Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 5 Biggest controversies of all time

As much as the Border-Gavaskar trophy has been interesting, it has not been void of controversy. The 2023 edition starts from 9th February, 2023.

Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 5 Biggest controversies of all time
  • Sinchan Saha | February 6, 2023 | 2:25 pm

India and Australia compete in a Test cricket series known as the Border–Gavaskar Trophy. It is played on upcoming tours organized by the International Cricket Council.

India holds the trophy as of January 2021 after defeating Australia by two Tests to one in 2020-21, with one match ending in a draw. The nation that currently holds the trophy keeps it if a series is drawn. The series is named after two distinguished former captains, India’s Sunil Gavaskar, and Australia’s Allan Border.

Indian Sachin Tendulkar has been the most successful batsman in competition for the trophy since 1996, scoring 3262 runs in 65 innings. The most successful bowler is Indian Anil Kumble, who has taken 111 wickets in 20 matches at an average of 30.32.

Here are some of the most prominent ones in the history of the Border-Gavaskar trophy

1. The Monkey Gate Scandal (2008)

Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 5 Biggest controversies of all time
Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds face off

The 2008 verbal altercation between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh during the second Test between India and Australia in Sydney is referred to as the “Monkeygate Scandal.” During the altercation, the off-spinner allegedly hurled racial slurs at Symonds, referring to him as a “Monkey.” 

The incident occurred in 2008 during India’s tour of Australia in Australia’s second Test match in Sydney. The Indians, led by Anil Kumble, entered Sydney hoping for a better performance after the first Test at the MCG was won by 337 runs. On the other hand, the game was marred by controversy from the very beginning because, in the first innings, on-field umpire Steve Bucknor made a number of questionable decisions, all of which were in favor of Australia. With Australia 45/2, Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting was wrongly ruled caught behind, and Andrew Symonds was wrongly ruled caught behind and missed stumping, with the scores 191/6 and 423/7 at the time of the decisions. The Indians were irritated by Australia’s subsequent massive score of 463 in their first innings because they believed they could have bowled Australia out for under 300 without the questionable calls.

As a result, tensions were already high when India took the field. But India was well on their way to taking a lead in the first innings thanks to centuries from Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman and a brave fifty from Sourav Ganguly. However, what happened at the end of the 116th over of the Indian innings rocked the cricketing world for months to come.

With the score 451/7 and the Aussies getting desperate, pacer Brett Lee turned up the heat and hit Harbhajan numerous times with a lightning-fast thunderbolt. Harbhajan walked all the way over to the other side of the wicket after fending off the final ball of Lee’s over and had a few words with Symonds, which seemed pretty normal in real-time. However, all hell broke loose immediately, and on-field umpire Mark Benson had some harsh words for Harbhajan within seconds of the pair’s verbal altercation. On camera, Harbhajan appeared confused by the umpire’s words.

The Australians had then complained to the umpire that Harbhajan had made a racist comment about Symonds and called him a “monkey,” according to reports. Soon after, Matthew Hayden and Ponting had lengthy conversations with the Indian spinner separately, with Sachin Tendulkar, the opposing batsman, watching the action unfold right in front of him.

Certainly. In many ways, the IPL also significantly contributed to this. Harbhajan and Symonds have since been able to put the ugly fight from 2008 behind them because they played for the same team in the Indian Premier League, Mumbai Indians. However, Symonds subtly suggests that he still hasn’t forgiven Harbhajan for the alleged racist abuse by occasionally expressing that he was profoundly affected by the incident.

2. Spirited India (2001)

Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 5 Biggest controversies of all time
Steve Waugh made to wait for the toss

The 2001 Test series will always have a significant place in Indian cricket history. In addition to establishing Sourav Ganguly as captain, Team India’s historic series victory over Australia also instilled confidence in the team. The three-match series was heavily favored to be won by Australia.

The all-conquering Australian team had won 15 Tests in a row before arriving in India. In addition, it appeared as though the visitors would easily defeat the hosts in the subsequent two Tests after they defeated India by ten wickets in the first Test in Mumbai.

However, everyone was taken aback when the team led by Sourav Ganguly defeated Australia in the subsequent two games to win the series. Also remembered are the mind games played by Sourav Ganguly in the series. With his strategies, the former captain of India had been able to get under Waugh, his Australian counterpart.

Waugh has stated a number of times that he was irritated by Sourav Ganguly in the 2001 series because he was always late for the toss. The former Australian batsman has maintained that the India star’s behavior was inappropriate.

Ganguly maintained that it was an accident as he left his blazer in the dressing room.

‘It was an accident actually. In the first Test match, I left my blazer in the dressing room. They were such a good side and I was really nervous in that series because it was my first big series as captain. Last 25-30 years I haven’t seen a team as good as Australia I that generation. Initially, I forgot my blazer in the first test but then I realized that he reacted to it. It was working on them, working on the team, and how they went about their jobs. They were a bit grumpy with all that and it worked for us as we won the series 2-1,”

Ganguly told Mayank Agarwal in the the latest episode of ‘Open Nets with Mayank’.
  1. Umpire Decision Review System Controversy (UDRS) (2008)
Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 5 Biggest controversies of all time
A final day draw full of controversy

The Indian cricket team’s 2007–08 summer tour of Australia included the Second Test, a five-day Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground from January 2 to January 6. At the end of the fifth day, Australia won by 122 runs with minutes left.

