International relations


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.

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It is a crying shame that Fat Boy Spin has since stated he would not be renouncing his Australian citizenship, because it has killed quite a good story! Not least because it would have given ze German national side (currently 20th in the CricketEurope Global Rankings for senior ICC Associate and Affiliate international sides) a chance of rising to tackle the likes of Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and Afghanistan.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Warne “has always been German to his core”. Great article this by Aaron Timms.

Apparently, click here for them.

It most certainly is not! It is baseball. There have been much ructions and debate from the other side of t’pond concerning Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) of the New York Yankees, who managed to turn a likely catch and dismissal into three runs for his batting side by calling “mine” when running past the fielder waiting under the high ball.

This has caused a right rumpus, with many sepos calling into question whether this was fair or not. John Branch wrote in the New York Times that “the play further blurred the line between what is fair or foul in the unwritten code of baseball”.

In cricket, had the umpire seen and heard the incident, it is likely the player would have been dismissed for obstructing the field, “Either batsman is out Obstructing the field if he wilfully obstructs or distracts the opposing side by word or action”. A similar ruling applies in baseball, the wording though, “hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball”, provides a grey area around a shout from the batter.

What got me about the incident, other than the blatant cheating (perhaps the American way though) was A-Rod’s press interview after the game in which he blatantly lied (see the second Youtube clip below).

The greyest area in cricket is that of walking/not-walking. However, if you do nick it behind and don’t walk, I much prefer the Mike Hussey approach of admitting he nicked it, (Jimmy Anderson: “I know he nicked it, he told me”) rather than the all-American apple lie!

Apparently the ECB are not very happy with Ireland and Scotland, who have managed to attract India, Pakistan and South Africa to play some ODIs in June and July. It hase been reported that the ECB (should well be called the English Cash Board) may chuck the Scots and the Irish out of England’s domestic one-day competition due to their staging of “offshore” tournaments which, the ECB say, “could dilute moneys coming into the game”.

The ECB is concerned that it will lose its monopoly on broadcasting international cricket during the northern hemisphere summer. It fears an impact on the TV contracts it sells itself (and we have already established that the ECB is more interested in the amount of money it earns from TV, rather than ensuring that ordinary Joe Public gets to enjoy international cricket on free TV). Instead of supporting the likes of Ireland and Scotland, they are getting all big brother about it.

Simon Briggs writes about the issue in today’s Telegraph:

The heart of the matter is that ESPN Star have paid the ECB handsomely for the right to broadcast all their international cricket into the Asian market. This was supposed to be a monopoly deal. So if Zee TV start running their own programming from the rest of the British Isles, the value of the next TV deal is likely to fall.

Money rules cricket

TVC does not usually stray into the realm of politics, however given the news that the Australian government has ordered the country’s cricket team not to tour Zimbabwe in September, and that the New Zealand government is understood to be rethinking its position on sporting tours to Zimbabwe too, it got me thinking about the World Cup situation on 2003 when between them the ICC, ECB and UK goverment managed to look incredibly stupid on the issue as to whether England should travel to Zimbabwe to play a match. The ECB dithered and dallied because it did not wish to risk losing cash from a forthcoming tour, and Tony Blair decided to pass the buck, saying that “the government’s position is clear: the decision on whether England should play in Zimbabwe rests with the England and Wales Cricket Board”. Rather than doing anything meaningful, the foreign affairs select committee decided to hold another inquiry into British policy on Zimbabwe. I suppose at the time Tony was rather busy deciding what to do with Saddam Hussain, perhaps the ECB should have told him there were weapons of mass distruction at the Harare Sports Club.

You can take the convict out of Australia, but you can never taken the convict out of an Australian! For fans of the Vermuelen clip, here is some more cricketing argy bargy from a match in Finland – some travelling Aussies have stirred things up a little. You need to watch both clips to get the picture, although rather sadly you cannot get the bit in the middle which must show what really hacked off the fielder.