October 2007


Andrew Flintoff likes a drink, its a fact. In September 2005 he was being acclaimed as a legend, partly because of his fine performances against the Canary Yellows, partly because he ws able to quaff a phenomenal amount of booze on the infamous 48-hour bender that followed.

Drink? Not me shir.

Drink? Not me shir.

 In June 2006 during the football World Cup in Germany, he was interviewed while a little tipsy at an England game, causing Ian Wright to say something along the lines of “I love Freddie”.

In March 2007 he was stripped of the vice-captaincy and banned for one match after being involved in a drunken 4am escapade on a pedalo.

And now, Duncan Fletcher has decided to liven up his new book by lifting the lid on what The Telegraph calls Flintoff’s “drink-related problems”. Apparently they forced the former England head coach to cancel a training session during Ashes whitewash in Australia.

“Flintoff was in such a state he could not throw properly. He had to pass the ball to the bloke next to him to do so. And when it came to trying to catch the ball I honestly thought I was going to hurt him, so uncoordinated was he,” quoth the raven. “I was fuming and stopped the practice early. Remember: this was the England captain in this state. I had to calm down and think what to do.”

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Crikey, as the man who met a stringray might have said, international relations between two of the world’s most famous commentators and former cricketing adversaries have hit rock bottom as a new war of words reverberates around the planet, and it is all over the papers.

The Guardian: Ian Chappell yesterday launched an astonishing verbal attack on cricket’s newest knight, Sir Ian Botham, labelling the record-breaking former England all-rounder a liar and saying the decision to award him a knighthood will be regretted.

The Telegraph: Former Australia captain Ian Chappell has accused Sir Ian Botham of “peddling lies” over a bar-room brawl between the pair 30 years ago. In his latest autobiography, ‘Head On’, former all-rounder Botham has again claimed he “flattened” Chappell at a Melbourne bar in 1977 because he was ridiculing English cricket.

Sir Beef’s retort to the claims: “Ian Chappell worries me about as much as a cold. I couldn’t care less what he says.”

Writing in Canary Yellow gossip rag (oops.. sorry, Australia’s most respected news and current affairs magazine for 127 years) The Bulletin, Chappell labelled Sir Beef’s tale of flattening the former Australian captain in a Melbourne bar-brawl “a load of bollocks”. The following is in Chappell’s words:

The book recycles another version of our 1977 spat with added twists. He relates how, during the Centenary Test – it was actually a month earlier, during a Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and Victoria – I started rubbishing English cricket in a bar. “I gave him three official warnings,” writes Botham, “all of which he ignored, so the next time he started, I just flattened him. He went flying over a table and crash-landed on a group of Aussie Rules footballers, spilling their drinks in the process”.

After explaining how I bolted for the door, he couldn’t contain his Superman self-image, describing how he “at once set off in hot pursuit, chasing him down the street and even hurdling the bonnet of a passing car”.

Apart from having us in the same bar, the rest is a fairytale. How did we happen to be together in a bar in Melbourne in 1977?

Botham was in Australia on a Whitbread scholarship playing for Melbourne University in the VCA district competition. I was playing for North Melbourne and the previous Saturday – the first of a two-day contest – Botham had injured his shoulder batting and had his arm in a sling. I was rather surprised then to discover that when University had to bowl one over later that afternoon, it was Botham who took the new ball.

The following Friday night I arrived at the MCG bar, a small hotel next to the Hilton, and the young Englishman was boasting in a very loud voice that he could drink Australian beer all night and it had no effect on him.

This amused rather than bothered me, but I did become extremely annoyed when he accused me of verbally abusing him during an Australia v Somerset match. He said that “as a number 11” he didn’t mind a bit of abuse, but when I had said to him “Does your mother f***?”, that was going too far.

I told him I didn’t believe anyone should stoop so low on a cricket field by making those type of remarks. I then pointed out to him that I’d only played against Somerset in 1968, and as English counties weren’t known for their youth policies I doubted he was in the side at age 12.

He was adamant I’d abused him, and when I asked for an apology, he refused. He then accused me of retiring from cricket to avoid the upcoming tour to England where “every fast bowler was looking to knock my block off”.

As I’d faced the English speedsters John Snow, Bob Willis and Alan Ward in their prime I felt entitled to brush that one aside, which I did with a few uncomplimentary remarks. Botham now began to have second thoughts about who had abused him in the Somerset match and said: “It might have been someone who looked like you.”

I’d had enough of his bullshit by this stage, and said: “I gave you the chance to apologise and you didn’t, so you can f*** off.”

