Bengaluru, April 16: The incident perhaps had its closest analogy with the ouster of the legendary Diego Armando Maradona from the world stage at the 1994 World Cup in the US.
The former Argentine footballer was expelled for taking drugs and in its cricketing equivalent at the World Cup in South Africa in 2003, Australian spin wizard Shane Warne was sent back home after he tested positive for a banned substance. Warne, 33 then, took diuretics Hydrochlorothiazide and amiloride that enhance performance and hence are banned in cricket. The cricketer though tried to defend himself saying he took the drugs only to lose weight on his mother’s advice.
It was a devastating news for the leg-spinner who had a terrific run in the WC played in England four years earlier, finishing as the top wicket-taker and bagging the man of the series award in both the exciting semi-final and one-sided final. Australia were in a formidable form and Warne had all the opportunity to add to his exploits but on the contrary, the controversy had marked the end of his ODI career in which he fell seven wickets short of 300 scalps. Warne was in fact handed a ban for a year.
Warne had already announced that he would retire from the ODIs once the World Cup got over and wanted to continue in the Tests but the positive test didn’t allow that to happen. The legendary cricketer lost the opportunity for a graceful exit from the ODIs and none but he himself was responsible for the outcome. Warne, however, continued to play in the longer formats till 2007.
Warne was replaced in the squad by off-spinner Nathan Hauritz. As a team, though, Australia were not affected much as they went on to win the title in 2003 without dropping a single game, thumping India by 125 runs in the final.
“Every year we have a lecture on drugs,” the captain of the WC-winning Australian side that year, Ricky Ponting, wrote in his World Cup diary. “I know I understand the issues well enough to check everything I take before I take it. That is common sense, and for Warney, who has been playing international cricket for over a decade, to ignore that approach is just madness.”