Cricket has never avoided the use of technology to ensure fairness in the game or improve the audience experience. But when it comes to using technology on the field of players, the game’s governing body – the International Cricket Council – has taken a rather conservative approach, a stance it took when former South African skippers Hansie Cronje and Allan Donald went out with headphones during the 1999 World Cup against India. .
South Africa’s head coach Bob Woolmer suggested that the two senior players from Proteas use the equipment to take a leaf from the American sport where it was common practice for players to wear headphones to communicate with their coaches. The move was first made during a training match in the World Cup, where no one seemed to notice it.
So the trio Woolmer, Cronje and Donald decided to use headphones during the initial World Cup match against India. However, it did not take long for the commentators to notice something unusual around the players’ ears when South Africa took on the pitch in the first round.
Soon, Indian openers Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar noticed the headphones that Cronje and Donald were wearing, and judges Steve Bucknor and David Shepherd approached the field just at the beginning of a drink break.
The judges talked to Cronje who told them what was going on. However, the referees could not determine whether the use of headphones by South African players was illegal, and they approached the match referee Talat Ali when the drama took place on the ground. He too was unsure and contacted the ICC regarding the legality of using headphones during the match. The governing body said that although the use of the equipment did not violate any of their rules, it was unfair to the other side.
Both players were asked to remove the devices and the use of such devices was subsequently banned by the ICC.
South Africa went on to win the match and Woolmer defended the move with headphones, saying he was just trying to be innovative and did not intend to upset anyone. Woolmer added that he should have asked for the ICC’s permission before proceeding with the move.
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