Handbags at Twenty Two YardsMartin Chandler |
Tuesday 17 November 1981 was not a day when cricket covered itself in glory. Fortunately no one was hurt, not even slightly, but the behaviour of a Pakistani batsmen, and an Australian fast bowler, both of whom would be leading candidates for a place in any all time XI selected to represent their countries, left a very bad taste in many a mouth. Dennis Lillee was certainly more at fault than Javed Miandad, but neither had any cause to feel anything other than shame-faced as a result of what happened at the WACA on the final day of the first Test of the 1981/82 series between the two countries.
There had been problems in a two Test series between the two countries almost three years previously, in March 1979. In those World Series Cricket days the Australian side was well below full strength, just two of them, Graeme Wood and Kim Hughes, playing at Perth in 1981/82, whereas Pakistan, complete with Packer players, had six men on duty at the WACA. The first incident had come in the first Test which Pakistan had won. Rodney Hogg played the ball down defensively before wandering out of his crease to attend to some “gardening”. Javed threw down the stumps and appealed. The ball wasn’t dead so the umpire had no choice but to give Hogg out, and that remained the decision despite Pakistan skipper Mushtaq Mohammad calling Hogg back and seeking to withdraw the appeal.
It is unfortunate that the umpire followed the letter of the law and refused to allow Hogg to continue. Hogg was incensed and before leaving the crease for the second time he used his bat to take a swipe at his stumps, knocking two of them out of the ground. Interestingly Hogg received no word of reproach for his display of dissent, let alone any sanction. Did Javed deliberately flout the spirit of the game? His explanation was that he was at short leg and the ball was played out towards silly point, and therefore he had his back to the batsman as he fielded the ball and all he could see on turning was that Hogg was out of his ground. Possible I suppose, but the delivery in question was a no ball so there was nothing to be gained by taking a risky single, the only effect of which would have been to ensure that tail-ender Hogg, rather than front line batsman Dav Whatmore, would be facing the next over. It is difficult to imagine too many Australians accepting Javed’s explanation.
That defeat cost Graham Yallop the Australian captaincy, and Kim Hughes was in charge in the second Test, won by Australia. In the Pakistan second innings Sikander Bakht was “Mankaded” by Alan Hurst. Sikander was a true rabbit, and finished his career with a Test batting average of just six. He was batting with Asif Iqbal, who had scored a fine century. So well did Asif farm the strike that in 37 minutes Sikander only faced three deliveries. He was not warned about his excessive backing up, as convention dictates ought to have happened. The Australians were clearly becoming concerned at the level of their fourth innings target. It was not a high scoring game and 236 looked a long way distant, although in the end the Australians got the runs with just three wickets down. The Pakistanis were doubtless still brooding over Sikander’s dismissal when, with Australia cruising on 87-0, Andrew Hilditch picked the ball up to save Sarfraz the trouble. The thanks he got was an appeal to the umpire who, again, had to follow the laws and give him out handled ball and another problem for the future was banked.
The two teams next met twelve months later in Pakistan and Javed, in his first series as captain, led Pakistan to a 1-0 victory in the three Tests, something which helped ease the pain of a 2-0 defeat that had been inflicted by India a few weeks before. The first Test was won by Pakistan’s spinners on a tailor-made wicket in Karachi. For the second Test there was rain on the first day and water seeped under the covers. The remedial action necessary created a perfect batting strip on which just 13 wickets fell as 999 runs were scored. The final Test was barely any different as 1218 runs were scored for the loss of 24 wickets. Neither got near a result and in the second Test just one Pakistani wicket fell to a bowler. Remarkably that was an lbw. The other 10 lbw decisions in the series all went against Australia. The Australians must have felt, figuratively speaking, like it had been their turn to be “mankaded”.
Given that background it is hardly surprising that there was some needle between the sides as they prepared for the first Test of the 81/82 series, and Pakistan were none too happy to find the that game scheduled for Perth, in those days by some distance the fastest and bounciest wicket in world cricket. That much said Miandad was doubtless happy to win the toss and then see Australia at 159-7 at the end of Day 1. Next day the tail was mopped up efficiently enough for a further 21, but then the wheels rather came off for Pakistan. They were 62 all out, albeit that represented something of a recovery from 26-8. Australia did much better second time round, and Pakistan’s victory target, that they missed by 286, was an impossible 543.
