Cricket in the '80s: the under-arm delivery

Grubber was a 'cry for help'

Wisden Cricinfo staff

November 16, 2004

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TV pictures of the infamous grubber © Getty Images
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It brought Australia and New Zealand to a stand-off in 1981, and 23 years later, Greg Chappell finally revealed his motive behind the infamous under-arm ball. In an ABC documentary, Cricket in the 80s, Chappell revealed that the decision was a "cry for help" because of Australia's relentless schedule.

In the space of 13 months till February 1, 1981 - when Trevor Chappell bowled under-arm - Australia had played 13 Tests and 17 one-dayers. In comparison, Australia have played 15 Tests and 31 one-dayers in the past 13 months. "I was exhausted. I was fed up," said Chappell. "The under-arm had very little to do with winning that game of cricket because, in fact, we'd won the game.

"They weren't going to get six off the last ball of the game. It was my statement. My cry for help was: 'You're not listening, this might help you sit up and take notice."

Brian McKechnie, who is now a New Zealand selector, was at the receiving end of that grubber, and he told The Australian that other sources had confirmed Chappell's version of events.

"I don't understand why he did it," said McKechnie. "I'll take his word. [Rodney] Marsh and [Doug] Walters said it a few years ago. He was under pressure during the game. He wanted to leave the field during the game. He stood at long-off, which is near the boundary. That's unusual for a captain."

McKechnie's reaction back then was to throw his bat to the ground in disgust, and he insisted that the incident has coloured his life just as much as it did Chappell's. "I just wish it never happened to me," he said. "Everywhere I go in New Zealand you can bet your life someone will ask me a question about it. It was 23 years ago.

"I've only spoken to him [Greg Chappell] once since. We never spoke about that. It was just one of those unfortunate things ... The positive spin in New Zealand was that it increased interest in cricket and added to good, old-fashioned trans-Tasman rivalry in a number of sports."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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