England’s premier all-rounder Ben Stokes was suspended by the ECB for getting into a late-night brawl outside a Bristol nightclub. A video emerged of Stokes brutally punching a man while opening batsman Alex Hales could be seen kicking him in the head on the street. With the Ashes around the corner, Stokes was arrested for a night and his incident is under investigation – pending which he is likely to be banned from international cricket for the near future. This means England will travel to Australia without him for the biggest test series in the world.
In the wake of this disgraceful fight, here are five other infamous sports brawls, where cricketers have publicly displayed physical violence and been banned:
Ashes to Ashes, Root to Dust
A night on the eve of the 2013 Ashes in England turned David Warner into a ‘Reverend’. The stocky Aussie opener gave up alcohol after he punched Joe Root at a bar in Birmingham over what he thought was a racist jibe. There were a lot of drinks involved, and Root wore a Malinga wig below his face to denote a beard, which Warner thought was disrespectful to South African batsman Hashim Amla. Warner’s teammates had to drag him away and he was banned from the first two Tests of the 2013 Ashes series – which Australia eventually lost 3-0. It was the turning point for Warner, who was known to get into a lot of trouble on the field. He became a teetotaler and celebrated their series win in West Indies later with ‘green tea’. For the record, 29 of his 34 international have come after the fight, while Root – who had been dropped that summer – has gone on to become one of the top batters in cricket as well as England’s new Test captain after Alastair Cook. Talk about ‘productive’ sports rivalries.
The Potato Incident
Gentle giant Inzamam-ul-Haq made it a Sahara Cup to remember – for all the wrong reasons. India won the 1997 Sahara Cup in Toronto 4-1, with Sourav Ganguly taking 15 wickets and scoring 222 runs to win no less than four man-of-the-match awards. But it was what happened in the second match, while India was easily chasing down Pakistan’s total that made the headlines. A spectator of Indian origin used a megaphone to repeatedly taunt and make fun of Inzy, calling him ‘aalu’ (potato) because of his size and gingerly athleticism. Inzy had enough and while fielding at fine leg plowed through the spectators with a bat to reach the abusive spectator and attempted to smash him into pieces. Security intervened, there was a 40-minute delay, where both captains had to intervene and ask the crowd to behave. An enraged Inzy was banned for two matches midway through the series.
We all know that Pakistan crashed out of the 2007 World Cup in the group stages along with India. They lost to Ireland, and the mysterious death of their coach Bob Woolmer cast a dark cloud over the future of Pakistani cricket once again. But it was something that happened a month prior to their World Cup disaster that might have started the nightmare. In the first ODI on their tour to South Africa at Centurion (the hosts won the series 3-1 eventually), South Africa smashed 392 and Pakistan were tottering in their chase. Things got worse when Shahid Afridi, who was sent at 4 to accelerate the chase, was dismissed cheaply. As he walked back to the dressing room up the stairs, he heard a South African spectator tell ‘Boom Boom’ to go home. Afridi halted, swiped his bat at the man and almost hit his face, before staring him down and walking back up. Pakistan lost the match, won the next in which Afridi scored a stunning 77, but it wasn’t until after the third match till Afridi was banned by match referee Chris Broad – for four matches. This meant he was going to miss the first two matches of the World Cup in the West Indies – the two matches Pakistan had lost. If the ban had taken effect in the same series, Afridi would have simply missed the rest of the ODI series and played in the World Cup. Things could have been very different if not for Afridi’s temporary embrace of insanity.
The Bermuda Triangle
The gentleman’s game became not so gentle and suffered the greatest blow to its reputation in 2015 during the Bermuda Champion of Champions Cup final – its first in 10 years. An ugly, disgusting brawl broke out in between overs when a wicketkeeper named Jason Anderson punched batsman George O’Brien on the head while passing by. Anderson retaliated by threatening to hit him with the bat before some players intervened and calmed them down. But Anderson finally lost his cool again and lurched at the batsman, who tried to hit him with the bat but missed and slipped to the ground. Anderson then kicked him in the head before they were torn apart. O’Brien suffered temporary concussion and memory loss because of the incident. Anderson was rightly banned from playing any kind of professional cricket for life for starting the fight, while O’Brien was banned for six months. There has never been a more brutal and dangerous ‘sports’ fight on a cricketing field.
The biggest – and funniest – fight of them all! In the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League, Mumbai Indians captain Harbhajan Singh made headlines again when he allegedly slapped bowler S. Sreesanth moments after losing the match to the Kings XI Punjab team. Sreesanth burst into tears, Yuvraj Singh was disappointed with Bhajji, and the MI captain went from hero to villain in just a few months – banned from the rest of the tournament. Apparently, Harbhajan couldn’t tolerate the way the younger Sreesanth sledged Shaun Pollock and Robin Uthappa during the chase and decided to teach him a lesson. Though Singh apologized personally to Sreesanth in the dressing room later, the disciplinary committee didn’t take kindly to this incident – even fining team manager Lalchand Rajput 50 percent of his match-fee for not intervening despite being right behind them. Mumbai had lost their first four games of the tournament, and this only made it worse.