Woolmer’s Death to 2007 Final: Cricket World Cup’s Tainted History

Dark times await England’s white-ball specialist batsman Alex Hales, who was dropped from the World Cup squad and has also been removed from the English squad for the upcoming international summer, after the English Cricket Board found out about his use of recreational drugs.

Even though the board’s managing director Ashley Giles has attested that it’s not the end of the road for Hales, the World Cup omission has been a huge blow for the opener.

Just ahead of the World Cup, Alex Hales failed a drugs test for use of a recreational drug.

The aforementioned incident is just one of the many testimonies to the fact that as eminent the Cricket World Cup is, the controversies lingering over are impossible to overlook. Stretching and covering all areas on and off the field, these disputes have left an indelible mark.

With the twelfth edition of cricket’s biggest spectacle only a week away, let’s have a look at some of the infamous incidents from the annals of World Cup history.

Death Looming Large

Pakistan players observe a one-minute silence after the death of their coach Bob Woolmer (in the background) during the 2007 ICC World Cup in West Indies.

The 2007 World Cup will for eternity remain the most unforgettable World Cup. West Indies finally got to host the World Cup. Millions of dollars were spent on refurbishing the stadiums. Favourites, and the biggest crowd pullers India and Pakistan were eliminated in the group stage.

However, something way bigger was yet to be unraveled. Following Ireland’s shocking win over Pakistan, their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead a day after. A thorough investigation by the Jamaican police revealed that suspicious death was a result of “manual strangulation”. But it was later ruled out by a jury, stating the reason for death to be “natural causes”.

Two Zimbabwean players, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, demonstrated a protest against the country’s regime during the cricket World Cup in 2003.

In the 2003 World Cup also the death factor played a part, only this time it was ‘death of democracy’.

Just ahead of Zimbabwe’s opening match against Namibia, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga announced to the press that they would be wearing black armbands to “mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe.” An act pioneered by the duo to condemn the Robert Mugabe government was followed by a lot of friction from the Zimbabwe Cricket board but also received a lot of support by their teammates and also the crowd.

Also Read: Remember When Flower, Olonga Led Blackband Protest Against Mugabe?

Darkness Descends

Australian captain Ricky Ponting and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahela Jayawardena in discussion with umpires Steve Bucknor and Billy Bowden during the 2007 World Cup final.

The essence of the 2007 World Cup was already dark enough when literal darkness descended upon the final between Australia and Sri Lanka.

With just three overs remaining in the game (reduced overs by the D/L method), the play was suspended due to bad light. No wonder that the Aussies were deemed as champions and celebrations exploded.

Just then the umpires informed that play was only suspended and not completed. That led to a bizarre yet mutual decision by the two captains. The last three overs were carried out peacefully under absurd low-light conditions.

Eventually, ICC suspended the match officials, umpires and match referee, from officiating in the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament in 2007.

No Safe Haven for Cricket

Chasing a target of 252, India stuttered and were reduced to 120 for 8 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

In 1996, Sri Lanka went onto be crowned champions in only thirteen years but their path to glory was one of the most controversial ones.

They did manage to pull off big wins against India and Australia in the semi-final and final respectively, but their road to quarter-finals was way smoother.

Australia and West Indies chose to forfeit their group matches against Sri Lanka due to major security reasons, following bombings by the Tamil Tigers. Despite serious reassurance of safety by ICC, the two teams refused to rethink their decision.

If that wasn’t enough drama, the semi-final between India and Sri Lanka just upped the ante. Chasing a target of 252, India stuttered and were reduced to 120 for 8 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

The home crowd went berserk and threw bottles and even started fire in the stands. Clive Lloyd, the match referee, ordered a short break to let security clam the crowd down but had to eventually call-off the match. Amidst all this chaos, Sri Lanka were awarded the match and as they say rest is history.

Very Slow and Not at All Steady

Sunil Gavaskar scored 36 off 174 against England in the 1975 cricket World Cup.

To quote William Shakespeare, “To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first.” But the pace with which Sunil Gavaskar batted through the full quota of 60 overs was inexplicably slow and needless to say, cost India the match.

Chasing a target of 335, Gavaskar scored 36 off 174 against England in the first ever Cricket World Cup in 1975.

Decades later, in his autobiography, Sunny had come up with weak defence of the very unpopular and massively criticised innings.

An excerpt from his book states, “There were occasions I felt like moving away from the stumps so I would be bowled. This was the only way to get away from the mental agony from which I was suffering. I couldn’t force the pace and I couldn’t get out. Towards the end, I was playing mechanically.”

It’s High, High and Out of the Ground

File picture of Shane Warne and Andrew Flintoff. 

Clock ticks back again to the 2007 World Cup when England’s Andrew Flintoff was dethroned as vice-captain and suffered a one-match ban for the possession of a ‘pedalo’ (paddle boat) while being intoxicated. He reportedly fell off the pedalo and had to be rescued.

The champions of the 2003 World Cup edition, Australia faced a huge blow as Shane Warne was banned right before the big tournament. He was sent back home from the World Cup after testing positive for a banned diuretic – a prescription drug often used to help weight loss or as a masking agent for other drugs – or as Warne called it “a fluid reduction tablet.”

Meanwhile, Alex Hales’s ban from cricket due to the use of drugs has not only taken away his World Cup spot, but also a bit from his stability. Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire’s director of Cricket, fears that their recruit might just lose his mental stability due to his acute fall from grace.

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