The outcome of the match was never in doubt. The incident for which the game is remembered occurred at 78-2, Javed and Mansoor Akhtar having just completed a 50 partnership.
What happened is, essentially, plain for all to see. The only issues which were not crystal clear from that footage were whether or not Lillee had turned away only for Javed to also turn to create the collision, and whether or not Javed, as Lillee always maintained, shoved him with his bat.
Lillee’s actions were condemned throughout Australia. Bill O’Reilly wrote If the board is prepared to do its job, Lillee is due for a long holiday and Keith Miller I have never seen a sicker incident or a more loutish act from a player. Two former Australian captains who had their say were Bobby Simpson, who described the incident as; The most disgraceful thing I have seen on a cricket field, and Ian Chappell, who wrote that ….to kick the batsman when he wasn’t looking was the act of a spoiled, angry child.
As far as Javed’s teammates were concerned neither he nor his captaincy had very much support at this point. He and his vice-captain, Zaheer Abbas, fell out in spectacular fashion prior to the Perth match, which Zaheer missed through injury, but looking on from the sidelines even he blamed Lillee, describing his actions as …unseemly and embarrassing. I have no doubt at all that Lillee aimed his kick at Javed quite deliberately.
Of the Pakistan side that took the field at Perth only Imran, apart from Javed, has published an autobiography and, being Imran, there have been two of those. The first, in 1983, dealt with the Perth Test without referring to the incident. By 1988, and his second book, Imran felt able to mention the incident, but in just one sentence; The match was notable for a childish incident between Javed Miandad and Lillee. Clearly to the extent that he considered the episode to be of any significance at all Imran felt his predecessor to be at fault as well as Lillee.
The Australian team were also less convinced of the need to villify their teammate which was quite important given that the newly formulated Australian code of behaviour meant that it was his fellow players who were to sit in judgment on Lillee. It was a system that could work, the New South Wales team having proved that by suspending their own Lenny Pascoe for bowling a beamer at Kim Hughes, but it didn’t work here. Not only was the penalty imposed on Lillee a derisory one, a fine of just AUSD200, but with that a statement was issued highlighting the provocation it was believed that Javed was responsible for.
And therein of course lay the problem. The tourists were not party to the code and the Australians were hardly likely to condemn their colleague if the man they saw as at least in part responsible was seen to get away with no sanction at all, particularly in circumstances where Lillee, still an integral part of the team despite his 31 years, had told at least one journalist that he would retire if he was suspended from Test cricket.
The umpires, as the rules entitled them to do, appealed the players’ verdict so the Board were left with the decision anyway. But is wasn’t as easy a case as the baying critics would have had the public believe, as David Frith and Gideon Haigh discovered when they were given access to the ACB archive for their 2007 book, Inside Story. Graeme Wood, who had been fielding at cover, provided a written statement; Javed ran in a straight line towards Lillee and as he approached Lillee he turned to return to his bowling mark. On his turn Lillee wasn’t even looking in Javed’s direction. It was at this point that Javed collided with Lillee with his bat slightly raised causing Lillee to be pushed off balance ….. it is my honest opinion that the incident was provoked by Javed
Wood was, like Lillee, a West Australian. So was Bruce “Roo” Yardley who also gave evidence to the effect that Javed jabbed Lillee with his bat. The decision-maker, Bob Merriman, a former labour relations manager with Ford Australia was, understandably, a little concerned at the independence of this evidence but as Haigh and Frith reveal he was able to source some additional footage, shot from side-on as opposed to the behind-the-stumps view that is normally seen. That coverage confirmed that what Lillee claimed was true. Merriman decided to suspend Lillee from two ODIs.
As Frith and Haigh explain, that still wasn’t enough for some, and they quote Board member and former Test ‘keeper Len Maddocks as saying I would have rubbed him out for a year, I still would, I can’t stand things like that, it was a disgrace, but by then time had moved on and Lillee had apologised,and those who wanted his head on a plate had lost their momentum.
