I stumbled across a YouTube clip the other day of Trevor Chappell’s infamous underarm ball and it got me thinking about some of the less savoury moments in the gentleman’s game.
Now I know most of these incidents wouldn’t even make the weekend’s highlights of the English Premier League on Sky Sports, in fact you might not even get a disciplinary hearing for such acts. Yet they are incidents and moments which have marred the beautiful game of cricket which for centuries has been played with the utmost level of sportsmanship.
I’m leaning more towards contemporary issues here and hence have overlooked a few controversial events from yesteryear, so forgive me if I ignore Kerry Packer and a few others.
Trevor Chappell’s Underarm ball – 1981
Labelled on YouTube as ‘the most disgraceful moment in the history of cricket’ and called so too by the great Richie Benaud. Needing six to win off the last ball with the series levelled at one apiece, in walked New Zealand number 10 Brian McKechnie (who played both cricket and rugby for his country). Australian captain Greg Chappel instructed his brother Trevor to bowl the ball underarm so as McKechnie could not hit a six. The number 10 blocked the ball and threw his bat down in disgust, the crowd booed the Aussies off and underarm bowling was outlawed from the game. A real low blow from the Aussies and a sad day for cricket.
For R50k and leather jacket, Hansie Cronje shattered his image as an iconic leader in South Africa. He was up there with the Francois Pienaars and Nelson Mandelas of the country, he was certainly my hero as a kid. We all loved Hansie, he was down to earth kind of guy and a brilliant, gutsy cricketer and captain. The charges came to light on South Africa’s tour to India in 2000 and Cronje confessed to all sorts of heinous crimes with regards to match fixing. When he match fixed, he tarnished the reputation of not only the global game of cricket, but so too that of his country.
The era of professional cricket has seen a nasty criminal element creep into it via the dark underworld of match fixing. Hansie’s saga brought it all to light and it continues to this day when one thinks of Sreesanth and co’s shenanigans in the IPL last year. Perhaps one of the saddest and most blatant cases came in 2010 when a trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were bust in an undercover News of the World report for sport fixing at the Home of Cricket, Lords.
Butt was the captain and Amir and Asif his opening bowlers whom he had bowl deliberate no balls. It was played out in a similar way to Hansiegate, but what made it worse was that these boys saw jail time. Even worse, Amir was only 18 at the time and one of the most promising players in the world. Pakistan cricket has been in a downward spiral since and being unable to host other teams in their own country hasn’t exactly helped either.
The Bodyline Series (1932-33)
Yup if there were to be a countdown, no doubt this would rank as number one. Like Chappell’s underarm ball, this changed the game forever. It is pretty much the prime example of dirty tactics in cricket as the Poms adopted a short pitch bowling strategy aimed at the body with a packed legside field. No helmets, uncovered pitches, no limit on short balls or players safety. A nasty time in Test cricket that called for political intervention and a questioning of the rules and ethics of cricket.
Sally Broad’s ‘nickers’ get into a huge not out
This was perhaps the day the spirit of cricket died. It was the first Test of the 2013 Ashes at Trent Bridge, Sally edged an Ashton Agar delivery to Michael Clarke at first slip (via a deflection of Brad Haddin’s gloves) and was given not out. The Aussies were out of reviews and Broad stood his ground at the crease. He went on to score a crucial 65 that helped set up a narrow 14-run win for England en-route to their 3 – 0 series victory. Guessing he was listening in on my U14 B team talk when our coach told us “You only walk when your car breaks down”.
Faf scratches his balls
‘Faf you silly silly boy’ I tweeted as I watched Faf du Plessis rubbing the ball against the zip on his trousers in the second Test of South Africa’s tour to Pakistan in 2013. The Proteas were well in control and there was no need to ‘cheat’ in any way as the win seemed a dead certain. It was more of a case of ‘not sorry I did it, sorry I got caught’, it did highlight a dark art of cricket which sees many players around the world tampering with balls, especially in non-televised matches. Faf’s is the most recent incident of something that has littered cricket over the years.
Board of Cricket Control for Idiots
Where do we start with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)? The IPL? the tour of South Africa,? Sachin’s bogus farewell series? Or their latest attempt to take over the ICC (not the Indian Cricket Council as some may think). It is a money hungry, megalomaniac tripping monster that will stop at nothing short of world domination over cricket. Unfortunately, the saying ‘money makes the world go round’ is true and money is something the BCCI have in abundance, so getting rid of them is about as realistic as dethroning Bob Mugabe.
Now this not about the inequalities and harsh treatment of people based on skin colour, but rather the injustice forced upon the South African sporting public. Economic sanctions were one thing, but sporting isolation must have been a bitter pill to swallow for some very talented sportsmen.
From 1970 to 1992 not a single official international cricket match was played by a South African team, leaving greats like Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards to miss out on forging records that could rival Bradman and Sobers et al. A generation of superb cricketers were deprived of international cricket and the game was poorer for it.
F#!kworth & Clueless
I recall this vividly, even though I never watched it live. My cousins had a VHS tape of the game and I watched it over and over again, forever being haunted by the ludicrous ruling that knocked us out of the 1992 World Cup in the Semi-Final against England.
Duckworth & Lewis is a blessing compared to the bizarre rules of the the ’92 World Cup which used a system whereby “the reduction in the target was to be proportionate to the lowest scoring overs of the side batting first, a method that took into account the benefits of chasing, as opposed to setting, a target” (Cricinfo). Confused? I for one most certainly am! But for the full story on how it all worked, click here.
In the end what happened is that South Africa needed 22 off 13 to win with Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson at the crease. Then the rain fell and we needed 22 off 1. An absolute farce and a disgrace that had the organisers and a TV broadcaster to blame, yet no one so much as uttered an apology. Call us chokers, but this was one World Cup were were destined to win.
The Run Out that ended the World…Cup
The last one is not quite a a black mark or a drama like the rest, but it has a sour taste like no other!
Lance Klusener was unstoppable, he could do no wrong at the 1999 World Cup and a final against Pakistan (whom we’d already beaten) was firmly within reach. Cue the biggest on field disaster of all time. Needing nine to win off the final over in the Semi-Final against Australia, Klusener clubbed Damien Fleming for two boundaries, leaving just one run to get off the remaining few balls. Allan Donald was nearly run out off the following ball when Darren Lehmann missed the stumps before the real drama happened. Klusener hit the ball to midoff, called for a single only to find Allan Donald ball watching. Both batsmen ended up at the non-strikers end and Fleming (who has the ball thrown to him by the midoff fielder) rolled the ball to Adam Gilchrist who did the rest. I still shiver when I see that image of the Aussies leaping about like vultures on a fresh carcass.
Got any suggestions of events I’ve missed? Feel free to comment below…