It’s more than just cricket at World Cup

From an absurd “21 runs to win off one ball” equation in 1992 to a final played in virtual darkness in 2007, the World Cup has had more than its fair share of controversies.

Rows threatened to overshadow the game in the 2007 Cup in the Caribbean, starting with the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer and ending with a farcical semi-darkness finish to the final due to a blunder by match officials.

The showpiece event was in its initial stages when Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica.

His death was initially the subject of a murder investigation before it was eventually announced that the former England Test star had died of natural causes.

Woolmer’s death came just after favourites Pakistan had suffered a shock defeat against newcomers Ireland, the loss eventually leading to the ouster of the 1992 champions.

Surprise was in store for fans in Barbados when the match officials stretched the rain-hit final between eventual winners Australia and Sri Lanka into semi-darkness.

They believed that 36 overs had to be completed in Sri Lanka’s innings after Australia had posted 281-4, apparently forgetting a minimum of 20 were required to obtain a result.

“It was a mistake,” match-referee Jeff Crowe said after the match, the first of the nine Cup finals to be abbreviated.

“I should’ve known the rules. It was a human error, I guess, at the end of the day.”

The 2003 edition, jointly hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, began with a drug-ban involving ace Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne.

Australia got the news before their opening match against Pakistan that the spinner had been ruled out after testing positive, but it was a tribute to their mental toughness that they did not allow it to affect their performance.

Warne was handed a 12-month ban and never played one-day cricket again for Australia.

Cricket was again pushed into the background as Zimbabweans Henry Olonga and Andy Flower wore black armbands to protest the “death of democracy” in their country. Both were later driven into cricketing exile.

England boycotted their match at Harare on political grounds, while New Zealand refused to play in Nairobi due to security concerns. The forfeited games helped both Zimbabwe and Kenya to advance to the next round.

Controversies had been shadowing the World Cup ever since South Africa were asked to score 21 runs to win off just one ball in the 1992 rain-hit semifinal against England at Sydney.

The controversial rain-rule was later replaced with the Duckworth-Lewis system.

In 1996 in the sub-continent, Australia and the West Indies boycotted their opening games in Sri Lanka due to security fears.

So unsatisfactory was the tournament format then that the forfeitures did not affect the qualifying chances of either team, with the West Indies going on to make the semifinals and Australia the final.

The 1996 edition also had a dubious first to its credit — an abandoned match due to riots in the stadium.

India were facing defeat at 120-8 chasing 252 in the semi-final against Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata when the riots broke out, forcing match-referee Clive Lloyd to award to game to Sri Lanka.

The spectators, annoyed with the hosts’ dismal batting show, threw missiles on to the field and lit fires in the stands.

Sri Lanka, who had already won two matches by forfeit, eventually lifted the Cup with with an emphatic victory over Australia in the final at Lahore. – AFP

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