For Lillee there were to be 15 more Tests over the next two years, including the remaining two in this series that were split, leaving Australia 2-1 winners. There were 59 more wickets for him, leaving him perched for a little while on top of that particular table with 355. His final series was against Pakistan again, and Australia won what one suspects will have been the last ever five Test series the two countries will ever contest by 2-0, and he went out on a personal high with eight wickets in the final Test. But he only got Javed out once in the series, so perhaps his old adversary could at least draw the consolation that he had won his personal battle with Lillee from what was, a century at Adelaide apart, a disappointing series from the point of view of his own form, as well as his team’s performance.
As for Javed’s future a few months after Perth he had been replaced as Pakistan captain by Imran. Those months were difficult ones for Pakistani cricket, the measure of the general ill-will and dissatisfaction felt by Javed’s teammates being that after the side’s consolation victory in the third Test against Australia every single one of them expressed their views to the PCB and indicated an unwillingness to play under him in the future. By the time the three Test home series against Sri Lanka began in March 1982 Wasim Raja and Iqbal Qasim had made their peace with the Board, and pressure from his employers meant that Mohsin Khan was back for the second Test, but the others remained solid before returning for the third Test after Javed agreed to stand down for the forthcoming tour of England. He did however continue to play Test cricket for more than a decade, and his final average of 52.57 from 124 Tests marks him down as one of the very best.
And what of the protagonists themselves? In the immediate aftermath of the incident both men dug their heels in. Lillee was quoted as saying I believe in an eye for an eye if somebody starts it, and Javed’s immediate reaction was I got a terrible surprise when he kicked me. I lifted my bat to ward him off and to tell him that if he hit me I would hit him ….. he kept saying dirty words to me.
But despite their reputations neither man bore a grudge, and it was not long before Lillee said Now it’s time to get on with the cricket again.. By then Javed was also having second thoughts, saying I was very disappointed about what happened and felt very sorry for Dennis in his testimonial year. That thing was just one or two seconds when we lost our tempers. You don’t think of the consequences at a time like that.
Both men are now long retired, and see each other and their famous spat for what they were. Both published autobiographies in 2003. In Lillee’s case it was his fourth such volume, and he hadn’t always been quite so magnanimous, but at 54 years of age he left no room for doubt about his views on Javed; I have nothing but respect for his ability to play. He was also a massive in-your-face competitor. I realise now I was too attacking against him when I bowled; if I had the chance again, I would be less so, which shows how he wound me up and won the battle of the minds, too often for my liking.
Javed was much the same, illustrating as vividly as it was possible to do just how alike the two old rivals really were; If I could choose one bowler I would like to have avoided playing against, it would have to be Dennis Lillee. He is one of history’s great bowlers. The recipe for quality fast bowling has many ingredients – speed, swing, line, length and human psychology – and Dennis mastered all of these. He could swing the new ball better than anyone I know. And he was brilliant at outthinking the batsman. On his best days he was simply lethal and if that were not enough he went on to pay tribute to Lillee’s durability His ability to deliver at the peak of his craft never wavered ….. he always had the batsman pegged back, never giving an inch.
What would have happened today? These seem to be Level 4 offences as far as the ICC Code of Conduct is concerned. In Lillee’s case there was clearly a kick that made contact with its target and, despite the clear absence of any intention to injure, nor indeed any possibility of injury, that still amounts in law to an assault. Miandad’s reaction did not involve actual contact, but Lillee would certainly have “apprehended the use of immediate unlawful violence”, and was just as much an assault and indeed, given the apparent ferocity and the fact that a cricket bat was used, many would doubtless argue a rather more severe one. So it would have been a minimum ban of five Tests and the possibility of a life ban, and as umpire Crafter was involved in the contretemps as well it seems likely that any punishment, were the incident to be repeated today, would be nearer the top end of that range than the bottom. Of course had the boys known that then I have little doubt but that they would not have behaved in the manner in which they did. The reality is that Lillee and Javed were two of a kind, hugely talented rough diamonds who were ruthlessly competitive – I doubt we will see their like again – the game has changed a great deal, and not always for the better.