May 26, 2014

Cricket's problem families

Some relatives just don't make you look good

Ian Botham: a monster-in-law © Getty Images

There's no doubting Giles Clarke's commitment to English cricket, but it's fair to say interviews are not his strong point. The ECB chairman has had so many foot-in-mouth moments, he should probably check his gums for verrucas, and his gaffe-prone media appearances show little sign of abating. His latest peculiar comment came in an interview ahead of England's T20I against Sri Lanka last week. Speaking about Alastair Cook's performance as captain, Clarke noted: "He is a very good role model and he and his family are very much the sort of people we want the England captain and his family to be." You could say this was an innocuous enough remark, but it seemed incongruous for the ECB chairman to be making such value judgements, and it was condemned as snobbery by many.

Cook may be lucky to have an untroubled family, but there are certainly cricketers who have not been blessed with relatives who might so readily receive the Clarke stamp of approval. Here are a few examples of family members who, sometimes entirely blamelessly, have proved less than happy for their cricketing kin.

Suresh Raina's nephew
After Pakistan were eliminated in the semi-final of the 2012 World T20 by Sri Lanka, a tweet appeared from the Indian middle-order batsman revelling in the defeat of his country's nearest and dearest rivals. A day later, an apparently aghast Raina tweeted again, saying, "Smart phones r dangerous. Discovered it last night after my nephew posted random tweets. I'm a sportsman and would never disrespect." He carried on digging: "Though I already deleted it, I felt its better to clarify. To all those who r upset, I'm sorry. I'm not one to show disrespect." Remarkably, people didn't really buy this as an excuse and the apology was met with large-scale ridicule. To this day it's not clear who actually sent the offending tweet, though the incident is believed to have caused Raina so much trouble he now reportedly refers to his nephew as "short ball".

Ian Botham's mother-in-law
After a 1-0 Test series defeat in Pakistan in 1984, Botham described the country as "the kind of place to send your mother-in-law for a month, all expenses paid". The forthright England legend did eventually apologise, but his remark returned to haunt him during the final of the 1992 World Cup final when, having been dismissed by Wasim Akram for a duck, Aamer Sohail asked him, "Who's coming in next? Your mother-in-law?" Botham's tactlessness does have a happy ending, however. Some years later his mother-in-law, Jan Waller, was actually sent on an all-expenses paid trip to the nation by a national newspaper and concluded thus: "All I would say is: 'Mothers-in-law of the world, unite and go to Pakistan. Because you'll love it'. Honestly!"

Warner's brother
David Warner needs little assistance getting himself into bother, but this didn't stop his brother lending a helping hand in 2013. After a profanity-strewn Twitter spat with an Australian journalist during that year's IPL, Warner got himself banished from the subsequent Ashes tour for punching Joe Root in a Birmingham bar. While the batsman was serving his penance out in Zimbabwe with Australia A, Warner's brother took to Twitter after the Test side collapsed against England at Lord's, tweeting some abuse towards Shane Watson and claiming his sibling should be flown in to save the day. He followed it up by suggesting the then recently sacked ex-coach Mickey Arthur had been made an "escape goat". Warner, of course, soon returned to the fold and went on to become an integral part of the side that hammered England in the return series in Australia. It's not known what happened to the goat.

Shane Warne's mother
Warne, despite his genius command of a cricket ball and current svelte appearance, struggled to maintain control over his waistline throughout his career, and his mother Brigitte, like all mothers do, just wanted to help. According to Warne she provided him with what he termed a "fluid tablet" to help him lose a few pounds, but this turned out to be a banned diuretic that saw him barred from cricket for a year and miss the 2003 World Cup. Warne was heavily criticised for appearing to shift responsibility to his parent, though he vociferously claimed that he had "never blamed" his mother. It seems there weren't any grudges kept and in 2007 the legspinner even considered applying to take her German nationality so he could play as a non-overseas Kolpak player for Hampshire.

Trevor Chappell's brother
They will be many men around the world who have done things they regretted at the behest of an older brother. Sadly for Trevor Chappell, his moment of fraternally induced shame came on live television during an ODI at the MCG in 1981. With New Zealand needing six to win, his older brother Greg, Australia's captain, ordered him to bowl an unhittable underarm delivery along the ground. With half the crowd already jeering, the New Zealand batsman on strike, Brian McKechnie, just blocked the delivery, threw away his bat and walked off, disgusted, along with some fairly sheepish-looking members of the dubiously victorious Australian side. Richie Benaud condemned the incident as "one of the worst things I've ever seen done on a cricket pitch" in a televised broadside that is notable for its superbly waspish contempt and barely contained apoplexy. Both brothers soon apologised, recognising perhaps that if you upset Richie Benaud, you are almost certainly in the wrong.

So there you have it. You can't choose your family, as they say, and cricketers, as much as any of us, seem to have been dealt their fair share of genetic googlies.

James Marsh writes Pavilion Opinions. He is also a Tefl teacher whose students learn superlatives by being shown Graham Thorpe videos