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Fisticuffs in Cricket: Ian vs Ian, Warner vs Root, etc etc

June 16, 2013

Richard Browne, in the Sunday Leader, 16 June 2012, with title: “Warner Incident highlights History of Cricketing Pugilists”

ian vs ian

David Warner the pocket battleship from the tough end of Sydney, has been dominating the cricket press this week after landing a glancing blow on the chin of young Joe Root, the England batsmen. Root, the most cherubic player to don the Three Lions since a young David Gower debuted in 1978 with a head full of blond curls and the demeanour of a slightly reluctant angel, appears to have been the wrong man in the wrong place and fingers crossed the storm will quickly die now that Warner has his ban and fine and we can all return to the cricket.

david warnerAs we will find out, the ‘gentleman’s’ game has a long history of raised fists and short tempers. Here are three of the more extreme acts of pugilism carried out by men who make their living wearing white.

1912 Clem Hill v Peter McAlister: A selection meeting for the forthcoming tour of England which saw the only ever tri nation Test series with South Africa in the mix too (concept was a flop, not helped by a very wet English summer, which all sounds a tad familiar) pitted the boards man McAlister against the people’s hero and graceful wielder of the willow Hill against each other.

Many saw McAlister as a spy for the boardand they were by most accounts right. McAlister was not a class batsmen but after being made chairmen of selectors had made himself vice captain for the 1909 England tour. The players despised the board and the public worshiped the players, which left McAlister short of friends.

The selection meeting quickly resorted to a playground slanging match, before McAlister accused Hill ‘of being the worse captain he had ever seen’. That was too much for Hill and although records vary a fully-fledged fist fight ensued, with Hill having to be restrained from throwing McAlister out of a third floor window. Hill was the victor as McAlister was dragged away bloodied and battered with Hill accusing him of cowardice. Hill never toured with Australia again and Trumper one of the games immortal’s and close friend of Hill also never made the 1912 tour, in support of his pal. McAlister faded from the scene, as an infamous footnote in the annuals of cricketing history.

Roy Gilchrist v The World: Roy Gilchrist was the definitive firebrand. A West Indian fast bowler, short of leg but long of arm, was born into grinding poverty on a Jamaican planation. His role of dishonour is in complete contrast with the man whom he shared the new ball with for the West Indies, Wes Hall, later Sir Wesley, man of god and all round good egg.

Gilchrist was sent home in disgrace from the 1958/59 tour of India after first bowling intentional beamers before running through his crease and unleashing a vicious bouncer to the unfortunate Kripal Singh, knocking his turban off and nearly killing him. He was ordered home at lunch that day by disciplinarian captain Gerry Alexander never to don the maroon cap again.

A career in the English leagues followed and so did the controversy.  The beamers remained but the final straw came when he uprooted a stump and started assaulting the batsmen with it, who had had the audacity or stupidity to wind up the dangerous Jamaican. His stint in the leagues was also hampered by a three month prison sentence for brandishing his wife with a hot iron. All of this in the days before helmets too. Bizarrely Gilchrist’s last first class match was for Hyderabad in 1962-63 part of an exchange programme between the West Indies and India.

Ian Botham v Ian Chappell – Ongoing: A saga that has run for over a quarter of a century and brought much amusement as two old codgers continue to act like characters from the Iliad into their dotage and show no signs of relenting.

It all started in 1977 when Botham was playing club cricket in Australia and Ian Chappell had recently retired as a successful Aussie skipper. They were in the same bar, but then two very different accounts emerge. Chappell the senior said Botham called him a ‘wimp’ or words to that effect, then pushed him off his bar stool, called him a coward and then chased the calm Chappell out of the Hilton bar.

Botham’s version is far more fun:  the staunch monarchist Botham claimed to have been riled by the equally staunch republican Chappell and in a fit of patriotic passion punched Chappell across the bar into a group of Aussie Rules footballers before chasing him down the street, hurdling a car in his fury to protect the honour of Queen and Country.

Fast forward to the 2010/11 Ashes series and the two men despite working in commentary boxes around the world together still loathe each other. Botham is waiting in the car park when Chappell walks past and mutters inflammatory words from his moustached lips. Botham squares up and the two have to be separated by colleagues. The Ashes kicks off again next month. Watch this space.

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