Cricinfo XI

'Is the microphone live?'

Dean Jones's recent on-air gaffe about Hashim Amla was not the first time a player or commentator has said something on-air they have instantly regretted, and nor will it be the last

Andrew Miller

August 15, 2006

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Dean Jones's recent on-air gaffe about Hashim Amla was not the first time a player or commentator has said something on-air they have instantly regretted, and nor will it be the last. Here, Cricinfo takes a look at 11 other occasions when off-the-cuff comments have taken on a life of their own.



Eddo Brandes: fox among the chickens © Getty Images
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Adrian Chiles and the black Eddo Brandes - England in Zimbabwe 1996-97
For a heady fortnight in 1996-97, Zimbabwe's Eddo Brandes was one of most famous sportsmen in the English-speaking world, and unquestionably the most renowned chicken farmer. When he wasn't scratching around in the farmyard he was a burly bustling medium-pacer who, in Harare in January 1997, took a hat-trick against a supine England side - Nick Knight, John Crawley, Nasser Hussain - to seal a humiliating 3-0 whitewash. The image of headless chickens was a gift for Britain's tabloid headline-writers and, as such, it wasn't long before every man and his dog wanted a bit of the Brandes action. The BBC sports journalist, Adrian Chiles, was one such man. "What was it like being a black man in a mainly white team?" he queried, live on air. A very pertinent question, you might have thought. "Er, I'm white," Brandes responded.

Mike Atherton's buffoon - England in Pakistan 1995-96
Atherton was tired and dishevelled, and in no mood for suffering fools. He had just suffered a fourth-ball duck and a 78-run defeat against South Africa at Rawalpindi, and England's World Cup prospects were at something approaching rock-bottom. Enter the garrulous local journalist, Asghar Ali, and his penchant for impenetrable and garbled questions. After several failed attempts to understand his broken English, Atherton sotto-voced: "Can someone get this buffoon out of here?" to no-one in particular. His words, however, were picked up on tape and an almighty kerfuffle ensued. Perversely, it was the moment that made Asghar's career - a book soon followed, entitled "Buffoon: Me or you?" He was less fortunate in his private life, however, and has repeatedly attempted to sue Atherton for "ruining his life." Apparently the woman he planned to marry cancelled their wedding, as she "did not want to be the wife of a buffoon".

David Lloyd and "we flippin' murdered 'em" - England in Zimbabwe 1996-97
Whatever way you look at it, that Zimbabwe trip was not a successful tour for England. The players quite clearly did not want to be in the country; the management's ban on wives and girlfriends - over the festive period no less - did nothing to lighten the mood. The team fell out with the travelling press corps, and even delivered the ultimate snub of boycotting their Christmas pantomime. And England won just two matches out of ten, and none of the internationals. Admittedly they came rather close in the first Test at Bulawayo, where the match was drawn with the scores level, but David Lloyd's apoplectic post-match comments ensured that Nick Knight's valiant 96 was lost beneath the vitriol. "We flippin' murdered 'em" he fumed, despite tour-long evidence to the contrary.

Tony Greig's grovelling - England v West Indies 1976
"They are a good side but when they are down, they grovel. And I intend to make them grovel." Thus spake England's captain on the eve of England's 1976 series against West Indies. If anyone else had uttered these words, they might have been dismissed as pre-series banter, but because they were spoken by Greig, the blond, blue-eyed son of South Africa with the unavoidably booming voice, the subtext was inevitably loaded with racial connotations. West Indies had, in fact, just emerged from a chastening 5-1 defeat in Australia, but this boast was sufficient to ensure England felt the most brutal of backlashes. Towards the end of the fifth Test at The Oval, with a 3-0 scoreline soon to be completed, it was Greig himself who was grovelling to the West Indian fans lining the stands of the Harleyford Road.

Robin Marlar's women cricketers - Lord's 2005
"Did you know that Brighton College are playing girls in their First XI?" spluttered Robin Marlar. "Girls!" Despite the success of Clare Connor, Holly Colvin and other alumni of that cricketing hotbed of the South Coast, Marlar, the 74-year-old incoming president of the MCC, had clearly not been informed. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph to mark his accession to the presidency, he managed in one brief tirade to undo much of the progress towards equality that had the MCC had been at such pains to claim was underway. "I think it's absolutely outrageous!" he continued. "If a girl bowls at 80mph, then I'd be asking some serious questions about whether she's had a sex change." To mitigation, to judge from a recent ICC rule change on transgender cricketers, he's not the only one.

