India vs South Africa: The biggest controversies | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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India vs South Africa: The biggest controversies

Dec 08, 2023 01:54 PM IST

The India vs South Africa rivalry has not been without its controversies, and some notorious incidents can be traced back as far as 1997.

The competition between India and South Africa has produced numerous memorable moments in international cricket. From the 2006 Test victory to Allan Donald's thunderbolts in 1996, Sourav Ganguly's comeback to the national team, and Sachin Tendulkar's 50th Test century, there is rich history involved. However, along with these highlights, the rivalry has also been marked by its fair share of controversies. In fact, India vs South Africa has witnessed some of the most jtnotorious incidents since as far back as 1997. As the clock trickles down towards December 10, the official kick-off date of India's month-long tour of the Proteas land, we recall some of the most infamous chapters of this feud.

Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have been at the centre of two of the biggest controversies in India vs South Africa cricket (Getty Images)
Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have been at the centre of two of the biggest controversies in India vs South Africa cricket (Getty Images)

An apology 25 years in the making

During his playing days, Rahul Dravid didn't have too many rough interactions with players of the oppositions but the ones he did were pretty ugly. The Michael Slater face-off in Mumbai, the fiery exchange with Shoaib Akhtar at the 2004 Champions Trophy or replying to Mitchell Johnson's verbal volleys with cracking boundaries in an IPL 2013 game. However, none of these were as intense as the episode involving Donald in an ODI from 1997. Dravid, just one year into his international career, had slammed his maiden century in Tests and was in good nick in the tri-series involving Zimbabwe as the third team. With three half-centuries, Dravid scored 284 runs from eight innings, but the series would be remembered for the infamous bust-up with The White Lightning.

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South Africa were under pressure with Dravid and Tendulkar going great guns in India's chase of 279, when a six off The Wall's bat brought out a vile behaviour from Donald as the two engaged in a spat. Last year, Donald called it the 'worst moment of his career’ and apologised to Dravid a quarter of a century later by showering praises on the India head coach. Dravid, being the true gentleman, accepted it gracefully, returning the compliments but back then, it was quite an unforgettable sight.

The darkest chapter

There is no bigger controversy in the history of cricket than the 2000 match fixing scandal. Ganguly's reign as India captain began emphatically with a 3-2 series win against South Africa but as behind-the-scenes details emerged subsequently, Cricket's reputation as a 'gentleman's game' suffered a blow in the aftermath of the match-fixing scandal that unfolded a few days later. Hansie Cronje was at the centre of the storm when his conversations with bookie Sanjeev Chawla over underperforming in the ODI series were recorded and subsequently disclosed to the public by the Delhi Police. The law enforcement agency charged the former South African captain, along with teammates Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje, with allegations of cheating and criminal conspiracy. Cronje admitted he took thousands of dollars from illegal bookies to influence games, though he denied he actually fixed games. He was sacked by the South Africa board.

As corruption in cricket threatened to engulf India, the sports ministry asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a probe and find if Indian players were involved. Indian cricket was already under the scanner after out-of-favour all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar made a sensational claim that Kapil Dev offered him money to throw a game against Pakistan in the 1994 Singer Series in Sri Lanka. The 1983 World Cup-winning skipper denied the allegation, breaking down during a TV interview. Prabhakar also helped with a TV sting on some of his former teammates.

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Gibbs testified he took $15,000 from Cronje while all-rounder Jacques Kallis said he, Lance Klusener, and Mark Boucher were offered money before the 2000 Bangalore Test, which South Africa won. Cronje testified that it was Mohammad Azharuddin who introduced him to the bookie. Azhar immediately issued a denial. CBI interviewed Azharuddin, Prabhakar and Ajay Jadeja and spoke of their alleged involvement in corruption. But BCCI was left to conduct its own probe.

Cronje was banned for life — he died in 2002 cargo plane crash — while BCCI, worried about its credibility, appointed former CBI joint director, the late K Madhavan, as probe commissioner. In December, it banned Azhar and Ajay Sharma for life and Prabhakar, Jadeja and former India physio Ali Irani for five years.

