Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur have created a new dimension of cricketing conflicts, but showdowns between the management and players is by no means new to cricket. Arunabha Sengupta recalls some of the famed differences in the history of the game.
Having asked four of their team members to fly home for not submitting a presentation, Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur have perhaps created a new dimension in the landscape of cricketing conflicts — and one of the most curious ones at that.
The Australian team may find it ominous that only 13 of them will sit at the table on the eve of the Mohali Test, but they are by no means the first side from the country to go through tumultuous relationship between the cricketers and team management.
The recent years have witnessed several ugly confrontations between the cricketers and administrators of various countries.
Most recently Ross Taylor had been treated in the shabbiest possible manner by the New Zealand Cricket Board.
The Sri Lankan cricket team had been in a deadlock with the management regarding pay and Sanath Jayasuriya had to be called in to mediate.
The West Indian players have been instigated enough to boycott a whole series, leading to a second string side being defeated by Bangladesh at home. Chris Gayle continues to be at loggerheads with the Board, and before him Brian Lara had not been on the most cordial terms either.
Confrontations between players and management, however, are not a recent phenomenon and are littered all along the path traced by time in the realm of cricket.
Given below are some of the more notable of these conflicts.
The Big Six
As far back as 1912, a dispute between the administrators and the cricketers induced six of the biggest names in the game to refuse to travel for the triangular Test tournament in England. The Australian team left without Warwick Armstrong, Vernon Ransford, Victor Trumper, Tibby Cotter, Hanson Carter and Clem Hill. It had been a long standing power struggle about controlling the revenue generated on these tours, and reached its breaking point when the two parties fell out regarding the right to choose the manager of the team
Just before the final crisis, the England had toured Down Under. The Australian captain, Clem Hill, had met manager Peter McAllister in a hotel to select the Australian team for the fourth Test at Melbourne. The meeting had ended with Hill famously punching McAllister. Strangely, he was allowed to remain captain for the rest of the series.
The Don misses a Test
The Australian Cricket Board refused to allow him to cover the Ashes tour as a journalist. This led a player of the stature of Don Bradman to miss a Test match — the first of the infamous Bodyline series. Thankfully, the editorial chief of Associated Newspapers, RC Packer — in a curious coincidence, the grandfather of Kerry Packer — agreed to release him from the contractual obligation. Bradman was back for the second Test.
No Pay No Play
In the late sixties, the Australian team under Bill Lawry was constantly at odds with the management regarding their low pay. In fact, the players were on the verge of mutiny during the disastrous tour of South Africa in 1969-70. Lawry had to pay the price for the altercations. When South Africa won 4-0, he was removed as captain, and later from the team.
Dissatisfaction with pay continued through the seventies. In 1975, a majority of Australian cricketers threatened to go on a strike during an Ashes Test. According to captain Ian Chappell, negotiation with the Cricket Board would always result in an impasse. Whenever the question of money was raised with Bradman would pipe in his high pitched voice, “No son, we cannot do that.”
When the cream of the Australian team defected in favour of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, Bradman remarked that the players had ‘stabbed us in the back.’
Not very Graceful
Disputes of players with the management have been a feature in all countries. In England, WG Grace was a trendsetter in almost every department of cricket and his contribution to this domain was also considerable. His negotiations with the administrators about payments became legendary, and were often full of confrontation.
England had their own issue during the Bodyline series when Douglas Jardine asked Nawab of Pataudi senior to move over to field in the leg trap. The Indian prince refused, leading Jardine to observe, “I see His Highness is a conscientious objector.” In spite of a hundred in the first Test, Pataudi was dropped for the third.
In the fifties, Fred Trueman had his share of problems with the management, especially as after effects of his first tour to West Indies under Len Hutton. The captain’s austere approach did not quite suit the fast man, and resulting differences of opinion ensured no overseas tour for another five years. Trueman believed that his tally of 307 wickets could have been nearer 400 if he had not missed Test matches due on disciplinary grounds.
Geoff Boycott did have to battle with the captains and managers of the English sides throughout his career, till the very last day when he went out for a round of golf while the team battled it out at the Eden Gardens. After his Test days, he had numerous run-ins with the Yorkshire Cricket Committee, particularly Brian Close — himself not free from problems with management during his days.
In Somerset, Close’s adopted county of later days, legends like Viv Richards and Joel Garner fell foul of the management who charged them with not trying too hard. In a bizarre move, these great players were sacked from the county team. Ian Botham, colleague in the Somerset side and close friend, withdrew from the team in protest.
Moving to South Africa we find Clive Rice running into quite a few problems because of posing nude in an advertisement with only his bat in front of him. The disgruntled administrators had informed him that he would never lead Transvaal because of the controversy. Thankfully the threat turned out to be empty.
The one Indian cricketer to face the managerial menace repeatedly was Lala Amarnath. As a young all-rounder he was sent back from the tour of England in 1936 due to differences of opinion with infamous skipper Maharajakumar of Vizianagram and manager Major Brittain-Jones.
Later, in 1949, as the acting captain of India he clashed with Anthony de Mello, the Board president. The relationship between the Board President and the caretaker captain of the Indian team came to a head when in an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Board, the former charged Amarnath with serious breach of discipline, suspending him from playing any representative cricket for India or for any province in India. This led to Amarnath to lobby furiously with other zonal Board members. The appalling showdown finally ended with de Mello being unceremoniously ousted from office.
Bishan Bedi ran into problems with the management often enough. He was dropped for a Test match for giving an interview, had an acrimonious relationship with Sunil Gavaskar when the latter assumed captaincy. Finally, in 1980, he led a major revolt for the Delhi cricketers by asking for more pay from Delhi and District Cricket Association, clashing with DDCA president Ram Prakash Mehra. Mehra refused the hike and Bedi was dropped ahead of the match against Haryana at Rohtak. Players like Madan Lal, Rakesh Shukla and Sunil Valson walked out in support of the left-arm spinner.
In the seventies and eighties, Sunil Gavaskar often had his brushes with the management. He went as far as to call the selectors a bunch of jokers. With excellent record and keen sense of organisational dynamics, he sidestepped any possible repercussions. However, when Mohinder Amarnath repeated Gavaskar’s observations about the selectors in 1988, he successfully sealed his fate and never played for India again.
Dilip Vengsarkar courted trouble when he refused to adhere to the contractual clause that forbade writing for the media. He was banned for six months while captain of the Indian team, an eyewash that coincided with a period of recovery from a broken wrist. The very next year, in 1988-89, six senior Indian cricketers, skipper Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Mohammad Azharuddin, Kiran More and Arun Lal, were banned by the Board for playing exhibition matches in the United States after a dismal West Indian tour. Later the ban was reversed.
In the mid-nineties Navjot Sidhu walked out midway through the tour of England, citing irreconcilable differences with skipper Mohammad Azharuddin. It did not cost the skipper, the man or the country too heavily. He returned soon enough, and continued to play for several subsequent years, a lot of it under Azharuddin’s leadership.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)