Botham's mother-in-law - not Pakistan 1983-84
Pakistan was not Botham's happiest hunting ground. He played just one of his 102 Tests in the country, a three-wicket defeat at Karachi in March 1984, and afterwards didn't seem too disappointed to have missed out on further opportunities. "Pakistan is a place to send one's mother-in-law, all expenses paid," he told a radio station soon after that tour had drawn to a close. It was a remark that reverberated for years afterwards. At the World Cup final in 1992, when Botham was dismissed for a duck by Wasim Akram, Aamir Sohail wandered up to him and suggested you-know-who should come in next to salvage some family pride. In fairness, Botham did eventually return to the country, as a Sky Sports commentator on England's tour in 2000-01, and brought his mother-in-law along for the ride. By all accounts she enjoyed her trip, particularly the shopping for carpets.



Ricky Ponting faces yet more media on his tour of Bangladesh © Getty Images

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Ricky Ponting - Australia in Bangladesh 2005-06
Ponting's suggestion that Bangladesh did not deserve Test status seems a fairly innocuous remark in the grander scheme of things - let's face it, if even the shrewdly taciturn Richie Benaud could be drawn to similar sentiments, it can hardly be classed as a controversial outburst. But to make such big statements on the eve of your country's first visit is tempting fate in the extreme, and it so nearly resulted in the biggest egg-on-face moment in the history of the game. Ponting found himself backtracking from the moment he landed at Dhaka Airport, where Australia were taken aback by the warmth of their welcome, but it wasn't until midway through the first Test at Fatullah that he really started sweating. In reply to Bangladesh's 427, Australia had slipped to 92 for 6 and were staring humiliation in the face. Eventually it was left to Ponting himself, and an over-my-dead-body 118 not out, to salvage a face-saving three-wicket win.

Terry Alderman on Ashley Giles - Australia in England 2005
"If any of our batsmen get out to Giles, they should go hang themselves in shame." That was Terry Alderman assessment in the build-up to last summer's Ashes, and though others harboured similar sentiments, few expressed them with such feeling. As it turned out, Giles grabbed ten wickets in the series - hardly an earth-shattering haul - but the Australian gallows had to be specially extended and strengthened to cope with the post-Ashes demand. Every Aussie batsman from Justin Langer at No. 1 to Shane Warne at No. 8 succumbed at least once to Giles, who added a career-best 59 at The Oval for good measure, just to put the series result beyond doubt.

Brian Lara's daughter - possibly apocryphal

Like the best sledges, the best commentary one-liners tend to be claimed by and attributed to anyone who happened to be walking past the media centre on the day they were uttered. And so, it is hard to work out exactly who came up with the following gem on Brian Lara's epic 277 at Sydney in 1992-93, an innings so good that he named his daughter after the venue. "It's a good thing the game was not in Lahore," quipped either Michael Holding in his treacle-thick Jamaican tones, Tony Greig in his Aussie-Anglo-Afrikaaner hybrid, or Greg Ritchie in ... well, whatever twang Greg Ritchies talk in. In fact, some sources suggest that the suggested alternative venue was actually Faisalabad, which isn't really very funny or noteworthy at all.

"The batsman's Holding ..." - origin also disputed
The most giggled-about quip in the history of the game, but was it ever really uttered? It is widely believed that, sometime during either the 1976 or 1980 Test series against West Indies, either Don Mosey or Brian Johnston announced live on air: "We welcome World Service listeners to the Oval, where the bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey." No recording, however, is believed to exist, so no-one will ever know for sure. Either way, the likely suspect was Johnston, who a decade later was on the receiving end of Jonathan Agnew's leg-over pronunciation at the same venue. For the record, Willey was one of the few batsmen to avoid being dismissed by Holding during his 14-wicket rampage in 1976, while four years later Willey himself was named Man of the Match for his unbeaten second-innings century. So they certainly both played their parts in Oval Test matches. Whether they ... ahem ... played each other's parts is another matter entirely.

Keith Fletcher - England in India 1992-93
India's maiden Test tour of South Africa in 1992-93 was an unmitigated disaster ... for England. Defeated in the Tests and hammered in the one-dayers, they proved to be no match for the pace and ferocity of Allan Donald and Brian McMillan, and seemed less than threatening with the ball in hand either. Watching the series unfold was England's coach, Keith Fletcher, who was about to take his men off for a three-Test tour of the subcontinent. "England have nothing to fear" was his succinct verdict, least of all from the workaday bespectacled spinner, Anil Kumble, who didn't seem to turn a ball off the straight and narrow all tour. And so England packed their side for the Calcutta Test with four pacemen to rattle the composure of India's supposedly flaky batsmen, and had no contingency plan for dealing with the threat of India's spinners. Big centuries from Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli, and 21 wickets for Kumble, helped India to one of the more emphatic 3-0 victories of modern times.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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