A GOD under the scanner

In 2001, all hell broke loose when Sachin Tendulkar was accused of 'ball tampering' and suspended for a match. Match referee Mike Denness held six Indian cricketers accountable for different offences – Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Sunder Das and Deep Dasgupta for showing dissent and excessive appealing, and Ganguly for failing to control his players – but Tendulkar getting booked for 'acting on the ball' shook world cricket. Could Tendulkar and ball tampering go hand in hand?

On Day 3, after Tendulkar started to generate some swing which immediately came to Denness' notice. He called for a video footage which zoomed in on Tendulkar working on the seam of the ball with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. On the fourth day Denness informed India he would be banning Tendulkar for one match, suspended for a year, for his actions. The matter did not go down well with the BCCI as they launched a massive protest even threatening to pull out of the tour if Denness continued to be the match referee in the third and final Test. ICC was forced to remove Denness as the match referee but the third Test lost its international status and was deemed only a 'five-day friendly' match. The ban on Tendulkar and Ganguly was also overturned.

'Whole country playing against 11 guys'

These lines were immortalised by KL Rahul in Virat Kohli's final Test as India captain. The 2022 tour of South Africa has been a seamless tour, until Day 3 of the third Test in Cape Town. Kohli, Rahul and Ashwin were left furious after Dean Elgar survived an LBW decision via DRS. With the series levelled at 1-1, South Africa were chasing 212 to win the series when at 60/1, Elgar swept a ball from Ashwin and missed. Umpire Marais Erasmus gave it out but upon taking the review, Elgar survived as ball tracking showed the ball going over. Even Erasmus couldn't help but shake his head in disbelief at the images that displayed on the big screen. "That's impossible," he was overheard muttering.

This led to a meltdown within the Indian players. Kohli, who could not believe it and kicked the turf in anger was the first to show his displeasure as he walked up to the stump mic and criticised the host broadcaster by saying "Focus on your team while they shine the ball. Not just the opposition. Trying to catch people all the time." Rahul, the vice-captain, was heard saying afterwards "It's the whole country against 11 guys." Ashwin did not hold back either and vented on the stump mic at the bowling end, "You should find better ways to win, SuperSport."

Smack and dance, Sree

One moment from the India vs South Africa rivalry that promises to remain etched in the minds of Indian cricket fans, probably the funniest of the lot, is S Sreesanth's six off the bowling of Andre Nel during the Johannesburg Test in 2006. On Day 3 of the Test, Nel charged at Sreesanth and tried to get under his skin. The former India pacer responded in style, smoking a six off the next ball and breaking into a wild celebration much to the amusement of the on-lookers. Sreesanth's 5/40 had rattled South Africa in the first innings, which saw the home team getting skittled for 84. As it turned out, it wasn't the last memorable moment for Sreesanth in the match. Sreesanth claimed three more in the second innings as India registered their maiden Test win in South Africa.

Watch your crease

Not typically known for expressing his anger on the cricket field, former India World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev made headlines for the wrong reasons during the 2nd ODI at Port Elizabeth in 1992. Kapil, visibly upset, ran South Africa batter Peter Kirsten out at the non-striker end for backing up too far and delivered a pointed send-off. The South African captain at the time, Kepler Wessels, who was at the bowling end, protested the decision. However, Kapil, still incensed, indicated that Kirsten had left his crease for the third time. As a consequence of showing dissent, Kirsten was fined 50 percent of his match fees.

The Chappell finger

Former India head coach Greg Chappell flipped to the crowd, who were protesting outside the Indian team bus in Kolkata ahead of the India vs South Africa ODI at Eden Gardens. The whole incident was caught in camera which showed Chappell in low light. There were huge protests in different parts of the country after Sourav Ganguly was not only sacked as captain but also dropped from the Indian side. The former India captain blamed Chappell for his exclusion. South Africa won the ODI at Eden Gardens by 10 wickets but it was remembered more for the boos the Rahul Dravid-led Indian side received from the home crowd.

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