With that, he put an empty beer glass against my face and threatened: “I’ll cut you from ear to ear.”

“That will only confirm you are a coward,” I said. “It will mean more if you cut me with a cricket ball tomorrow and I’ll give you every chance, because I’m going to bat all adjectival day.”

I was leaning back in my chair at the time and, when he pushed me in the chest, I fell backwards. As I got up, he suggested we settle it outside to which I replied: “I don’t fight. You either finish up in jail or hospital and I don’t intend visiting either over a c*** like you.”

I turned and headed outside where he yelled something about knocking my block off the next day. As I was walking across Wellington Street, I turned and replied: “What, with your sore arm and all, Deary?”

With that, he became enraged and the former Australian fast bowler Ian Callen had to restrain him by clutching him in a bear hug.

We did battle the next day on the cricket pitch and, while batting for around 40 minutes against Botham, there were no bouncers. I was then dismissed by Graham Stevenson – another Englishman here on a scholarship – incorrectly given out caught behind. I’ve never been so pissed off about getting a bad decision in my life.

Whats going on at Derbyshire? Tthe worst county on the first class circuit in recent years is being transformed with a raft of new signings. Despite losing the incredibly unloyal Boyd Rankin to Warwickshire (a player Derbyshire signed, who promptly got injured for a season and has now jumped ship to a more fashionable county), Derbyshire have been in the transfer market big time during the close season. This week Derbyshire have signed batsman Wavell Hinds, who has played 45 Tests and 114 one-day internationals for the West Indies, on a Kolpak for next season. Hinds, 31, who has captained Jamaica since 2005, has accepted a one-year contract and becomes Derbyshire’s fourth new signing this month. The Telegraph summarises the new signings: “The county’s new coach John Morris has already recruited England all-rounder Rikki Clarke, left-arm-spinner Nayan Doshi and left-hander John Sadler, and the Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene is expected to be announced as their new overseas player later this week.” These are quality players, lets hope there can be some good times ahead at the Racecourse Ground.

Sir Ian Terence Botham has been to the palace today to receive his knighthood, for services to charity and to cricket. He is the tenth English cricketing knight, the rest are available here. Sir Beef collected his knighthood from the Queen today, describing it as a “mind blowing” day he would never forget.

Arise Sir Beef

As Bumble says, it is very very difficult to win a series in Sri Lanka, especially after losing the first match. England have never won a series in Sri Lanka before. And now England has beaten the World Cup runners-up in their own backyard. The first time in twenty years England have won a major one day series on the sub-continent. Phenomenal.

Kevin Pietersen, poor in the series so far, scored 63 not out (big match player, not a bad thing), and man-of-the-match Alistair Cook 80, to see England home after England’s bowlers restricted Sri Lanka to an underpar score. Jayawardene praised England’s bowling up front, big praise is due to Sidebottom, Broad and Anderson, who have kept Sri Lanka’s top four completely under wraps all series.

“Everybody’s put a lot of hard work and effort into winning,” said Collingwood. “A special mention to the bowlers today, a great effort. All the boys have been superb from day one.”

Andrew Miller in Cricinfo has written an excellent summary.

Man-of-the-match Alistair Cook

Tremendous, England have beaten Sri Lanka in another ODI and now lead the series 2-1. Who’d have thought that Graeme Swann would be providing the star turn? A decent bowler, tidy batsmen and real character, Swann could well be bowling himself into a chance of playing some test cricket at some stage, especially given the weakness in England’s batting of late. It may only happen should England play two spinners and it’d be great to see him bowling in tandem with Monty.

Is it me, or is the Indian cricket team changed in attitude of late? India has always been a side of supremely talented cricketers, and once Ganguly took over the captaincy, they also seemed to add to that in some way with attitude. The addition of some serious back-bone made them less beatable away from home, and much more competitive.

However, have they gone too far? I am not usually one to back up the Australians, however some of the scenes in the match yesterday were more spicy than a dodgy backstreet tindaloo. The cricket should be the main attraction, not the childish antics of certain Indian players. Other sides are not competely innocent here, and a bit of attitude can make things interesting, however, this bad “I’m bigger than the game” behaviour seems to be a more common theme with India at the moment – and India’s media agrees.

Fair play to Dhoni and Dravid, who stepped in to calm matters down. I can’t help thinking that they must be tired of those hotheaded teammates of theirs that behave more like spoilt Premiership footballers than respected International cricketers. Have lavish celebrity lifestyles and the adoration of millions caused the likes of Harbhajan and Sreesanth to become so arrogant that they risk shaming India’s proud cricketing reputation?