Keep on knockin' but they won't come in

Sprit of cricket... what's that? Despite all the hand-shaking before the start and at the end of international matches, some modern teams don't want to have anything to do with each other after a game.

Australia, in a way, established this through their refusal of the England team's invitation to share drinks at the end of the opening Ashes Test in Cardiff last week.

England’s Andrew Flintoff and Australian spin legend Shane Warne pose in Australia’s dressing room at the Oval in London after the hosts regained the Ashes on September 12, 2005. Pic/Getty Images
England's Andrew Flintoff and Australian spin legend Shane Warne pose in Australia's dressing room at the Oval in London after the hosts regained the Ashes on September 12, 2005. Pic/Getty Images

Although fast bowler Peter Siddle justified his team's decision of not accepting the invitation by saying he has never been in an Australian team which visited the English dressing room until the final Test of an Ashes series, their refusal is surprising. For, aren't the Aussies known for spreading the credo, 'what happens on the field should stay there'?

It could well be that the David Warner-Joe Root pub scuffle in Birmingham during the 2013 Champions Trophy is at the heart of Australia's reluctance to socialise with England and that's fair enough because things can go out of hand when a different kind of liquid is used to slake one's thirst.

Siddle brought out the irony (if not his opponents' hypocrisy) when he told the media that James Anderson's revelation of not visiting the Australian dressing room is strange considering he expressed his displeasure over the sharing drinks practise after the 2013 Ashes was won by England.

Batting great Allan Border admitted to staying detached from the Englishmen on Australia's 1989 Ashes tour where they regained the Ashes for the first time since 1982-83. Apparently, Border took a serious view of captain-turned-commentator Ian Chappell's criticism of him being too "chummy" with David Gower's Englishmen in 1985 when he lost the series. In fact, Border in his autobiography Beyond the Boundary, wrote: "He (Chappell) said to me after the '85 tour, 'AB, those blokes were belting the hell out of you but you were out there being their best mate for Christ's sake.' So in 1989, I thought okay, this time I'll be a lot tougher."

It probably worked because Border famously won the 1989 contest and triumphed in the next two Ashes series as well in 1990-91 and 1993, before quitting the game.

Gower in his autobiography revealed what Border told him in 1989: "David, the last time we came here I was a nice guy who came last. I've been through all sorts of downs with my team, but this time I thought we had a bloody good chance to win and I was prepared to be as ruthless as it takes to stuff you. I didn't mind upsetting anyone, my own team-mates included, as long as we got the right result."

Chappell may have not meant to tell Border to stay away from drinking with the Englishmen because he was a believer in sharing a few beers with his opposition after a hard day's play. Or a meal for that matter, which stunned opposition players like Imran Khan one night after a World XI vs World Series Cricket game in the late 1970s. The Australians had given Imran a hard time on the field and as the debonair Pakistani was tucking into his dinner, he discovered Chappell sitting opposite him.

Mixing with opposition players is almost a tradition. After the Australia versus West Indies World Cup final at Lord's in 1975, Chappell, Rod Marsh and Clive Lloyd alongwith South African all-rounder Mike Procter left the dressing room only when an attendant requested them to leave because he had to clean up. No wonder Lloyd spent the rest of the night celebrating the win with his family and friends standing because he was tired sitting. He admitted being "knackered."

Talking of drinks, the gregarious England fast bowler Fred Trueman revealed how he got to share a drink with fellow fast bowling great Ray Lindwall from Australia. While batting in the final Test of the 1953 Ashes at the Oval, Lindwall, in Trueman's words, "violated the truce that exists between fast bowlers" and bowled a bouncer which hit his shoulder blade so hard that he thought "someone had stuck a knife in it." Trueman made a mental note of this blow and got his opportunity to bowl at Lindwall five years later. In the fifth Test of the 1958-59 series at Melbourne, Trueman bowled Lindwall a delivery which, "reared up, struck his bat handle, clouted him between the eyes and flew up into the air to give a simple catch (to Colin Cowdrey)." Lindwall moaned to Trueman about his age (the Australian was 38 then) and then got reminded about the brute delivery at the Oval in 1953. He exclaimed to Trueman: "Christ! Do you remember that? Okay, come and have a drink on me."

However strong their rivalry is, teams should share drinks once in a while. Not that this has anything to do with spirits, but it's worth repeating what Sanjay Manjrekar told me in a recent interview when I asked about the best advice his late father Vijay gave him: "Never make cricket your life, play it as a game."

Clayton Murzello is mid-day's Group Sports Editor

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