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World Cup flashbacks: When captain Cronje consulted coach Woolmer from field through earpiece

Hansie Cronje

Bengaluru, May 13: It was the first match for both India and South Africa in the 1999 World Cup and the game took place in Hove.

In fact, the match at the County Cricket Ground in Hove that took place on May 15 is the only time an international game has been held there.

Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin won the toss and elected to bat first. Openers Sourav Ganguly (97) and Sachin Tendulkar (28) gave India a good start. However, as the match progressed, something unusual was being seen happening on the ground.

South Africa's the then skipper Hansie Cronje was keeping a contact with 'laptop coach' Bob Woolmer sitting outside the ground for the entire duration of the game. The Proteas skipper was using an earpiece for keeping in touch with the coach while fielding and discussing the strategies.

'Not illegal but not fair too'

When the matter came to the notice of the law-keepers, thanks to Ganguly who felt suspicious over Cronje talking to himself, they at once hauled up both the South African captain and coach and they insisted that there was no wrongdoing as no law could bar them from doing so.

It was right in a way for the founding fathers of cricket had not foreseen what an innovative mind of Woolmer could do. The on-field umpires referred the matter to match referee Talat Ali who then SoS-ed the International Cricket Council and the international body found it to be an unfair tactic, if not illegal. Cronje and Allan Donald, who was also part of the experimentation, were asked to remove the devices and play the game in a more traditional way.

Hansie Cronje was asked to remove the earpiece.

Woolmer was apologetic over the move but felt that there was nothing wrong and it was to help the game move forward.

In 2017, the then Australian captain Steve Smith was found committing a similar offence when he tried to take input from the dressing room while making an on-field decision in a Test match against India. He too came under fire.

Both Woolmer and Cronje are long dead but their act in 1999 remains something ever-living.

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Story first published: Monday, May 13, 2019, 11:43 [IST]
Other articles published on May 13, 2019
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