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To many, life doesn't get much better than being paid to play cricket inthe idyllic surroundings of the Caribbean. But cricket tours can begruelling affairs, and those in the West Indies mean almost non-stop travelling between islands. And when there are
July 15, 2006
To many, life doesn't get much better than being paid to play cricket in the idyllic surroundings of the Caribbean. But cricket tours can be gruelling affairs, and those in the West Indies mean almost non-stop travelling between islands. And when there are tensions within the squad, things can get extremely fractious. Even allowing for that, most sides manage to keep a façade of decorum. That, however, cannot be said for Kim Hughes's 1983-84 Australian tourists.
In fairness the side was in some disarray; the old guard which had made Australia such a force in the previous decade had departed - Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh had all retired after the final Test in Australia in January 1984 - and the new generation was badly affected by in-fighting and disunity. The scars of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket - in particular the way the captaincy had shuttled between Chappell and Hughes, while the eager Marsh was overlooked - ran deep through the Australian game.
It was against this backdrop that Hughes and his side set off for the Caribbean in February 1984 to play five Tests and four one-dayers. The omens were poor from the off. The series came at the end of a long, hard domestic season, and the captain had made it clear that he was unhappy with some of the players he had been given.
It was, therefore, of little surprise that the tour was dogged by ill-feeling and unrest within the Australian ranks. In the second Test, Rodney Hogg displayed outward aggression towards his own side, at one point taking a swing at his captain. In the third Test, Geoff Lawson, a qualified optician, reacted to a declined lbw appeal by removing the umpire's glasses and examining the lenses; in the same match David Hookes hurled his bat across a verandah in disgust at being given out caught behind. In the days before all-pervading television cameras and ICC match referees, these incidents attracted little more than passing comment.
But the nadir of the trip came on the final day of the Australians' drawn match against Trinidad & Tobago. The only possibility of a definite result was for the Trinidad captain to declare and set the Australians a target, but as his side's lead was small this was not an option. The Australian second innings began late on the last day, their target being an unlikely - but not impossible - 189 off about 24 overs.
Hughes stonewalled; it was the 17th over of the innings, after an hour, before he got off the mark with a massive six. With Matthews copying his captain at the other end, all runs were refused. As the situation deteriorated, Matthews was seen at the non-striker's end adjusting his thigh-pad with his trousers at half-mast while the bowler was delivering the ball. As is the custom, with no prospect of a result the umpires offered to end play half-an-hour early; Hughes refused and continued blocking.
Eventually Matthews was dismissed, but this did not end the absurdities. Wayne Phillips took to lying down as a succession of non-bowlers trundled in to the obdurate Hughes. As the final over was bowled Phillips had already removed his pads and protective equipment. When play did at last end Hughes had scored just ten runs (a four in addition to his six) in an hour and a quarter.
The tour committee could not overlook this display and Hughes was fined A$200. Not content to let the matter rest, Hughes compounded his ignominious behaviour by stating, in response to a question at the post-match press conference about what effect his actions would have on the sport in the area, that he could not care less about the welfare of Trinidad & Tobago cricket.
West Indies won the Test series 3-0 and the one-dayers 3-1. Within a year Hughes had resigned as Australia's captain - memorably shedding tears as he quit after losing to West Indies at Brisbane - and two games later his Test career was over.
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