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October 29, 2000
Photo © Graham Morris
The picture that forever froze the confrontation between England captain Mike Gatting and Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana in the Faisalabad Test in 1987 has become one of the most widely published and highest earning sports images ever captured.
For freelance photographer Graham Morris, a veteran snapper of 250 Test matches and 500 One-Day Internationals since 1980, the exchange represented a champagne moment, though clearly not for relations between England and Pakistan. Morris has become renowned as the only photographer who came away with the brawl recorded on film.
It was not the quality of the picture that won him kudos. In fact, it is one of the worst he has taken - grainy and dark. It was its uniqueness and symbolism that made it special, that has earned him, he reveals, "hundreds of thousands of pounds" at the last count.
It could have been so different. Had the exchange between umpire and captain occurred earlier in the day when the light was better, there would have been scores of images for sale.
Morris explains: "It had been a long, uneventful day and by 4.30 the snapper fraternity had largely drifted off thinking there was little to be gained in hanging around. It was getting dark.
"But I could sense the growing tension on the field, and during the penultimate over of the day Gatting walked over to the square leg umpire Shakoor Rana and they started pointing their fingers at each other. I had no idea what was going on but tempers flared.
The solitary sound of Morris' shutter clicking and whirring rang out while the other photographers who were still there, many of whom had little experience of cricket and no appreciation of the irregularity of the scene before them, looked on.
It was almost unprecedented for a cricket captain to be involved in such an unseemly skirmish with a Test umpire, and Morris knew the significance. News travelled fast and by the time he got back to his hotel room, newspapers from around the world were trying to reach him, desperate to make a purchase. So too were photographers who should have got the picture but didn't. They were pleading with him, he says, to hand over the negative in an attempt to salvage their reputations.
No chance. It was a genuine scoop and Morris had been in the business long enough to know he had a prized asset in his possession. His bank balance was about to get a major boost.
He sold thousands of copies. It was used in publications and posters all over the world, including the Baltimore Examiner in the States, a XXXX beer advertising campaign and a series of organisations and university departments dealing in stress and aggression.
Thirteen years on as England return to Pakistan for the first time since the incident, his phone has started ringing again. And there have been a few calls in between too.
"Paul Getty paid a few bob to have one in his collection," Morris explains. "And Gatting asked for one for his benefit brochure. I think he thought I was going to make him pay for it but how could I? It's made me a lot of money and besides I don't charge beneficiaries for pictures."
Shakoor Rana has never requested one but Morris is considering taking a copy with him on tour to Pakistan to get it signed. If he succeeds, its value will soar even higher unless, that is, someone else comes out of the woodwork with a rival picture.
"Even now, I cannot believe I was the only one to get it. There must be other pictures out there somewhere," he says nervously.
Whether one turns up or not, the incident ensured Morris was never left on his own again at a cricket match by rival photographers who to this day have nightmares about opportunities missed and fortunes lost that famous afternoon.
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