Graham Morris talks about his iconic photograph November 24, 2005

Every picture tells a story

Graham Morris, who was covering the game as a freelancer, took what was to become one of sports most widely published and lucrative shots



Flashpoint: Graham Morris's historic photograph © Graham Morris
www.cricketpix.com

The Faisalabad Test of November 1987 has gone down as one of the most infamous games in cricket history, and the picture of England captain Mike Gatting and Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana jabbing fingers at each other has become symbolic of the dark side of not only cricket, but all sport.

What is not so well known is that only one photographer captured the incident. Graham Morris, who was covering the game as a freelancer, took what was to become one of sports' most widely published and lucrative shots.

The showdown came in the gloom at the very end of a long second day's play in a series which had already had its share of incident. Most of Morris's colleagues were in the process of packing away their equipment. But he had picked up that there was some edginess in the middle. "I had a radio receiver with me, an ordinary VHF radio, but I tuned it into the frequency of the stump microphones to pick up the ambient sound. And I heard discussions on the pitch which convinced me there was growing tension between the sides."

The light was poor (for the record, the shot was taken at 1/60th of a second with a 400mm lens at f2.8) but as Gatting and Rana turned on each other, Morris was ready to shoot. He recalled that his colleagues were helpless. "They just sat and watched, after the initial panic of trying to get their lens cases open again. As for their reaction, I think 'gutted' would sum it up. At least they were there. A photographer from a well-known sports picture agency announced to the assembled press corps that nothing was going to happen in this series and had gone home.



Morris during the Pakistan tour in 1987 © WCM
"Photography is my living and as a professional it has always been my motto never leave the ground until everything has closed down. You never know what you can miss out on."

As Morris rushed back to his hotel room to develop the film, the full impact of the incident was sinking in and newspapers across the world were scrambling for a picture. "I knew what I had taken at the time, I didn't have to wait to process it," he admitted. "I just didn't realise it would still be talked about 18 years later."

As word spread that Morris had the only shot ("I thought at the time I was sharing a picture with everyone else") he was suddenly in great demand, not only from newspapers but also from colleagues who had missed out. "I had a few knocks on my door from other agency photographers that night wanting the picture," he smiled. Morris, who had been taking cricket pictures since 1980, knew that he had something rather special. They went away empty handed.

Morris made serious money out of the picture, but admitted that photo itself is not something he is particularly proud of. "It's not one of the better pictures it just happened to be the incident. For cricket's sake, I wish it hadn't happened."

The image was used in a number of commercials - most famously for a beer - and has been reprinted in many books, and not only ones about cricket. And he revealed that Gatting himself had used it. "He 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."

Morris remains one of the game's best photographers and this week is back at Faisalabad covering the Test. He won't mind if it's a far quieter affair than it was in 1987.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo