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The scandals that have rocked Australian cricket: From sandpaper gate to underarm

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As Australian Test captain Tim Paine steps down as a the result of a four-year-old sexting episode, it’s timely to remember the genteel game of cricket has been no stranger to scandals over the years. 

From the underarm delivery against New Zealand in 1981, the bookies’ scandal involving Shane Warne and Mark Waugh in 1998, and the stunning ‘Sandpapergate’ controversy in 2018, Australian cricket is never far from a bombshell press conference.

Paine came to the Australian captaincy directly as a result of the 2018 scandal in South Arica.

Cameron Bancroft of Australia handles the ball during the third Test match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands, South Africa in 2018. He was later suspended for nine months for trying to rough up one side of the ball with a piece of sandpaper

Cameron Bancroft of Australia handles the ball during the third Test match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands, South Africa in 2018. He was later suspended for nine months for trying to rough up one side of the ball with a piece of sandpaper

Australian captain Steve Smith was forced to resign his leadership of the team after the 2018 Sandpapergate scandal

Australian captain Steve Smith was forced to resign his leadership of the team after the 2018 Sandpapergate scandal

Then captain Steve Smith was forced to resign as Australian leader after the drama during the third Test match against South Africa in March 2018, when television cameras caught Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft trying to rough up one side of the ball with a piece of sandpaper.

Vice-captain David Warner was also a key figure in the shameful moment. Both he and Smith were suspended from all forms of cricket for 12 months as a result of a Cricket Australia investigation, while Bancroft was suspended for nine months.

Coach Darren Lehmann was cleared of wrongdoing but later announced he would also step down as a result of the scandal.  

In the mid-1990s, Warne and Mark Waugh were fined after receiving money from ‘John’ the bookmaker, an Indian agent who paid both players in return for information about the pitch and the weather where Australia was playing.

The scandal was only discovered by members of the media in 1998, after which it blew up further because it was revealed the Australian Cricket Board had tried to cover up the incident.  

In the mid-1990s, Shane Warne (centre) and Mark Waugh (left) were fined after receiving money from 'John' the bookmaker, an Indian agent who paid both players in return for information about the pitch and the weather

In the mid-1990s, Shane Warne (centre) and Mark Waugh (left) were fined after receiving money from ‘John’ the bookmaker, an Indian agent who paid both players in return for information about the pitch and the weather

In 2003 Shane Warne was rubbed out of the game for 12 months after testing positive to banned diuretic drugs, after saying he took a diet tablet provided by his mother

In 2003 Shane Warne was rubbed out of the game for 12 months after testing positive to banned diuretic drugs, after saying he took a diet tablet provided by his mother

The year 2003 was a special one for Australian cricket scandals. 

Perhaps its highest-profile victim was the leg-spinning superstar Shane Warne, who was also part of the earlier scandal in 1998.

‘Warney’ was rubbed out of the game for 12 months after testing positive to banned diuretic drugs, after saying he took a diet tablet provided by his mother.   

‘I feel I am the victim of the anti-doping hysteria,’ Warne said after the ban was handed down. 

‘I also want to repeat: I have never taken any performance-enhancing drugs and I never will.’

In 2003 Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath reacted when West Indian batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan made remarks about his sick wife, the late Jane McGrath, sparking a near-physical confrontation in the middle of the pitch

In 2003 Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath reacted when West Indian batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan made remarks about his sick wife, the late Jane McGrath, sparking a near-physical confrontation in the middle of the pitch

The same year, an ugly on-field argument occurred between Australia’s top fast bowler Glenn McGrath and petite West Indian batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan during a Test match in Antigua, in the West Indies.

McGrath reacted when Sarwan made remarks about his sick wife, the late Jane McGrath, sparking a near-physical confrontation in the middle of the pitch. 

But as cricket writer Gideon Haigh later pointed out, Sarwan’s words were a reaction to slurs levelled at him beforehand by McGrath. 

In January 2003, Lehmann, later to be the Australian coach, was banned for five matches after a racist slur made against the Sri Lankan team

In January 2003, Lehmann, later to be the Australian coach, was banned for five matches after a racist slur made against the Sri Lankan team

In January 2003, Lehmann, later to be the Australian coach, was banned for five matches after a racist slur made against the Sri Lankan team.

After being run out in a one-day game against Sir Lanka in Brisbane, Lehmann marched into the Australian dressing room where he was heard to say in the direction of Sri Lankan reserve players and management: “C***s, c***s, f***ing black c***s.” 

In 1999, up-and-coming star batsman Ricky Ponting fronted a press conference with a black eye after he had been dropped from Australia’s one-day team.

The talented Tasmanian and future Australian captain had been knocked unconscious in a fight at a Sydney nightclub in the early hours of the morning. 

At the press conference, Ponting said he had no recollection of the incident at the Bourbon & Beefsteak bar in Kings Cross, admitted to a problem with alcohol and said he would seek counselling. 

In 1999, up-and-coming star batsman Ricky Ponting fronted a press conference with a black eye after he had been dropped from Australia's one-day team. The future Australian captain had been knocked unconscious in a fight at a Sydney nightclub in the early hours of the morning

In 1999, up-and-coming star batsman Ricky Ponting fronted a press conference with a black eye after he had been dropped from Australia’s one-day team. The future Australian captain had been knocked unconscious in a fight at a Sydney nightclub in the early hours of the morning

The fateful day in 1981 when Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie to deny him the chance of hitting a match-drawing six during a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

The fateful day in 1981 when Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie to deny him the chance of hitting a match-drawing six during a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

In some ways the daddy of all Australian cricket controversies remains the fateful day in 1981 when Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie to deny him the chance of hitting a match-drawing six during a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Any New Zealander over the age of 40 is still likely to bring it up in conversation with an Australian.  

Tim Paine’s sudden, shocking resignation is another notch in the long list of Australian cricket scandals, a sport with a gentlemanly image but a tendency for naughtiness. 



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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