February 22, 1980. The start of what has gone down in history as the Croft-Goodall Test. After suffering from poor umpiring decisions for one-and-a-half Tests, Colin Croft ran in to bowl, and at the last moment veered away to crash into the back of umpire Fred Goodall. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the unsavoury incident that stood out even in one of the most acrimonious series ever.
It was touted to be a no contest. The mighty West Indian machinery had started to roll on their way to one-and-a-half decade of absolute dominance. The ruthless Australians, who had bullied them to submission in 1975-76, had been crushed under the pace-powered juggernaut in their own backyard.
Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft smacked their lips in anticipation of more destruction — the fastest and meanest band of men ever to handle a cricket ball. Viv Richards had been forced to fly home with a strained back after the triumph in Australia. But, with Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Alvin Kallicharran, Lawrence Rowe and Clive Lloyd to supply the runs, they were still very much the best side of the world.
As the team crossed the Tasman Sea to take on the puny, no-frills-no-stars New Zealand, they expected to pulverise them at half throttle. On the television, Garner voiced his ominous warning, “We’ve beaten the Aussies, maan, now we’re gonna beat you.”
Yet, from the beginning the tour was one big horror story. For the West Indians it went from bad to worse and ended up as the most forgettable series in the illustrious history of that great team.
The arrangements that greeted them were farcical. The team had to carry their own kits to the bus, and were accommodated in cramped motels rather than the five-star hotels they were used to. Neither did they like the food served to them on the grounds — usually bland sausages and beans.
There were a couple of important factors contributing to the overall nightmarish experience. The team was jaded on the back of a hard tour of Australia, and according to West Indian captain Clive Lloyd’s later admissions, the atrocious umpiring was too much to withstand in the circumstances.
Geoff Howarth, the New Zealand captain, later said that it was true that the amenities could have been better. However, he attributed less of the outcome to umpiring and more to the homesickness that irked the West Indians. According to him, the men from the Caribbean expected to win at a trot and lost it when they faced unexpected resistance.
By the time the sides met for the second Test at Christchurch, the relationships had soured and the mood was the darkest imaginable. The first Test of the series had been a tough, ugly affair — producing one of the most well-known cricket photographs ever snapped — Michael Holding sending the stumps flying, and not with the ball.
The ugly prelude
The first Test had started with misinformation, supplied in cloak and dagger, cold war style. There was also the decoy of an extra spinner picked by the home side. The West Indians were deceived into believing that the Dunedin wicket would turn square. They picked off-spinner Derick Parry and left out Andy Roberts. And on the first morning, the visitors suddenly found themselves in seaming conditions against a brilliant Richard Hadlee and some ordinary umpiring.
The umpire at the eye of the storm was Fred Goodall, an amateur who earned his bread as a school teacher. In spite of the severe objections — demonstrated in virtually every possible way — he officiated in all the three Tests.
In the very first session Rowe, Kallicharran and Lloyd were given out leg-before, all to Hadlee. However, the New Zealand pressmen are still not too keen to blame it on Goodall. The ball kept low, and although the West Indian batsmen got far enough forward to introduce a fair amount of doubt, the decisions were not glaringly wrong. As Howarth put it after the match, “They couldn't complain. If you walk in front of your stumps at Dunedin, you'll be given out.”
The West Indians were all out for 140. The atmosphere steadily grew worse as appeal after appeal got turned down during the New Zealand innings. With the score on 28 for two, Holding sent through a ripper and was convinced that batsman John Parker had edged to the ’keeper Deryck Murray. Umpire John Hastie remained unmoved. A visibly irate Holding walked over to the striker’s end and let fly his infamous kick, knocking the stumps out of the ground.
The photograph of the kick is one of the most spectacular in the history of cricket, snapped by a journalist from another town. A few days later it was sold to Fleet Street and took the cricket world by storm.
A local paper described Holding’s action as “disgraceful, back alley behaviour.” However, the West Indians are still reluctant to offer apologies.
“This was not cricket...I was on my way to the pavilion, quite prepared not to bowl again, when Clive Lloyd and Murray persuaded me back,” Holding wrote in his autobiography, Whispering Death.
Hadlee picked up six more wickets in the second innings, three of them leg-before. Set a target of 104, the Kiwis scraped through by one wicket against the continuous thunderbolts of Holding, Croft and Garner. The final pair of Gary Troup and Stephen Boock somehow managed to scramble through for the last four runs, the win eventually coming off a leg-bye.
Willie Rodriguez, the West Indies manager, gave Holding no more than a talking to. He subsequently added fuel to the already inflamed situation by observing, “We got two men out and they were not given. They were atrocious decisions.”
Only Haynes, ‘the Batsman of the Match’, attended the post-game presentations. Richard Hadlee was unimpressed with the attitude, pointing out “good sportsmanship is fundamental”. In the end, the brewing bad blood overshadowed a remarkable Test.
We’re going home
Soon, the media picked up on the sour reactions of the visitors. A local radio station broadcast a satirical calypso ridiculing the whining tourists.
Fellow paceman, Croft, defends Holding’s action till today. “The ball didn't brush the glove; it tore the glove off. Deryck Murray took it in front of first slip,” he maintains. “Parker was on his way to the pavilion when he was given not out. The photo of Holding is the best sports picture I've seen. He should have been signed up by Manchester United on the strength of it,” the fiery fast man said in an interview to Cricinfo years later.
In the next Test, at Christchurch, things were reasonably peaceful till the third afternoon. And then it was Croft’s turn to write his name in indelible murky smudges across the pages of cricket history.
