Controversies Over the years, sordid incidents have marred the game's image on the biggest stage; death in mysterious circumstances, inane rules, drug abuse and loud protests have all hit the quadrennial event. We walk back in time...
To ambush or not is the big question
In 1996, soft drink giant Coca Cola paid a huge sum to become the official sponsors of the Cricket World Cup. Rival Pepsi promptly launched a massive advertising blitz based on the catchline: 'Nothing official about it'.
The Pepsi campaign captured the public imagination and Coke, as official sponsors, lost out. It was as if Coke threw a party and Pepsi gate-crashed it and had a blast.
Sporting events are not alien to such incidents where advertisers have often resorted to these tricks. In marketing jargon, it is called the ambush marketing and it occurs when one brand pays to become an official sponsor of an event and another competing brand attempts to cleverly connect itself with the event, without paying the sponsorship fee and, more frustratingly, without breaking any laws.
With the dateline for the 2011 World Cup approaching fast, marketers and advertisers are gearing up big time to generate a buzz among cricket fans. Mixed views abound over whether ambush marketing still exists or is a thing of the past.
"ICC guidelines are very clear as it gives protection to every player and sponsor," said Jeet Banerjee, of Gameplan. Learning from other major sporting events and previous Cricket World Cups, the ICC protects its commercial partners by ensuring that their competitors are unable to associate with the event.
"Ambush marketing does not stop at brands competing only with the commercial sponsors of a sporting event, it goes beyond that," said Mahesh Ranka, general manager, Relay Worldwide - the sports marketing arm of StarcomMediaVest Group in India. "Like it or not, ambush marketing exists and is happening. Any brand that wants to make noise, sometimes even if it's not competing with any brand, will make it. Though it needs proper planning and good execution."
Coca Cola-India executive claims ambush marketing is a thing of the past as brands nowadays are strong enough and enjoy their own equity. PepsiCo is one of the leading sponsors for the upcoming World Cup. "There is no threat as it's a thing of the past," said Naresh Gupta, National Planning Director, Cheil India. "Only a very big player or a brand with a personality can pull it off."
In this picture taken just before the 1996 World Cup, a hoarding shows Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Azharuddin endorsing Pepsi, who were rivals to the official sponsors, Coke.
Nothing official about it ambush marketing, 1996
1996 saw the World Cup returning to the sub-continent. With it started the war to woo a potentially huge Indian market. Though Coca Cola had secured the rights as the official soft drink of the World Cup, rival American giants PepsiCo weren't ready to surrender. They went on to steal the thunder with their 'Nothing official about it' campaign. The instance marks perhaps the most famous example of 'ambush marketing' in the history of business related to sports in India. Later in 2002 the ICC sought to introduce a clause for its future events to outlaw ambush marketing and urged individual boards to take up the matter with their players on a priority basis. Their contention was that they would not be able to command sponsorships and thus feed money back unless official sponsors are protected.
No one killed Woolmer Bob Woolmer's death, 2007
Shock was an understatement. 2007 is a year even Pakistan, so used to the vagaries of international cricket, would like to erase from their memory. Barely 24 hours after Pakistan were knocked out of the World Cup following their defeat to Ireland, coach Bob Woolmer was found unconscious in his hotel room. He was pronounced dead at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston after some time.
Match-fixing groups were widely rumoured to be involved in a possible murder. There were calls for the World Cup to be cancelled, while others suggested the tournament be played in Woolmer's honour. The Pakistan Cricket Board later revealed that Woolmer had sent an email shortly before he died resigning as coach.
At that time, speculation was rife that strangulation marks were found on Woolmer's neck but a subsequent inquest conducted by the Jamaica Constabulary concluded that the Englishman had died of natural causes and was not murdered. Dr Ere Seshaiah, who conducted the first post-mortem on Woolmer, however, kept insisting that he had died of "asphyxia caused by manual strangulation". Not many paid heed to what he said and the official version maintained that Woolmer had died of natural causes, but it continues to be a mystery.
Rain, rain go away Africa want to play Rain Rule, 1992 Semifinals
Cricket was one of the first arenas where a post-apartheid South Africa could impress. Bold and athletic, this Kepler Wessels-led team was making all the right moves till the rain rule hit them in the semifinal against England, out of the blue literally. Twelve minutes of heavy rain revised a seemingly achievable target of 22 runs from 13 balls first to 22 from seven and then to 22 from one. The rain rule was for matches affected by bad weather. The idea behind it was to avoid the old system - work out the runs-per-over of the first innings and then deduct that for each over lost by the side batting second. Under the new rule, the reduction in the target was to be proportionate to the lowest scoring overs of the side batting first, nullifying good bowling by SA. The Duckworth-Lewis method later replaced the controversial rain rule.
