Fight night

Harbhajan v Sreesanth was the latest in a long list of instances where cricketers came to blows - with each other or otherwise

Brydon Coverdale

May 1, 2008

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Harbhajan Singh slapped his India team-mate Sreesanth during an IPL game last week, but it was hardly the first time players have come to blows, with each other or with spectators, either on the field or off it. Cricinfo looks at XI instances where cricketers have got physical.


Take that ... Andrew Symonds dishes out a knockout blow © Getty Images
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Andrew Symonds and Robert Ogilvie
Don't recognise the second name? His backside may be more identifiable. Ogilvie was the streaker who ran onto the Gabba in March during a CB Series ODI between Australia and India. The police were having trouble nailing the intruder until they received some comprehensive assistance from the batsman. Symonds, who sometimes trains with the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team, put his skills to the test by shoulder-charging the naked Ogilvie when he got a bit close for comfort. Only one man was ever going to come off worse in that collision, and the dazed streaker was duly carted away and charged. Ogilvie was fined A$1500 but might have made a profit from the incident; he was reportedly paid A$7500 by Channel Nine to tell his story.

Abdul Qadir
The laidback Symonds didn't have to move far to deck Ogilvie but in 1987-88 Qadir expended significant energy trying to give a spectator his comeuppance. It was during the third Test in Bridgetown and Qadir, toiling away against a strong West Indies batting line-up, had a confident appeal turned down by umpire David Archer. At the end of the over Qadir snatched back his cap and went to field on the boundary, where the local supporters let him know who was on top. Qadir could not resist snapping back at the hecklers, but things took a turn for the worse when he jumped the fence and punched one of them. Qadir played on and had the winning four struck off his bowling, before the police took him away and asked him to explain his actions. The bruised fan collected an out-of-court settlement of US$1000 and Qadir departed Barbados without facing charges.

Peter McAlister and Clem Hill
Hill was known as one of the most graceful batsmen Australia had produced around the turn of the century, but in 1912 he proved he could also be something of a hard man.

A mutual dislike had simmered between Hill and McAlister, a former Test colleague, for years. McAlister upset his team-mates in 1909 by effectively acting as a spy for the board during a tour to England - the board and the players had been at odds for a decade. Three years later the two were both national selectors; Hill was also the Test captain. McAlister had made a series of disrespectful comments about Hill, privately and in the media, and McAlister suggested Hill should drop himself from the side. The animosity came to a head at a selection meeting in Sydney when, depending on which report is believed, Hill either slapped or punched McAlister, and a 20-minute brawl ensued, with Hill almost throwing his opponent out of a third-storey window. After it was all over, Hill went back to his hotel and the meeting continued.


Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad clash at Perth © WCM
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Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad
Described by Wisden as "one of the most undignified incidents in Test history", the fracas between Lillee and Miandad in a Test at the WACA in 1981-82 produced some of the most memorable images in modern cricket. There were varied accounts of how the scrap started but the accepted version was that Miandad took off for a run and Lillee stepped into his way. After the physical clash and the verbal follow-up came the stance that over the next 25 years became instantly recognisable to cricket fans. Miandad had his bat raised, apparently ready to strike, while Lillee was poised with fists clenched. Fortunately for the game, the umpire Tony Crafter jumped between the two and halted the nasty incident. Lillee, who was generally blamed for the mess, copped a A$200 fine that was later reduced to A$120 and a two-match suspension.

Charlie Parker and Pelham Warner
Regarded during the 1920s as the best left-arm spinner in England, Parker remarkably managed only one Test in addition to his 634 first-class appearances for Gloucestershire. His temperament was largely to blame. Renowned as a rule-breaker with left-wing leanings, Parker, not surprisingly, did not get along with Pelham Warner, who was the ultimate establishment figure. Problematically for Parker, Warner was also the chairman of selectors during the 1920s.

The pair clashed in a lift at the Grand Hotel in Bristol when Parker grabbed Warner by the lapels and gave him a piece of his mind. When asked to make way in a lift for Warner, Parker reportedly said: "I'll never in my life make way for that bugger. He's never once had a good word to say for me. This so-and-so has blocked my Test career. I played once in 1921 and he made sure I never played again. Make way for him? Mr Bloody Warner will go to bed when I've finished with him." Parker held on to the lapels for almost 30 seconds before letting Warner go. "The bastard," Parker muttered as Warner scuttled off. "He alone ruined my chances."

