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When Gentleman’s game turned nasty

- October 16, 2022

Manoj Kandoth/ Bengaluru, Oct 16

As an ardent cricket fan and as a positive follower of game of cricket an incident, etched in my memory is of the day the “otherwise gentlemen of cricket” had an unsavory incident on the ground in Christ Church.

Between Windies pace bowler Colin Croft and the  officiating New Zealand umpire Fred Goodall, what made the windies team behave in an unsavory manner.. Let’s have a look

It was the beginning of the 80’s precisely on 22nd of February, 1980.

The second test between then the mighty west Indian machinery led by Clive Lloyd, with super batters Alvin Kalicharan , Gordon Greenidge , Desmond Haynes along with the fiery Andy Roberts , Joel Garner, Colin Croft vs no frills no stars New Zealand , captained by Jeff Howarth , all rounder Richard Hadlee , Lance Cairns , Jeremy Coney this test has  gone down in history as the Croft-Goodall Test.

Unfortunately Sir Viv Richards could not play this series due to his strained back and have to leave for home directly after the Aussie tour of West Indies

The Story

The standards of umpiring in this particular series was the worst ever and it is only after this controversial series the ICC has decided to introduce the neutral umpiring system.

Every appeal by the New Zealand bowlers and fielders, during this series, was upheld by the umpires and even genuine appeals by the West Indian cricketers were turned down. It resulted in the loss of the first test for West Indies. The whole of the Cricketing world was shocked and could not digest this. New Zealand Umpire, Fred Goodall was the worst of the officiating umpires in that series.

This is where it may be good to know little bit about his background. Goodall was known as an amateur umpire in local circles who was a school teacher and in spite of the severe objections in every possible way by the Windies he still officiated in all three tests 

West Indies began their tour…

West Indies arrived after a tour of Australia during which they had won the Test series 2-0 and also beaten England 2-0 in the inaugural final of the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup. But from the off, things went badly.

 Michael Holding recalled incidents the moment WI reached New Zealand and what the team was meted out, unpleasant hospitality from a host. Beginning from having to carry their own kit to the bus and being accommodated in “cramped motels” rather than five-star hotels, to being dished out bland food provided on the grounds – “which was always sausage and beans”.

 By the time the sides met for the second Test at Christchurch, the relationships had soured and the mood was unimaginable.

The problem started in the second innings of the first Test of the series. Holding sending the stumps flying, not with the ball of the first test at Dunedin, when Holding felt he had John Parker caught behind by wicketkeeper Derrick Murray, but umpire John Hastie was unmoved. Holding fumed, then walked down to the striker’s end and uprooted the stumps out of the pitch with a kick that’s still a popular photograph in cricketing history

All-in-all, it overshadowed a remarkable Test which New Zealand won by one wicket after being set 104.

Second Test

Nine days later, the teams resumed battle in the second Test at Christchurch, but any hope that the acrimony would be forgotten was dispelled on the third afternoon, and again it was a catch at the wicket which triggered the problems.

At the tea break, West Indies were furious. Lloyd asked his side what they wanted to do, and the unanimous decision was not to resume. Howarth, captain of the New Zealand team even assured Lloyd, that he would tell his batsmen to walk if they knew they had hit the ball.

West Indies agreed to resume, some 12 minutes after the scheduled time. But in the first over Holding later recalled that Howarth stood his ground “for yet another clear catch by Murray.” The final session was marred by a dreadful over rate, and at one stage Holding bowled four successive bouncers to Howarth.

That night, West Indies packed up their kit and emptied the dressing room. Although the next day was the rest day, they did not anticipate returning and expected to be leaving New Zealand altogether. During a three-hour squad meeting a vote was taken and the majority, including Willie Rodriguez the west Indian team manager, said they wanted to quit the tour. But when the West Indies board was advised, it was made clear that quitting was not an option.

What followed was an enthralling powerful game.

The Incident

Sent in on a wicket with early bounce and movement, West Indies lost three wickets for 28. However, a fight back by Greenidge and Kalicharan took them to 166 for 3 when rain brought an early end to the day. However, the next day, once Greenidge departed for 91, the  uninterested West Indians indulged in group hara-kiri. Consistently hitting across the line on a good batting wicket, they lost their last seven men for just 38 runs, the chief beneficiary being Lance Cairns, gifted with 6 wickets.

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 was 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.

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.

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, the West 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 unsavory incidents in cricket. As he 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

Years later Hadlee too had confessed to Goodall that there had indeed been an edge!

Manoj Kandoth is an ardent Cricket fan from Thalassery now settled in Bengalure. He was Captain of the Payyanur College Cricket team and is presently a noted brand consultant based out of Bengaluru.

Between Windies pace bowler Colin Croft and the  officiating New Zealand umpire Fred Goodall