Although widely known as a gentleman’s game, cricket has not been without its controversies over the years. From match-fixing scandals to on-pitch bust-ups, the sport has witnessed some scenes that really aren’t cricket! And as always occurs with these types of incidents, some individuals found themselves more heavily and more regularly involved than others.
With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of some of the most controversial players to ever wield a ball and bat in a professional capacity. Despite their undeniable skills, they have run afoul of the authorities on more than one occasion, marking them out as the bad boys of their discipline.
A hugely talented all-rounder, Afridi captained his native Pakistan between 2009 and 2011 and is unofficially regarded as hitting the longest six in cricket history, knocking a ball an estimated 158m. However, he’s been no stranger to the limelight, either, incurring a series ban for biting a ball in 2010 in allegations of ball-tampering. He also brought criticism upon himself by suggesting there was “no talent in Pakistan” in 2016, while his ultra-conservative views on women’s rights have also made him a magnet for controversy.
Despite holding the second highest number of wickets from an off-spin bowler for many years, Singh’s reputation precedes him in cricketing circles. He courted media attention for all the wrong reasons in 2002 when he became embroiled in an altercation with police outside his hotel room, while his decision not to wear a turban in a 2006 TV advert invited criticism from the orthodox Sikh community. 2008, however, was his most headline-worthy year, when he slapped S Sreesranth, receiving a suspension as a result, before later being hit with an ICC ban for racial slurs against Andrew Symonds.
Speaking of whom, Symonds is no angel himself. In the same year that his on-field disputes with Singh led to much media focus, he was also suspended by his club for missing team meetings, allegedly due to the fact that he preferred to go fishing instead. The following year, a scandal implicating Symonds in a late-night drinking binge saw him sent home by Australia from the ICC World T20 competition, after which he promptly announced his retirement… presumably to pick up his rod and find a nice secluded spot by the river.
Perhaps the most controversial cricketer ever to grace the field, Akhtar’s off-field antics have overshadowed his supreme bowling talents throughout his career. An infamously feisty figure, Akhtar was apparently indiscriminate when it came to fighting people: opponents, teammates, ground officials and even the PCB all felt his wrath. He was also accused of taking the banned substance nandrolone in 2006, for which he was later banned before subsequently being acquitted, while he has violated the player’s code of conduct and attempted to travel without the requisite visa on other occasions. He now works as one of the more colourful commentators on the sport.
Although cricket is generally a well-mannered game, it has witnessed some livewire personalities throughout its history. These are four of the fieriest in our opinion.