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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 08:44 GMT
Six biggest controversies of 2003
By Martin Gough

In the busiest year ever for international cricket, the action was often as hot off the field as on.

BBC Sport looks at some of the biggest controversies surrounding cricket in World Cup year.


Playing in Zimbabwe

Olonga wore a black armband
The year began with England occupied with playing in Australia, and English politicians occupied with whether the side should play a World Cup match in Zimbabwe.

Despite the controversial regime of President Robert Mugabe, which has seen widespread famine and homelessness, cricket authorities ruled the country was safe to play.

Bowler Henry Olonga and former captain Andy Flower took the field in their opening match wearing black armbands to mourn the "death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe".

England's players took the decision upon themselves but left it until two days before their scheduled match in Harare to choose, for safety and moral reasons, not to make the trip.

With New Zealand's decision not to play in Nairobi also playing a part, the tournament's competitiveness was hit as both Kenya and Zimbabwe reached the second round.

Zimbabwe's tour of England was picketed by protesters and the English authorities are under pressure to decide in the next two months to pull out of next October's scheduled tour.


Shane Warne's drug ban

Warne missed the World Cup
On the morning of Australia's opening World Cup match against Pakistan, Shane Warne confirmed to a hastily-arranged news conference that he had tested positive for a banned substance.

It later emerged that the legendary leg-spinner had taken a fluid-loss pill given to him by his mother so that he would look thinner for a TV appearance.

Warne was handed a 12-month ban, although Australia successfully defended their title without him.

The year since has been punctuated by rows over how much involvement Warne can have with his team-mates at state and national level as he prepares for a February comeback.


South Africa's World Cup exit

Pollock was made a scapegoat
Never has there been more of a furore surrounding a simple mathematical error, but rarely has such an error had such national significance.

World Cup hosts South Africa failed to read their rain-affected target correctly, tied their match against Sri Lanka and plunged out of the tour at the first round stage.

Shaun Pollock was made the scapegoat and relieved of the captaincy in favour of Graeme Smith, whose appointment at 22 provoked more argument.

In the background were rows over selection, with Smith brought in for Jonty Rhodes to overcome a racial quota even though the veteran fielder protested he was not seriously injured.

Meanwhile South African cricket chief Percy Sonn was forced to apologise after he drunkenly fell out of his trousers in front of visiting dignitaries at an early group match.


Latif loses Pakistan captaincy

Latif was deemed expendable
Appointed Pakistan skipper after a disappointing World Cup campaign, wicket-keeper Rashid Latif lasted just six months before Inzamam-ul-Haq took charge.

Latif had to be persuaded out of retirement to captain the side but, after he was handed a five-match ban for deceitfully claiming a catch, he was deemed expendable.

Latif told a TV interviewer: "I was used as a pawn and I regret my decision to accept the captaincy," and found himself in even deeper hot water.

Pakistan continued to win despite a barely-concealed verbal joust between coach Javed Miandad and chief selector Aamir Sohail and a row over the selection of Junaid Zia, son of the cricket board chairman.

Tauqir Zia quit in December, saying he had, "other things to do in my life".


Match referees get tough

Hall was one of three players banned in a hard-fought series
Latif was not the only player to receive a ban, with sparks flying in the following series between Pakistan and South Africa.

All-rounder Andrew Hall was handed a two-Test ban for elbowing Pakistan batsman Yousuf Youhana during a one-day match, after which skipper Graeme Smith also gained a short ban.

And match referee Clive Lloyd also banned Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar for one Test and two one-day internationals for abusing a tail-end batsman.

However Lloyd refused to dole out similarly tough punishment to England's Nasser Hussain two months later, as Hussain's reported comments to Muttiah Muralitharan could not be proven.


Lancashire consider Old Trafford move

Old Trafford could be expendable
County cricket has its rows over playing contracts and the quality of pitches but rarely does it make headline news.

However, Lancashire caused a flutter in November when they began considering the possibility of moving away from Old Trafford - a Test venue since 1884.

The City of Manchester would like the club to move to a purpose-built site near the Commonwealth Games stadium.

One Mancunian likened the idea to moving Lord's to Canary Wharf but the club promised to consult members before making any decisions.




SEE ALSO
England forfeit Zimbabwe points
15 Feb 03  |  England
Warne angry at ban 'farce'
03 Sep 03  |  Cricket
Smith handed SA captaincy
16 Mar 03  |  South Africa
Embarrassed Sonn says sorry
14 Feb 03  |  South Africa
Inzamam to captain Pakistan
07 Sep 03  |  Cricket
Cricket bosses get tough
19 Oct 03  |  Cricket
Hussain escapes rap
11 Dec 03  |  Sri v Eng
Lancs could ditch Old Trafford
04 Nov 03  |  Lancashire



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