The international umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson made a lot of bad decisions during the match, and Australian players, including Adam Gilchrist, who is known for being fair, and Harbhajan Singh, were accused of not being good sportsmen. Some commentators suggested that the errors made by the umpires had a significant impact on the course of the match, which ended in a dramatic defeat for the Indian team in the final ten minutes of the five-day contest.

The outcome not only ensured that Australia would retain the Border–Gavaskar Trophy, but it also enabled Ricky Ponting’s team to win 16 consecutive Tests, equaling the previous record set by Steve Waugh’s Australia. Parts of the media referred to the controversy as “Bollyline,” a play on the 1930s scuffle “Bodyline.” The name, which is a portmanteau of “Bollywood” and “Bodyline,” was meant as a joke; however, by referring to “Bollyline,” it hints at the potential seriousness of the rift that exists between Indians and Australians. Indeed, the incident “now has the potential to affect relations between the countries,” as stated by Steve Waugh.

The Test itself was tightly fought, which set up the fifth (final) day of the match, in which either team could have won, but it was most likely to draw. Every day of the match saw centuries scored by batsmen. In the first innings, Brett Lee picked up five wickets and three four-wicket hauls. Michael Clarke and Anil Kumble each scored a hat trick at different points in the game. Andrew Symonds, an all-rounder, was in the thick of the action, scoring 3/51 in India’s second innings and scoring 162* and 61 runs with the bat. The honor of the man of the match went to Symonds.

  1. DRS Controversy (2017)
Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 5 Biggest controversies of all time
Steve Smith goes through a brainfade in Bangalore

India and Australia’s second Test match in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which took place in Bengaluru between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, was an exciting one. India won convincingly from behind to level the series and preserve its existence. However, India’s victory was marred by a few unwelcome controversies that erupted during the match. After being kicked out of the match, Australian captain Steven Smith looked around the locker room for assistance with the Decision Review System (DRS), a self-confessed moment of brain fog. Peter Handscomb, his partner at the crease, had suggested that he do so after the skipper asked for his opinion on the matter. However, it quickly developed into a controversy. Smith was sent back with a warning after the Indian players, including captain Virat Kohli, and field umpire Nigel Llong intervened, resulting in a heated argument with Kohli. The press conference that followed was explosive, and Kohli came close to referring to Smith as a “cheater.” Despite Handscomb’s admission that he had made a mistake, the situation had already escalated. Kohli defined brain fade for his opposite number, while Smith referred to it as a brain fade. The media covered it extensively throughout this time as the respective boards defended their leaders. It would appear that all is well between the two teams and the boards given the issue’s early resolution following the efforts of reconciliation made by the two boards.

  1. Ball Tampering Allegations 2018
Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 5 Biggest controversies of all time
Bancroft gets spotted with Sandpaper

The Australian ball-tampering scandal, also known as the Sandpapergate scandal, took place in 2018 and involved the Australian national cricket team’s cheating in the game of cricket. Cameron Bancroft was caught by television cameras trying to rough up one side of the ball with sandpaper to make it swing in flight in the third Test match against South Africa in Cape Town in March 2018. Both vice-captain David Warner and captain Steve Smith were found to be involved, and Cricket Australia imposed unprecedented sanctions on all three of them. Following the scandal, Australia’s coach, Darren Lehmann, announced that he would resign from his position even though it was discovered that he was not directly involved. Before Aaron Finch took over from Tim Paine as captain in ODIs and T20Is, Smith was replaced as captain in all formats.

On the television coverage and on screens on the ground, Australia’s Cameron Bancroft was shown rubbing the ball with a small yellow object. After Bancroft realized he had been seen, he was once more shown on the television coverage and on screens at the ground concealing the object in his front pants. The umpires then came up to him and asked him to show them a dark pouch for his sunglasses made of microfiber. After inspecting the ball, the umpires decided not to award the South African team five penalty runs or offer the ball to them to replace if they so desired, as required by Law 41.3 of the Laws of Cricket. This indicated that there had been no discernible alteration to the ball. South Africa led by 185 runs at 129/2 at the time.

Bancroft, accompanied by Australia’s captain Steve Smith, acknowledged at the press conference at the conclusion of the day’s play that he was shown using a short length of yellow adhesive tape with dirt and grit adhering to form an abrasive surface to attempt to alter the ball’s condition. He admitted it was sandpaper, which cricketers use to maintain their bats, five days later, after Cricket Australia investigated the incident. Smith also admitted that he was aware of the strategy before Bancroft did anything. Smith claimed that the unidentified “leadership group” devised the strategy during the lunch break. When questioned by the media, Smith stated that he would not step down as captain of the team and called it a “big mistake.”

The match referee, Andy Pycroft, charged Bancroft with a Level 2 offense of attempting to alter the ball’s condition. The International Cricket Council (ICC)’s CEO, David Richardson, accused Smith of “conduct of a serious nature that is contrary to the spirit of the game.” Smith consented to the charge and the proposed penalty of two suspension points, which included a ban from the subsequent Test match, four demerit points added to his record, and a fine equal to one hundred percent of the match fee. In addition to receiving three demerit points and a penalty of 75% of his match fee, Bancroft accepted the charge against him.

The matches have been intense and the controversies are still remembered. These were some of the most prominent ones in the history of the Border-Gavaskar trophy. The 2023 edition which will be played between India and Australia will commence on 9th February 2023. Here’s hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.