What happened before, during and after Greg Chappell ordered his brother to bowl underarm
Thirty years ago on February 1, 1981 then Australia captain and India's 2007 World Cup coach Greg Chappell performed an act that made an instant entry into cricket's Hall of Shame.
In the third final of the B & H World Series Cup, Greg ordered younger brother Trevor to bowl underarm to deprive New Zealand tailender Brian McKechnie from scoring a six which would have tied the game after Australia scored 235 for four in their 50 overs.
An underarm would ensure the batsman would hit the ball along the ground.
Greg was exhausted during a very long Australian summer. A tie would have stretched the series to the fifth final which he didn't want before facing India in the third and final Test at Melbourne (February 7 to 11) where India eventually won to end the series 1-1. The triangular series rules did not state that underarm bowling was a no-no, but it was certainly against the spirit of the game.
MiD DAY provides you with some nuggets on one of the biggest controversies seen on a cricket field.
HOW IT HAPPENED
A: Greg Chappell instructs brother Trevor to bowl underarm.
B: Trevor delivers the ball to Brian McKechnie.
C: McKechnie gets into position to play it.
D: McKechnie throws his bat in disgust.
E: McKechnie and wicketkeeper Rod Marsh start walking towards the
Melbourne Cricket Ground dressing room.
PIC COURTESY: Cricket in Australia Ten Turbulent Years published by Swan Publishing 1987
Wayne to blame?
THE underarm controversy would never have taken place had it not been for West Indies fast bowler Wayne Daniel, who was part of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket (WSC). In a WSC game during the first season of the circus (1978-79) at VFL Park in Melbourne, Daniel, never known for his big-hitting, smacked West Australian pace bowler Mick Malone for a six off the second last ball to win the game for the West Indies.
Greg Chappell remembered Daniel when he saw New Zealand tailender Brian McKechnie walk into the vast expanse of the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 1, 1981 with New Zealand's task clear: Six to tie with one ball left in the match.
Looking at McKechnie's physique, he thought, 'if anyone can hit a six, this bloke can!' What followed was the instruction to brother Trevor to deliver a grubber.
The conversation before Trevor Chappell delivered the underarm went like this:
Greg: How are you bowling your underarms?
Trevor: I dunno!
Greg: Well, you're about to find out.
There were many who booed Greg all the way to the dressing room at Melbourne after Australia won, but there was this little girl who came on to the field and said, "you cheated, you cheated."
"If an adult had grabbed at my arm and said the same thing, it may have had little impact. But that little girl got to me," Greg wrote in Unders and Overs.
Richie Benaud came down heavily on Greg Chappell in his day's summary. Here's what he said on Channel Nine: "Now everyone around Australia will have their own ideas on that. We always get letters and phone calls about different things that happen so I don't expect anyone to agree with me. I don't expect that you get more than 50 per cent agreement on anything. Let me just tell you what I think about it. I think it was a disgraceful performance from a captain who got his sums wrong today and I think it should never be permitted to happen again. We keep reading and hearing that the players are under a lot of pressure and that they are tired and jaded and perhaps their judgement and their skill is blunted, well, perhaps they may advance that as an excuse for what happened out there today. Not with me, they don't. I think it was a very poor performance - ONE OF THE WORST THINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN DONE ON A CRICKET FIELD. Good night."
Greg didn't think Benaud was fair in his view on the underarm. "Had Richie Benaud's summary been more balanced," Greg wrote in Unders and Overs, "I believe the general reaction would have been more in keeping with reality. As for Tony Greig and his righteous condemnation of the incident and his continued call for my sacking, I can only hope that I never prove as big a hypocrite when my career is completed."
THE 1980-81 season was the last for that great character of Australian cricket, Doug Walters. As usual, he had something different and funny to say about the underarm incident. "Well, it (underarm episode) has ruined one of the adages of cricket," he said. "I was told very early in my career that the game's never over until the last ball's been bowled. Today disproved that theory."
No love in print
MiD DAY columnist Ian Chappell, who was at the game as commentator, was not impressed by what he saw. "Fair dinkum, Greg," Ian wrote in his column. "How much pride do you sacrifice to win $35,000?" Greg did not appreciate Ian's criticism and he made it known when they met for the first time after the incident. Ian is believed to have reacted by saying, "One Chappell ordered it, the other Chappell bowled it and if the third Chappell agreed with it, they'll think we are all mad."
The night after the incident, Greg ordered the hotel staff at The Wentworth in Sydney not to put any calls through before 10 am next morning because he wanted to grab some sleep.
But at 06:45 hours, a flabbergasted Australia captain received a call from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter asking him for a reaction for his morning show. When Greg asked him how he managed to get through, the reporter responded: "Well, I had to be a little devious. I'm ringing from inside the hotel. I've been ringing you since six o'clock this morning and they wouldn't put me through so I had to come here." He didn't get his interview.
Lillee would never do it
Greg did not have his premier fast bowler, Dennis Lillee bowl the final over of the match. Lillee supported his captain's underarm decision and even helped him sneak out of the Melbourne hotel the morning after the match. But, in his book, Menace, the great fast bowler said he wouldn't have agreed to bowl underarm. "What would I have done if I were in Trevor Chappell's place and a bit player in the team? If it had been me, I would have said no way," wrote Lillee.
"My attitude would have been if you don't think I'm good enough to bowl a ball and not be hit for a six, then don't ask me to bowl. I would have flatly refused and been very cross at being asked, but Greg would not have asked me because he would have known what the answer would be."
Even Greg's mother, Jeanne had some strong views on the underarm.
When this writer interviewed her at Adelaide in 2003, she said: "Ian criticised Greg then, but Greg said he did it because he was so tired and did not want to play another game. I can see both points of view. But I got mad because Trev was blamed. It was not his fault. My husband (Martin) said to him, 'did you think that up,' and Trev said, 'no. My captain told me to do it and I had to do it.' "