Billy Barnes
This year Jesse Ryder punched a bar-room window, injured his hand, and was subsequently unavailable for his country, but it was hardly a cricketing first. In 1884-85 the England allrounder Barnes missed the second Test against Australia after trying to punch Percy McDonnell, the opposing captain. A heavy drinker, often during matches, Barnes was not as sharp as he might have been and perhaps saw multiple McDonnells, swinging at the wrong one. In a move reminiscent of incompetent movie henchmen, Barnes missed his target and landed his fist on a brick wall, which ruled him out of the next Test and some other matches.

George O'Brien and Steven Outerbridge
At the World Cup in 2007 Bermuda may not have proven themselves a cricketing powerhouse, but their players clearly take the game seriously. So seriously that in July 2005, during the highly regarded annual Cup Match, a pair of the country's international players came to blows.

O'Brien, a fast bowler for the St George club, allegedly punched the Somerset batsman Outerbridge on the jaw after Outerbridge supposedly spat on him. Both men were made to issue public apologies and O'Brien was handed a two-year suspended ban. He was also shipped off to Brisbane for extra winter training, although transportation to Australia is not the punishment it once was.

Rashid Patel and Raman Lamba
Finals are often tense occasions but the last afternoon of the Duleep Trophy final between North Zone and West Zone in 1990-91 took things to a whole new level. Lamba and Rashid had been niggling each other throughout the match, which featured a long and defensive innings of 729 for 9 in North Zone's first innings. Lamba made 180 and the effort helped ensure North Zone would secure the title. But in the closing stages of the match, Rashid let his temper get the better of him. He aimed a beamer at Lamba's head, then followed up by grabbing a stump and chasing the batsman all the way to the boundary. It led to a crowd riot, a 13-month ban for Rashid and a ten-month suspension for Lamba.

Looking back on the incident this month, in light of the Harbhajan-Sreesanth clash, Rashid said: "Look, cricketers are generally good guys, but things happen in the heat of the moment, when the pressure gets to you. In my case, North Zone piled up 700-plus runs. To me, they were playing defensive cricket. I was provoked by Raman and got very angry."


Snow and Gavaskar ... the heavyweight fells the bantamweight © The Cricketer
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John Snow and Sunil Gavaskar
Snow was more than six feet tall; Gavaskar stood 5' 5". A clash between the pair would inevitably make Snow look bad. That was exactly what happened in a Test at Lord's in 1971 when the batsman, Gavaskar, took off for a run and the bowler, Snow, changed direction to intercept the ball.

"The hefty fast bowler gave me a violent shove," was how Gavaskar later described the incident. Snow recalled what ran through his mind at the time: "As I made contact and Gavaskar started to fall, I could sense the shocked silence in the MCC committee room. I knew I was going to be in trouble." It did not help that as Gavaskar got up off the ground, Snow tossed his bat back with, as the Times noted, "not the best will in the world". Though a formal suspension was not imposed, the media were told that Snow was not considered for the next Test for disciplinary reasons.

Michael Clarke and Chris Gayle
Gayle has a reputation as cricket's Mr Cool, which made it especially surprising that he lost his temper in a Champions Trophy match against Australia in Mumbai in October 2006. Clarke denied reports that he had sparked the tension by calling Gayle a "second-class citizen" but Gayle, who was fined 30% of his match fee, made it clear who he thought was to blame. "Any system which penalises someone for reacting to a situation but does not reprimand the instigator of that situation needs some sort of review," Gayle wrote at the time. There had been plenty of chatter between the pair and the moment appeared to get the better of Gayle, who at one stage fielded off his own bowling and hurled the ball back at Clarke, shying at the stumps. He also shadowed Clarke between overs, getting closer and closer before appearing to nudge the batsman with his shoulder.

Andre Adams and Bevan Griggs
New Zealand domestic cricket is not renowned for making headlines but Adams ensured there was more than the usual press coverage of a match between Auckland and Central Districts in March 2007. Griggs was batting when he had his helmet grabbed by his opponent, Adams, who shook the grille and left Griggs with a cut lip. Adams copped a one-match ban, but in an unusual move New Zealand Cricket appealed the decision by the code of conduct commissioner, believing it was too lenient. Adams, at the time a fringe ODI player, had his suspension increased to a month, although there was a degree of fence-sitting as the sentence would have been reviewed had he been called into the World Cup squad while suspended. Griggs said he would have been happy to resolve the matter "by a handshake".

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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