Ian Botham

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.


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

Apparently, click here for them.

On 30th June 2007, the Keele Reefer Association – whose tour to Devon is proudly supported by The Village Cricketer – will pay tribute to the life and times of Sir Ian Botham in its match against Ottery St Mary CC. The touring Reefers will decorate themselves in the manner of the great test players of the early-80s, which will certainly include a wide array of false moustaches.

So, in anticipation of the great occasion, The Village Cricketer today nominates the top ten cricketing moustaches, a decoration sadly lacking in today’s modern game.

10.   Sir Richard Hadlee: Small but perfectly formed, Sir Richard’s ‘tache was like many Kiwi attempts to keep up with the cricketing powerhouses, not bad but a little short of what is required for world class.

Sir Richard

9.   Jack Russell: Eccentric wicket-keeper who could tell to within a matter of seconds how long his Weetabix had been soaked in milk for. Perhaps England’s greatest ever gloveman, now an artist, his moustache was as bedraggled as his trademark floppy hat.

Bedraggled 'tache

8.   Clive Lloyd: A powerful batsman who, as captain from 1974 to 1985, was largely responsible for the West Indies’ extraordinary success. Also a star for Lancashire, the world’s greatest county cricket club. Great man, great ‘tache.

Great 'tache

7.   Robin Smith: Nicknamed The Judge because of his hair, Smith combined his ‘tache with a mullet. The Judge did not wear a grill on his helmet, which meant the bowlers had a clear view of that top lip while he was hammering the fastest of bowling with supersonic cuts and hooks. He visibly enjoyed the regular snatches of chin music he received from the West Indian quicks.

'Tache Judged highly

6.   Kapil Dev: An Indian legend, Kapil Dev was a fine batsmen and the greatest pace bowler his country has ever produced. Competed in an era of great all-rounders, and like Botham and Hadlee he also had a decent ‘tache.

Fine generation of 'taches and all-rounders

5.   Sir Ian Botham: The great man had to make an appearance. Not many men can look good with shoulder length, semi-permed hair and a moustache. But Beefy did, plus he managed to be the world’s greatest ever all-rounder at the same time. What a legend!

Top mullet/'tache combo

4.   Graham Gooch: Goochie ran the full gauntlet of facial hair during his career, from facial hair to full beard via designer stubble and his famous Zapata moustache. He was at his best though when sporting the ‘tache, as his 333 against India would testify. Interestingly, his 333 was boosted by hundreds from Allan Lamb and Robin Smith in a marvellous Test match for hairy-lips.

Goochie greatest when 'tached up

3.   David Boon: Tasmania’s all-time favourite cricketing son, Boonie would have held the Australian prize for the greatest cricketing ‘tache, but for the presence of the world beating Big Merv. Rumour has it that he was considered to be featured on the Aussue $5 note but they couldn’t fit his moustache on.

Wouldn't fit on Aussie bill

2.   Adam Hollioake: Perhaps a surprising pick for second place, Hollioake managed to do what other England captain’s have never, that is win an international ODI tournament when he led an inexperienced team to the Champions Trophy in Sharjah. His Aussie background maybe why he sported an incredible handlebar moustache for the start of the 2004 season.

Holy smoke!

1.   Merv Hughes: The clear winner by a hairy mile. According to Cricinfo, the big-hearted Australian fast bowler “was a lively character armed with an imposing run-up and delivery action, a classic fast bowlers’ glare down the pitch, a mischievous sense of humour and a moustache of incredible proportions”. Merv’s facial appendage is listed in Wikipedia as one of the all-time leading handlebar moustaches. Today’s “metrosexual” modern cricketers would do well to follow his lippy lead.

Big Merv

The Village Cricketer was delighted when the great Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham was awarded a knighthood by the Queen. Beefy, who has raised more than £10m for leukaemia charities (and in doing so helped to increase the survival rate of sufferers), is a true sporting hero who still stood out in an era when the best sporting stars married their talents with immense personality.

On the field there was no-one better than Beefy, he played 102 Tests for England in a career that lasted from 1974 to 1993, took 383 wickets (which remains an English record) and scored 5,200 runs. He was the fastest person (in terms of matches) to reach the landmarks of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, 2000 / 200 and 3000 / 300. He was the first person to achieve 300 wickets and 5000 runs, plus he was the first person to get over 10 wickets and 100 runs in a test match. He scored a century and took 5 wickets in an innings on 5 occasions, a feat no-one else has achieved more than twice. A former Wisden Cricketer of the year, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sport Personality of the Year Awards in 2004 and was appointed an OBE in 1992.

Being controversial only added to his appeal. Whereas today a sportsman’s lifestyle is geared 110% towards enhancing onfield performance, Botham’s exploits are the stuff of legend. In 1986 he was briefly banned from cricket for smoking cannabis, an extramarital affair prompted a public apology to his wife, he was arrested in Australia for assault (later to be bailed by Dennis Lillee and a six-pack of beer), he held lavish parties, ate rather too well (prompting accusations of being overweight, for shame), said he’d like to send his mother-in-law to Lahore, was a legendary drinker, sledged the fielders…. you could go on for days. Oh, and he is now the face of British Beef!

The Keele Reefer Association, whose tour to Devon is proudly sponsored by The Village Cricketer, will dedicate its match against Ottery St Mary on July 31 to the (playing) life and times of the great Sir Beefy, the most flamboyant and influential all-rounder ever to take the field. We salute you Sir!
For more on Beefy’s knighthood, a thoughtful piece is available from the Political Umpire.

Sir Beefy, the most flamboyant and influential all-rounder ever to take the field