It was gripping cricket. Sent in on a wicket with early bounce and movement, West Indies lost three wickets for 28. However, a fight-back by Greenidge and Kallicharran took them to 166 for three when rain brought an early end to the day. However, the next day, once Greenidge departed for 91, the West Indians indulged in group hara-kiri. Consistently hitting across the line on a good batting wicket, they lost the last seven men for just 38 runs, the chief beneficiary being Lance Cairns, gifted with six wickets.
The second day ended 90 minutes before the scheduled close, with New Zealand on 15 without loss.
On the third morning, New Zealand lost two quick wickets, before Howarth and John Parker steadied the ship. The frustration grew as the West Indies found wickets difficult to come by. And then, Howarth, batting on 68, gloved a ball from Garner to Murray.
By his own later admission, Howarth had got a thumb on it. It was one of those appeals where everyone behind the wicket were sure of the nick whereas the men in front were undecided. Goodall, again caught in the middle of action, turned the appeal down. Howarth went on to score 147.
At tea, the West Indians were livid. Lloyd asked his side what they wanted to do, and the unanimous reply was ‘go home’. The umpires and batsmen came out after the break, but Lloyd informed a worried New Zealand board official: "They can wait. We won't be joining them."
It was a deadlock until Howarth came in to the pavilion to have a word with Lloyd, assuring him that his batsmen would walk if they knew they had hit the ball. The reluctant West Indians trudged out again, some 12 minutes after schedule. And immediately, in the first over from Holding, Howarth stood his ground after what the visitors again thought was a clear edge to the ‘keeper.
The final session saw crawling over rate, West Indians deliberately dropped catches and shepherded balls to the boundary. At one stage Holding bowled four successive bouncers to Howarth.
That night, the visitors packed their kit and emptied the dressing room. Not one of the team members thought that they would come back after the scheduled rest day. Most expected to leave New Zealand altogether. The team met for three hours, and a vote was taken. The majority, including manager Rodriguez, wanted to quit the tour.
Kiwi journalist Don Cameron was staying in the same hotel as the West Indies players, and was on good terms with Haynes. That evening he walked into the players’ room and found them eating fried chicken. Asked about the occasion, Haynes replied that they were going home. Cameron immediately phoned Jeff Stollmeyer, head of the West Indies Cricket Board in the Caribbean, and asked him for a reaction. Stollemeyer answered that the manager would be asked to carry on.
The shoulder charge
Persuaded by the Board, the team returned to the ground. But, the fourth day witnessed the peak of unpleasantness seen during the tour.
Croft, repeatedly jeered by the crowd, appealed — somewhat belatedly — for a catch at the wicket when Hadlee hooked at a bouncer. Again Goodall turned it down. Years later Hadlee confessed to Goodall that there had indeed been an edge.
Croft reacted with a barrage of four letter words aimed at Goodall. The umpire was obviously not impressed and along with colleague Steve Woodward, walked down to have a word with Lloyd. As the two made their way towards him, theW est Indian captain stood steadfastly at first slip, refusing to take a step forward to meet them. The complaint had little effect.
In his next over, Croft unleashed a series of bouncers at Hadlee. When Goodall no-balled him for bowling from too wide of the crease, Croft deliberately knocked the bails off as he walked back past the stumps. Jeremy Coney, the non-striker, was the one to pick them up.
The next ball saw one of the most unsavoury incidents in cricket. Ashe ran in to bowl, Croft veered away at the last moment and ran his shoulder into the back of Goodall. Even today, when one looks at the video of the incident, it looks extremely deliberate.
Once again, Goodall walked all the way down to Lloyd. “I told Lloyd I have taken some treatment from players in my time, but it has always been verbal. You sort this out now,” he said in interviews later on.
Lloyd let Croft stay on.
Croft refuses to admit that it had been intentional. In the interview to Cricinfo he maintained, “In the heat of the moment they thought I did it on purpose. I did not do it purposely. If Fred Goodall was in Hollywood, he'd have picked up an Oscar. I'm six foot six and 230 pounds. If I'd meant to hit him, he wouldn't have got up. It's crap that I barged him deliberately.”
Howarth however found it disgraceful. According to him the fast bowler should have been banned for life, and he got away just because the game was being played 12,000 miles away in little old New Zealand.
The match ended in an acrimonious draw.
The third Test was relatively free of controversy, but it started only after West Indies had withdrawn a protest against the appointment of Goodall to stand in the match. There was also the peculiar incident of four senior West Indian cricketers wanting to take the flight back on the fifth afternoon, arguing substitutes could field for them. Thankfully, this was avoided and the rubber ended with a hard fought draw.
The all-powerful West Indians hence lost the series — something they would not repeat for another 15 years.
At the end-of-series press conference, manager Rodriguez cleared the umpires, including Goodall, of bias. In his opinion, they were purely incompetent.
Lloyd, however, did not mince his words, “Our bowlers appealed umpteen times. But it got to the ridiculous stage when they weren't even appealing. They knew they wouldn't get the decision.”
However, on his return to the Caribbean, Lloyd admitted that he should have taken a firmer line with his players.
Goodall still in bad books
Goodall queered the pitch further when he allegedly made racially biased comments against the West Indians in speaking engagements after the Test series. Viv Richards was one of the men who were not too amused by this.
When Vivian Richards captained the side in 1987, he refused to speak to Goodall.
However, the Kiwi view of Goodall was completely different. In the 1999 New Year Honours, the umpire was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to sport.
(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)
First Published: February 22, 2013, 10:59 am