Shame Warne's Infamous Cup Warne's drug scandal, 2003
Shane Warne never saw it coming. He had landed in South Africa looking to add to his astounding World Cup record, one that had seen him win Man-of-the-Match awards in the 1999 semi-final and final. On February 11, 2003, just before Australia's group league clash against Pakistan, the leg-spinner tested positive for a diuretic. The "fluid tablet" he had taken was a prescription drug Moduretic that sheds flab. It was meant to improve his appearance. Warne was found guilty of breaching the Australian Cricket Board's drug code, and got a one-year ban. The 1999 Cup final eventually became his last World Cup match.
Lend me your ears, captain Cronje's earpiece, 1999
It took South Africa just one match to be in the headlines again. In England this time, leading a very strong side, South Africa captain Hansie Cronje (in pic) was seen attending to his ear too much for comfort during their first group match against India in Hove. When television cameras finally zoomed in on his ear, it was found to be a one-way transmitting ear-piece that Cronje was using to receive inputs from the first laptop coach of all, the late Bob Woolmer (in pic). Allan Donald, too, was using it. But before anyone could come up with a protest, a reluctant Cronje was seen handing his ear-piece to an official.
England fret over Freddie Flintoff's fall from pedalo & Grace, 2007
England were at sea for most part of the 2007 World Cup. Their vice-captain Andrew Flintoff was literally in the middle of it. After a disheartening loss to New Zealand, Flintoff, who had been caught first ball, and a group of England players, were seen by holidaymakers and members of the Barmy Army drinking the night away at a nightclub in St Lucia's Rodney Bay area. When Flintoff got back to his hotel, according to the News of the World, he brushed past a security guard and dragged a pedalo out to sea. He was seen rocking it from side to side until it capsized and a member of staff pulled him back to land. Flintoff was stripped of the vice-captaincy and banned for one match. He later issued an apology.
When Eden turned hell Bad pitch & Crowd trouble, 1996 semifinals
Like in 1987, India had once again reached the semi-finals, this time at the Eden Gardens. Sachin Tendulkar was in sublime form and once again, like most of the early 90s, it was left to him to do the major part of the scoring. Tendulkar, playing his second World Cup, played his regular shots and India were cruising in their pursuit of 252 set by Sri Lanka.
But a hasty shot felled Tendulkar when in attempting to glance Sanath Jayasuriya, he only managed a brush off his pad. Wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana, seeing Tendulkar leave his crease, was quick to whip off the bails, setting off a chain reaction that saw Ajay Jadeja, Mohammed Azharuddin and Nayan Mongia throw away their wickets. Vinod Kambli lurked around but only till the eighth wicket had fallen for an abysmal 120. Around 100,000 India fans took things in their hands and the situation turned from bad to worse. Missiles and bottles rained and some of the seating blocks were even set on fire. The hooliganism prevailed till match commissioner Clive Lloyd abandoned the semi-final and declared Sri Lanka the winners. Kambli crying is the only enduring image of an otherwise shameful evening.
Tests to ODIs: A tough switch Gavaskar's slow going, 1975
In 1975, the shorter form of cricket was still very much a new chapter, Test cricketers found difficult to add to their book. India's problems were most glaringly manifested, in their very first World Cup match against England. Set a target of 335 in 60 overs, India went at a snail's pace, with opener Sunil Gavaskar playing one of the most painstaking ODI innings, an unbeaten 36 off 174 balls.
Standing up for a cause Flower's protest, 2003
The situation in Zimbabwe was worse in 2003 than what it is now. England had already boycotted their match in Harare citing security reasons. Zimbabweans Henry Olonga & Andy Flower too joined in the protest. Just before the start of Zimbabwe's opening match against Namibia, the press were handed a statement from Flower and Olonga in which they announced they would be wearing black armbands to "mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe". Flower walked to the middle wearing a black armband. Olonga was photographed on the players' balcony with an armband.
Final Ends In poor Light Bad light fiasco, 2007 final
The final between Australia and Sri Lanka was heading for a premature end due to bad light. There was no other complication because Australia were easily going to win on the Duckworth-Lewis method. In reply to their 281 for four in 37 overs, Sri Lanka were 206 for seven after 33 when play was called off. The players shook hands, left the field and post-match presentations were about to begin when the umpires ordered the stumps to be put back in place. The players walked back in and play went on for 3 more overs in near darkness. Explanations were not forthcoming after confusion.