NEW DELHI: It’s perhaps impossible to have a full year without some kind of controversy or the other in the world of sports. In simple words, sports and controversies go hand in hand. The year 2021 was no different.
Here’s a look at some of the controversial moments that rocked the sporting world in 2021:
KOHLI vs GANGULY
It all started with Virat Kohli being removed as India ODI skipper. Kohli stepped down as the T20I skipper after the T20 World Cup and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had later said that the BCCI had asked Virat to reconsider his decision. At a press conference before the team left for South Africa for the current tour however, Virat refuted that, saying he was never asked to reconsider stepping down as the T20I captain. He in fact said that he had told the BCCI that he would like to continue as the Test and ODI captain unless they thought otherwise.
Virat Kohli and Sourav Ganguly (AFP Photo)
He also said he was informed that the selectors were removing him as ODI captain only 90 minutes before the selection meeting to pick the Test squad for the South Africa tour. The contradicting statements drew the ire of fans on social media platforms.
TWO-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALLIST SUSHIL KUMAR‘S ARREST
This one sent shockwaves across the sporting fraternity and the country at large. Olympic fame to arrest in murder case – that’s how India’s most decorated wrestler’s fall was described in 2021. After playing almost three weeks of hide and seek, Sushil, a two-time Olympic medallist, was finally arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder of former junior wrestling champion Sagar Dhankar, who was beaten to death in a clash between two groups outside Delhi’s Chhatrasal stadium.
Sushil Kumar (TOI Photo)
Sushil had allegedly assaulted Dhankar over a property dispute. Delhi Police recovered cell phone footage which captured the incident on May 4. Sushil is currently in Tihar jail. Investigations revealed how Suhil had traveled across states including Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab trying to evade arrest.
A reward of Rs 1 lakh for information about Sushil and Rs 50,000 for his accomplice Ajay Sherawat had earlier been announced. Sushil was charged with murder, abduction and criminal conspiracy. Police laid a trap and arrested Sushil and Ajay in May this year.
TIM PAINE STEPPING DOWN AS AUSTRALIA CAPTAIN AMIDST SEXTING SCANDAL
Tim Paine stepped down as Australia Test captain for sending inappropriate text messages and images to a female colleague at Cricket Tasmania in 2017. Incidentally, an investigation by Cricket Australia had previously exonerated him of any breach of their code of conduct.
Tim Paine (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
However, with the possibility of the details of the investigation being made public looming on the horizon, Paine decided to give up the Australian Test captaincy, saying – “Although exonerated, I deeply regretted this incident at the time, and still do today…I spoke to my wife and family at the time and am enormously grateful for their forgiveness and support….On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community”. “Cricket Australia, while accepting his resignation said – CA does not condone this type of language or behaviour. Despite the mistake he made, Tim has been an exceptional leader since his appointment and the board thanks him for his distinguished service.”
Following his resignation, Pat Cummins, who was the previous vice-captain was elevated to captaincy. Paine is playing no part in the ongoing Ashes.
PENG SHUAI’S DISAPPEARANCE
China’s star tennis player Peng Shuai ‘disappeared’ from public view after she accused the former vice-premier of China Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her. Her disappearance was seen as an alleged result of Chinese authorities taking offense to her making these claims. On November 2 Peng put a post on Sina Weibo – a twitter-like platform used in China.
Peng Shuai (AP Photo)
Peng claimed that ten years ago Zhang and his wife had invited her to their home, where he assaulted her. The two then began a years-long affair, according to Peng, which Zhang broke off in 2012, when he was appointed to China’s ruling party’s Politburo Standing Committee. She also claimed that he resumed the affair three years ago. Her post was almost immediately censored.
The hashtag #whereispengshuai began trending on Twitter, after she was not seen for over two weeks following her explosive claims. Proof of her whereabouts were claimed by the US and the UN. The WTA and many prominent tennis players, like Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic also came forward to speak out in support of Peng. The 35 year old however, reappeared on the public scene and did a virtual meeting with the IOC president on November 21. Since making the claims against Gaoli, it was Peng’s first documented direct interaction with officials outside of China.
“Peng thanked the committee for its concern over her well-being, insisting that she is safe and healthy, living at her house in Beijing, but would prefer her privacy respected at this time,” an IOC statement read. However many people felt that she was still under duress. The IOC then held a second video interaction with her and said that this call confirmed that Peng “appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in”. As a fallout of the entire situation though, the WTA decided to suspend all tournaments in China and Hong Kong since the body felt they had not got a satisfactory response on Pengs well-being.
DE KOCK REFUSING TO TAKE A KNEE
South Africa cricketer Quinton de Kock, who recently announced his retirement from Tests, refused to take a knee ahead of South Africa’s match against the West Indies at the ICC T20 World Cup. Players across sports of late have been taking a knee to show their solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Quinton de Kock (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
Later, De Kock issued an apology and said he was hurt by accusations that he is racist. He agreed to take a knee in matches going forward.
MANIKA BATRA’S MATCH-FIXING ALLEGATIONS AGAINST COACH
Many eyebrows were raised when star table tennis player Manika Batra alleged that national coach Soumyadeep Roy indulged in match-fixing. Manika had alleged that Roy had asked her to throw a match against Sutirtha Mukherjee during the Olympic qualifiers in March, held in Doha. Sutirtha trains at Roys academy in Kolkata.
Manika Batra (PTI Photo)
Manika made the allegation after the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) showcaused her for not wanting Roy by her side during her matches at the Tokyo Olympics. TTFI then asked Roy for a written response which he submitted.
MANU BHAKER PISTOL ISSUE AT OLYMPICS AND FEUD WITH JASPAL RANA
National Rifles Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder Singh opened a can of worms at the Tokyo Olympics after India’s shooting campaign began to fall apart. It brought the federation’s coaching mess and differences between coaches themselves as well as between coaches and players out in the open.
Manu Bhaker (PTI Photo)
The situation almost went out of hand, with the incident of Manu Bhaker’s pistol malfunction during the Games. Counter allegations from coaches like Jaspal Rana and Ronak Pandit over the gun malfunction incident made public some of the past incidents and the sour relationship between Rana and his famous student Bhaker. As a result of the Indian shooters poor showing at the Olympics, months after the Games, the NRAI ended the contracts of all its foreign and national coaches.