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1974

It ain't over until it's over

In the days before television coverage was a given at almost every international match anywhere in the world, many controversial incidents, which would now be endlessly replayed and analysed were hardly even commented upon

Martin Williamson

February 19, 2005

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Derek Underwood bowls the last ball of the day to Bernard Julien who plays defensively to Tony Greig at silly point. As the players turn to walk off, Greig picks up the ball and throws down the stumps at the non-striker's end where Alvin Kallicharran is ambling off. He hits ths stumps, appeals, and umpire Sang Hue gives Kallicharran run-out © The Cricketer
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In the days before television coverage was a given at almost every international match anywhere in the world, many controversial incidents which would now be endlessly replayed and analysed were hardly even commented upon. It took something rather special to grab the headlines.

One such incident took place on the second day - a Sunday - of the first Test between West Indies and England at Port-of-Spain in February 1974.

The day was drawing to an end and the crowd, which had seen a magnificent hundred from Alvin Kallicharran guide West Indies to 274 for 6 in reply to England's disappointing 131, were drifting home as Kallicharran, unbeaten on 142, and Bernard Julien blocked out the closing overs.

The last ball was bowled by Derek Underwood to Julien who gently played a forward-defensive push past Tony Greig, who was fielding in his usual position of silly point, almost close enough that he could reach out and touch the batsman.

Everyone assumed that was that for the day ... except Greig. Alan Knott, England's wicketkeeper, flicked the bails off and uprooted the stumps, Julien turned towards the pavilion, and Kallicharran, who had backed up two or three yards at the non-striker's end, carried on walking down the pitch. But Greig turned, picked up the ball, and noticing that Kallicharran was out of his ground, threw down the stumps at the bowler's end. Douglas Sang Hue, the umpire at that end, had not called time, and after a few moments' hesitation, he gave Kallicharran out.

There was initial confusion. Greig clapped his hands and loped towards the dressing-rooms, there was a muted acceptance from the players after Kallicharran looked at Sang Hue, who shrugged his shoulders as if to show that he had no choice but to give him out. But those in the crowd who realised what had happened began to boo fiercely. As the "wickets" total on the scoreboard clicked over to seven, the row escalated.

The radio commentators were at the same time analysing what had happened, and they concluded that as Knott had removed the stumps at the striker's end, then play was over, whether Sang Hue had called time or not. This was enough for the scoreboard operators, who replaced the seven in the wickets column with a six. Most of the spectators left the ground believing that Kallicharran had been reinstated.

It wasn't that simple. A meeting involving the two captains, Donald Carr (England's tour manager), the umpires, and representatives of the West Indian board was hastily convened in the Port-of-Spain pavilion as police patrolled the ground in case of trouble (as it happens, a small fire was started under one of the stands).

The players, meanwhile, had changed, and Greig was driven back to his hotel by Garry Sobers, on the assumption that while the crowd might want Greig's blood, they would not touch him while he was with a legend like Sobers. There was no sign of tension between the two sets of players, either.

At Queen's Park Oval, however, the discussions were heated - but after more than two-and-a-half hours, common sense prevailed. Although Sang Hue stood by his decision, he was ultimately overruled but backed to the hilt for giving Kallicharran out.

A hasty press conference was called and the assembled media were told that Mike Denness, England's captain, and Carr had decided that "in the interest of cricket as a whole, and the future of this tour in particular ... the appeal against the batsman be withdrawn". The statement also carried an apology from Greig, who "in no way intended his instinctive actions to be contrary to the spirit of the game".

What could have been a crisis was resolved by some sensible diplomacy and sound common sense. What is remarkable is that nobody came out of the whole episode badly, not even Greig. Some critics moaned that the reversal of the decision had been a result of mob rule, and fear that the crowds the next day - and throughout the series - might turn ugly. But with hindsight, reinstating Kallicharran was right given the circumstances. Sometimes it is all about the interpretation of the laws rather than the letter of them.

The situation was further defused by the fact that the Monday was the scheduled rest day, and when play resumed on the Tuesday the matter had been discussed, dissected and done away with. Greig and Kallicharran publicly shook hands in the middle of the pitch before the resumption, and all was well.

Kallicharran added only 16 more runs on the third morning, during which time he was dropped three times, all off the offspinner Pat Pocock, before holing out to him for 158. West Indies went on to win the match by seven wickets.

As for Greig, it was not the last act of a highly controversial career, and not his last brush with the West Indies. By 1976 he had become England's captain, and ahead of that summer's home series against them, he uttered his infamous "grovel" jibe. The fallout from that lasted the whole tour.

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? E-mail us with your comments and suggestions.

Bibliography
Testing Time - Christopher Martin-Jenkins (Macdonald, 1974)
My Story Tony Greig (Stanley Paul, 1980)
The Cricketer April 1974
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1975

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