May 14, 2003

Aussie PM joins the debate as McGrath and Sarwan make up

Wisden CricInfo Staff

With the heat of the battle over, Glenn McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan have kissed and made up after their ugly confrontation in the fourth Test in Antigua. Speaking on an Australian radio station, Sarwan said he and McGrath had cleared the air over their mid-pitch altercation during the fourth day's play, and insisted there were no hard feelings.

Sarwan, whose 105 helped steer the West Indies to a record-breaking win, would not reveal what was said between the two players in the heated clash which caused umpire David Shepherd to step in and cool things down.

Flashpoint: McGrath and Sarwan clash

However, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, McGrath was seen to say: "If you ever f---ing mention my wife again, I will f---ing rip your f---ing throat out." But, rather confusingly, Sarwan had made no reference to McGrath's wife, and McGrath was said to be embarrassed about his over-reaction.

That, however, cut no ice with Australia's most famous cricket fan. The Prime Minister, John Howard - a self-confessed "cricket tragic" - waded into the debate during an interview with a Melbourne radio station, describing McGrath's furious reaction as "a very Australian thing to do".

While admitting he didn't know the exact sequence of events, Howard said: "Well, I've read, I mean if somebody did say something about his wife then I would understand fully his reaction. There seems to be some debate as to who started [it] and who said what but anybody who says something about somebody's wife who's had cancer, that's pretty bad and I can understand a man defending his wife. I would, I'm sure you would, and it's a very natural Australian thing to do."

Despite their war of words, Sarwan insisted they are now on friendly terms: "Both of us have apologised to each other and it's good to know that both of us did that in the good context of the game, and what took place in the series and this game. It's good to know that we have apologised to each other and appreciate each other's friendship."

When quizzed on the issue of the Australian's reputation as the world leader in sledging, Sarwan played it down by saying, "I'm not sure about that, who's the leader of that [sledging], but obviously players have things to say on the field and it's up to the individual or a team if you want to take it personal but, really and truly, we don't have a problem with each other."

Steve Waugh attempted to play down the incident as well. "I don't think there's anything wrong with exchanging a few words on the field. But we know it's going to be replayed 10 or 20 times. It's going to be seen over and over again and kids are going to see it as well."

Referring to McGrath's fury, Waugh said: "He [McGrath] probably misinterpreted it. Ramnaresh Sarwan hasn't got a mean bone in his body. He's a great guy. It's a moment all the players regret, we wish it hadn't happened but it did."

Meanwhile, Mike Procter, the match referee, clarified that no action would be taken against the two players. "It got pretty serious out there for a time. Fortunately, Dave Shepherd stepped in at the right time." Procter saw nothing wrong with Australia's brand of aggression on the cricket field. "Australia has always played pretty tough cricket, I don't think anyone wants them to change the way they play," he said. "Sometimes, people like to knock the people at the top. They are a wonderful side and play in the spirit of the game."