June 11, 2010

Best of enemies

Following Sulieman Benn's spat with Chris Gayle, we look at other examples of team-mates falling out on and off the field
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Gerry Alexander and Roy Gilchrist (West Indies)
Most cricket spats are little more than macho posturing, involving handbags and, very occasionally, fisticuffs. But things turned a little darker during West Indies' tour of India in 1958-59, when the terrifying, unhinged fast bowler Gilchrist allegedly pulled a knife on his captain, Alexander. A mutual enmity that had festered all series exploded when Alexander told Gilchrist he was being sent home for persistently bowling beamers against the orders of his captain; it was then that Gilchrist supposedly pulled out a blade. The incident has never been confirmed, but given Gilchrist's track record, it is not exactly beyond the realms.

Graeme Swann and "a senior paceman" (England)
Never mind who shot JR, English cricket has a mystery all of its own. Swann's spectacular professional and personal fulfilment mean that he can now look back on his debut England tour, as a painfully immature 20-year-old to South Africa in 1999-2000, as a rite of passage rather than something that cost him an international career. He alienated his coach, Duncan Fletcher, bonded with Jack Daniels, and was chinned by a team-mate whose identity has never been formally revealed, although he has been described as one of the "senior pacemen"). And the contenders are...

Billy Bestwick and the rest of the Derbyshire team
All performers are used to being heckled, but not by their own team-mates. That was the absurd scenario at Worcester in 1922, with Derbyshire's Bestwick the man involved. Bestwick, a notorious boozer, had been left at the team hotel after a typically zesty session the night before. Suitably peeved, and armed with hungover fury, he paid to get into the ground and spent the rest of the day abusing his own side.

Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif (Pakistan)
Shoaib could start a fight in an empty room, so a perpetually combustible dressing room full of cricket equipment was always likely to land him in trouble at some stage. In 2007 he was sent home from the inaugural World Twenty 20 and banned for 13 matches by the PCB after hitting Asif with a bat. Shoaib said that he struck Asif by accident during a fight with Shahid Afridi. "Please don't portray me as a villain," he said. "I am not a villain."

Dermot Reeve and Brian Lara (Warwickshire)
It seemed like the definitive no-brainer: signing the best player in the world, who had just hammered a Test-record 375. But even Brian Lara would also smash the first-class record, scoring 501 not out in his first six weeks at Warwickshire, his relationship with his captain, Reeve - who was exasperated by Lara's assumption that he deserved special treatment - soon took a significant turn for the worse. Their relationship reached a nadir when Reeve called Lara a "prima donna" and Lara walked off the field. Sixteen years on, it seems fair to assume that they are not on one another's Christmas-card lists.

Mike Atherton and Phil DeFreitas (Lancashire)
He eventually became an extremely popular player, but DeFreitas had plenty of fallouts as a brash, egotistical youth. His kit was famously dumped over the Grace Road balcony by Jonathan Agnew in 1987, after DeFreitas had poured the entire contents of a salt cellar over Agnew's lunch. That led to a move to Lancashire, where he had a strained relationship with a young Mike Atherton. DeFreitas didn't get things off on the best footing by introducing himself to his new team-mate with the words "I don't like students". It wasn't exactly the start of a beautiful friendship, in the short-term at least. "More than once our captain, Neil Fairbrother, had to pull us apart (it cost Fairbrother a broken nose once)," wrote Atherton in 2005.

Graham Gooch and David Gower (England)
On the field they complemented each other perfectly, becoming one of England's most productive non-opening partnerships, but off the field the ideological differences between Gooch and Gower were always going to lead to problems. They came to a head during the Ashes tour of 1990-91, most notably when Gower was fined for the Tiger Moth incident. He was dropped but returned briefly in 1992. The same problems remained however: one said tomayto, the other tomahto, and Gooch decided to call the whole thing off.

Ken Rutherford and Murphy Su'a (New Zealand)
Nobody likes to be dropped, but when that fate befell New Zealand's Samoan seamer Su'a before a one-day international in the early 1990s, he reacted more chippily than most. He refused to train and then allegedly called his captain, Rutherford, a "white honky p****". The two continued to exchange pleasantries for a few minutes before Su'a skulked off. He then tried to change his airline ticket so that he could fly straight home.

Peter Roebuck and Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Joel Garner (Somerset)
One of the saddest of all disputes. In 1986, as Somerset's golden era faded away, the captain, Roebuck, pushed for replacements for Richards and Garner, who he felt were past their best. Botham went with them, branding Roebuck "Judas", and it was clear from the start that these were wounds that would never heal. "Such was my fury with Roebuck," wrote Botham, "that I could quite happily have watched him drowning in the river behind the Taunton ground without feeling any need to pull him out, but the only emotion he inspires in me now is pity." When Botham was knighted, Roebuck said, "With its declining culture and absurd aristocracy, England is welcome to him, deserves him."

Michael Clarke and Simon Katich (Australia)
Hell hath no fury like an Australian cricketer whose baggy green love-in is interrupted. That was most evident when, in Sydney in 2009, Michael Clarke tried to leave the dressing-room to meet his girlfriend before the rendition of the traditional victory song, Under The Southern Cross. After what is invariably described as "a frank exchange of views", Simon Katich grabbed Clarke by the throat and the pair had to be separated by team-mates.

Don Bradman and Bill O'Reilly (Australia)
Great teams often thrive despite rather than because of their team spirit. That was certainly the case with the brilliant Australian side of the 1930s, in which Bradman and O'Reilly, Protestant and Catholic, headed two distinct factions. Though they had total respect for each other's ability, their differences were irreconcilable from the start. Bradman eventually purged O'Reilly from the side and later attributed the success of the 1948 Invincibles partly to the loyalty he was shown in the absence of O'Reilly and Jack Fingleton - both of whom became journalists, with Fingleton, in particular, not at all reluctant to exercise his right of reply. When Bradman was dismissed for a duck in his final Test innings, the press box reverberated to the sound of both men collapsing in hysterical laughter.