of “female audience and spectators” in stadiums. Former Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) media manager and journalist M Ibrahim Momand said the live broadcast of IPL matches was banned due to possible “anti-Islamic” content.
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Several reports suggested that the Taliban also banned women from playing the sport. Cricket Australia took a firm step against them by postponing its historic first-ever test match against Afghanistan.
“CA is committed to support growing the game for women and men in Afghanistan and around the world, however, given the present uncertainty, CA felt it necessary to postpone the Test match until a later time when the situation is clearer,” Cricket Australia stated.
Trouble in Pakistan Cricket Board
On September 13, former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja was appointed as the chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board which was not welcomed by the coaching staff at that time. After Raja’s appointment, Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis stepped down from their respective roles one month before the T20 World Cup. However, Misbah and Waqar didn’t say anything against Raja and blamed the bio-secure bubble for the big decision ahead of a mega ICC tournament.
In his statement, Misbah, a former skipper said: “The quarantine in Jamaica post the West Indies series provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the past 24 months as well as the schedule for international cricket ahead. Considering that I would have had to continue to spend considerable time away from my family and that too in a bio-secure environment, I have decided to step down from the role. “I understand that the timing may not be ideal but I don’t think I am in the right frame of mind for the upcoming challenges and it makes sense for someone fresh to step in and take the side forward.”
Meanwhile, Waqar said he took over the charge alongside Misbah and also decided to leave with him.
Racism in Yorkshire Cricket
During an interview in 2020 with a leading publication that former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq claimed deep-rooted racism in the club and later revealed that the events led him to contemplate suicide. After almost a year, Rafiq’s claim was blown up and created havoc in Yorkshire and England’s county cricket. In December 2020, Rafiq files a legal complaint against Yorkshire for direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race. The county cricket club tried to resolve the issue with Rafiq through the process of judicial mediation in June 2021, but they failed.
In July, Yorkshire issued an apology to Rafiq where it admitted that the cricketer was “the victim of inappropriate behaviour” and refused their racism allegations. The cricketer didn’t hold back and continued his fight against the club as ECB commends him for “the bravery he has shown in speaking up and shining a light on the racism he said he experienced as a Yorkshire Cricketer.”
In September 2021, British Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair Julian Knight MP asked Yorkshire to publish the report. A summarised version of the report is made public. The club admits Rafiq was victim of “racial harassment” and “bullying” during his tenures between 2008 and 2018. Just seven of his 43 allegations were upheld.
The chaos had just begun as in November, the details of the report leaked. It reveals how a player repeatedly used the word “P***” while referring to Rafiq and claimed it was a ‘friendly banter”. England cricketer Gary Ballance admits he was the player who used the “racist slur” when he was teammates with Rafiq. ECB suspends Yorkshire from hosting international or major matches “until it has clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected of an international venue, ECB member and first-class county”.
The controversy forced Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton to resign as did board members Hanif Malik and Stephen Willis. Mark Arthur also put his papers down as Yorkshire’s chief executive.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan’s name also came into light in the controversy but the Ashes-winning captain “categorically denied” the allegation. However, Vaughan was left out of the BBC commentary team for the ongoing Ashes series in Australia to avoid a “conflict of interest” amid an ongoing racism row.
Tim Paine’s Shocking Resignation
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine shocked the cricketing world by putting his resignation as Australia Test captain ahead of the mega Ashes 2021-22. Paine took the massive decision over the public revelation of an exchange of allegedly sexually graphic text messages with a female colleague in 2017. The former Australia captain’s decision once again put Cricket Australia in limelight for all the wrong reasons. The cricket board was heavily criticized for not handling the situation well as some thought that it should’ve taken a stand against Paine a long time ago, while others thought the cricket board had to back Paine during the tough times.
A week later after his captaincy resignation, Paine decided to take an indefinite mental health break from all forms of cricket.
BCCI Sacks Kohli as ODI Captain
In December, the Indian cricket board took a bold step by removing Virat Kohli from the ODI captain’s position as it replaced him with Rohit Sharma. Kohli relinquished his T20I captaincy after the 2021 T20 World Cup, however, in his statement, the 33-year-old emphasize on managing the workload and focussing on the Test and ODI captaincy. The decision shocked the cricketing world as sacking Kohli was a big call from the cricket board as many were expecting Kohli to step down from the role himself.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly in an interview with News18 revealed that the selectors didn’t want to have two captains in white-ball formats which was the reason behind Rohit’s appointment as ODI captain.
The BCCI’s handling of the situation was heavily criticized by Indian cricket fans as in their first official statement, the board didn’t even mention Kohli’s name. And after a day, BCCI thanked Kohli for his contribution as ODI captain.
However, Kohli will continue to remain as India Test captain but the power-shifting in India’s camp is going to put the scanner on him in the longest format too.
Ashes No-ball Drama
Australia started their Ashes 2021-22 with a dominating 9-wicket win over England at The Gabba, Brisbane but the major limelight was grabbed by the infamous no-ball controversy. On Day 2, Ben Stokes overstepped the front crease 14 times in the opening session and had only been called twice for a no-ball and one of them cost England’s a major wicket of Australia opener David Warner.
Cricket Australia said a technology problem at the Gabba meant that the third umpire, Paul Wilson, couldn’t review ball-by-ball TV replays to check if bowlers were over-stepping the crease, leaving it to the on-field umpires to make the calls. Wilson could only go to the tape to assess no-balls when wickets were at stake.
Former cricketers bashed the incident as legendary Australia skipper Ricky Ponting called it “pathetic officiating” during the match commentary.
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