Martin Williamson
Executive editor, ESPNcricinfo, and managing editor, ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Graham Morris talks about his iconic photograph

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

Martin Williamson

November 24, 2005

Text size: A | A

Flashpoint: Graham Morris's historic photograph © Graham Morris


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

RSS Feeds: Martin Williamson

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Email Feedback Print
Martin WilliamsonClose
Related Links

    What is Rohit Sharma's role?

Should India have practised slip catching in the nets? Who will play at the G?

    'I'd like to have faced the West Indies quicks'

Northamptonshire's David Willey picks his ideal partner for a jungle expedition, and talks about his famous dad

    Benn shows up in body and spirit

Tony Cozier: The spinner has brought in a sense of discipline into his bowling and behaviour on the field since his Test comeback

    The return of Bob Simpson

Rewind: When the 41-year-old former captain came out of retirement to lead Australia against India

Bowling to blame for India's poor overseas record

Kartikeya Date: The inability to build pressure by denying runs, even on helpful pitches, is India's biggest problem

News | Features Last 7 days

What ails Rohit and Watson?

Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena

The perfect Test

After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.

Hazlewood completes quartet of promise

Josh Hazlewood has been on Australian cricket's radar since he was a teenager. The player that made a Test debut at the Gabba was a much-improved version of the tearaway from 2010

Australia in good hands under proactive Smith

The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game

Karn struggles to stay afloat

The failed gamble of handing Karn Sharma a Test debut despite him having a moderate first-class record means India have to rethink who their spinner will be

News | Features Last 7 days