The Dhoni-Sehwag rift may have been true or blown out of proportion by the media. However, far from being unique, discords such as this have been commonplace in the history of the game. In this series, Arunabha Sengupta looks at some of the most famous feuds of cricket.
Ian Chappell vs Don Bradman
Victor Richardson was one of the most gifted all round sportsmen ever produced by Australia. Apart from playing 19 Tests and holding a record number of catches in a match, he also represented the country in baseball, and his state in golf, tennis and Australian Rules Football.
Six years of his cricket career intersected with Don Bradman’s, but hardly any of his ideas managed to do the same. His closest mates were Jack Fingleton and Bill O’Reilly, the two great foes of the master.
Later, whenever he talked about Bradman to his grandsons (two future Australian captains in Ian Chappell and Greg Chappell), Richardson limited his words to – “He was a great batsman.”
Yet, Ian Chappell recounts the following anecdote in Chappelli Speaks Out.
Soon after Richardson passed away, Bradman had approached Ian Chappell, then captain of Australia, and asked, “Did Vic ever tell you how he got to be the captain on a tour to South Africa?” Bradman proceeded to describe how he had refused to tour citing fitness problems on being informed that Richardson would lead the side if he did not go.
Chappell says, “I reckon he was trying to convey how magnanimous he was …” and goes on to relate how this is at odds with an exchange he had overheard in the early 1960s.
Chappell had run after his grandfather to say goodnight after a function when he had found him chatting with Bradman. Richardson’s long-time friend and co-commentator, former England captain Arthur Gilligan, had just been made the MCC president. Bradman was graciously congratulating Richardson for his friend’s success, when the latter replied, “Good thing they don’t work on the Australian system.”
”Why’s that Vic?”
“In England the president is picked by his friends. If they had that system in Australia, you’d never get a vote, you c**t.”
Whether it was because of the generations of bad blood or not, in the 1970s Ian Chappell famously fell out with Bradman, initially the chairman, and later a representative, of the Australian Cricket Board (ACB).
When Chappell took over the reins of captaincy, the Australian side was rippling with talent, with little financial security to show for it. Most of the team members juggled full time occupations with cricket, were mostly taking leaves without pay during matches, and often risked their jobs when they went on tours. Gideon Haigh, in his brilliant The Cricket War, describes the 1975 team that toured England as two insurance salesmen, two accountants, an architect, a teacher, a training engineer, a real estate agent, a cigarette salesman and a journalist – although the antique salesman had not made it.
It was the age old tradition harking back to the early days of the century – butchers, bakers and undertakers blended under the baggy green. However with companies tightening their belts after the 1974 credit squeeze, no corporate concern was keen on hiring absentee cricketers for full time jobs.
On the other hand, in the 1974-75 Ashes series, players had received a ridiculous 2% of the bumper gate money. The Cricketer magazine had conducted a poll among 12 top cricketers of each of the five Sheffield Shield state sides and only two of the 60 had responded saying that they were paid enough.
This led to superb talents like Ian Redpath, Paul Sheahan and Bob Cowper to retire young and find ways of earning money. Ashley Mallett was wondering whether to call it a day, while Chappell himself was thinking of relinquishing captaincy and cutting down on tours.
With no existing players’ association, the captain had taken it upon himself to speak on behalf of his team, to argue for at least minimum financial security. And each time he had met an enormous stumbling block in the form of the diminutive Don Bradman.
“You couldn’t have an argument with Bradman. You listened to his opinion and you agreed with it. If you didn’t agree with it, that was the end of the conversation,” says Chappell.
Yet, knowing Bradman’s own history as a cricketer at loggerheads with the board over financial matters, Chappell had expected a sympathetic ear.
In 1932, Bradman had been refused permission to write for the Sydney Sun. The biggest star of the day had even missed a Test to honour his newspaper contract. The board had been forced to talk to the editorial head of theAssociated Newspapers, who had persuaded Bradman to play and released him from his contractual obligations.
It is of curious interest that this editorial head happened to be Robert Clyde Packer, the grandfather of Kerry Packer – the messiah of the cash-starved Australian team 44 years later.
However, now, whenever Chappell stressed on the financial side of the argument, he was met by Bradman’s constant response – “No son, we cannot do that.”
In 1930, when Bradman had scored his first triple century, an Australian soap manufacturer had presented him with £1000 – then a sum big enough to buy two substantial houses in Sydney. However, the greatest batsman of all times had not even offered to buy drinks for his team mates. All of a sudden, Chappell realised the truth of all these legends about the man.
In 1975, when a majority of Australian cricketers threatened to go on a strike during an Ashes Test, the ACB secretary, Alan Barnes, a Bradman disciple, said to The Australian, “There are 500,000 cricketers who would love to play for Australia for nothing.” A fuming Chappell went out to toss, and when he walked back to the dressing room, he saw that Redpath had grabbed Barnes by the shirt and tie and had pinned him against the wall, saying, “You b***y idiot, of course 500,000 people would play for nothing, but how b****y good would they be?”
When the cream of the Australian team defected in favour of World Series Cricket, Bradman remarked that the players had ‘stabbed us in the back.’ However, according to Chappell, it was Bradman’s meanness with money that had led cricketers to opt for the financial security offered by Kerry Packer.
Interestingly, out of respect for Bradman the batsman, Chappell had not spoken about these showdowns until well into the 1980s. However, he broke his silence after an interview Bradman gave in the early 80s. According to Chappell, when asked about his career, Bradman said, “I managed to do it all without getting my hair permed or getting divorced.”
Chappell, who had been through a divorce and had got his hair permed, took it as a personal affront. As he puts it, “I thought, ‘Bugger you, mate. It’s personal now.’ And from then on, if I was asked a direct question about Bradman, I would say exactly what I had experienced. “
Ian Chappell vs Tony Grieg
Chappell had more than his fair share of clashes with players of his generation as well. While his long feud with Ian Botham has already been covered in this series, he also had an extended face off with another English all-rounder Tony Greig.
The two had started off on excellent terms. When at Leeds, 1975, vandals had dug holes in the pitch and poured oil in the danger zone, Australia would have struggled to face Derek Underwood on the final day had the captains decided to go ahead with the game. A worried Chappell had thoroughly appreciated it when Greig had agreed to call the match off.
However, things changed drastically when they led their respective teams during Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket (WSC), Chappell captaining Australia and Greig the skipper of the World XI.
In an experimental 40 over game at VFL Park, Melbourne, playing under lights for the first time, the captains agreed that there would be no bouncers bowled. However, as Chappell and Rick McCosker were easily chasing down the World XI total, Greig broke the bouncer pact. Chappell threatened to turn the lights off for him.
In the ‘Supertest’ in Gloucester Park, Greig came in to bat wearing one of the early editions of experimental helmets, and Dennis Lillee promptly used it as a great target. After hitting Greig on the helmet with a bouncer, he followed it up by pointing at his own head to underline his intentions. A psychologically-winded Greig, by the time of the WSC a shadow of the excellent player he had once been, spooned a catch to cover. However, when he soon returned as a runner for the injured Gordon Greenidge, Chappell promptly told him to come back in his full gear, including the helmet.
Things deteriorated further when Australia batted. Chappell was struck by a bouncer from Andy Roberts and broke his little finger. A compulsive hooker, he resorted to blocking and fending the super fast short balls. It was then that Greig put himself on and tried to bounce Chappell out. Promptly hooking him for four, Chappell responded saying, “Mate, I might not be able to hook good bowling, but I can hook your s**t.” Greig bounced once more and was again hooked for four. The two had a long go at each other. Gary Duperouzel, the umpire, eventually stepped in and asked them to shut up and get on with the game, but not before Greig had threatened to smash a bottle over Chappell’s head.
Greig did confess that negotiating business with Packer and soliciting signatures from the probable recruits to WSC made him something less of a cricketer. There was also some suggestion that Chappell felt Greig and Packer were too close, with Packer making excuses for Grieg.
Derek Underwood adds that, “There was a lot going on between Tony and Ian, and it was a lot to do with Greigy being the senior figure.”
Chappell tries to explain his antagonism as, “The problem I had with him during WSC was that he was off earning money by doing ads while the rest of his team was training… he held his place in the superb team and he did not deserve to.”
However, Greig is more blunt. “I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me. As simple as that.”
During the decider of the second WSC season, with World XI needing two runs to win with five wickets in hand, Chappell took the ball and propelled it down the leg side for four wides. Following this rather disgraceful gesture, he kept smoking a cigar during the post match presentation and refused to shake Greig’s hand.
Down the years, more angry remarks were exchanged between the two, directly or over columns and interviews. However, when they started sharing the commentary box for Channel Nine, the two stalwarts slowly buried their long serving hatchets and eked out an eminently workable relationship.
Ian Chappell vs Steve Waugh
After crossing swords with Bradman, Botham, Greig and innumerable minor characters, Chappell carried his duels well into the next generation. One of the major targets of his vitriol was Steve Waugh.
The biggest complaint Chappell had against Waugh was that he was a conservative captain and a self-centred cricketer who often put himself ahead of the game.
He singles out Waugh’s decision to declare at the start of the 2003-04 season that he was going to retire at the end of it, thus ensuring he could have a grand farewell, as the defining example of selfishness.
Chappell was not at all amused when Damien Martyn was run out in the first Test versus India at the Gabba, primarily through a bad call by Waugh. According to him, Martyn gave up his wicket because at the back of his mind he knew that this was Waugh’s farewell season.
When, after he had retired, some analysts stated that Waugh was the most influential Australian cricketer since Bradman, Chappell blew his top, saying, “That is nonsense.” He went on to name Richie Benaud, Dennis Lillee, Allan Border and Shane Warne as some of the cricketers who should be ranked far above Waugh.
Two of his comments about the middle order batsman stand out.
In 1991-92, when Waugh used to do a lot of bowling, Chappell was in the commentary box with his old pal, Tony Greig, who remarked, “This bloke has to be the best all-rounder in the Southern Hemisphere.” Chappell picked up the microphone and said, “Tony, he’s not even the best all-rounder in his own family.” Chappell always maintained that Mark Waugh was a superior cricketer than his twin.
And when someone told him that he was going to watch Steve Waugh’s last Test, Chappell remarked, “Have you seen him bat before? Why are you bothering? If you’ve seen one Steve Waugh innings, you’ve seen them all.”
For his part, Waugh did not take Chappell’s rancour lying down. “To say Chappell’s criticism irked me would be an understatement,” he wrote.
He maintains that the comments were always “personal” and that Chappell “always sweated on my blunders and reported them with an ‘I told you so’ mentality.”
Heading towards a century of conflicts
It may be a result of his directness, honesty or plain churlishness.
Whatever be the reason, the scraps continue. Chappell holds an unenviable record of antagonising cricketers who have played the game across 84 years.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)