1981 November 13, 2010

'One of the most undignified incidents in Test history'

At Perth in November 1981, Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad were involved in an incident which tarnished not only their reputations, but also the image of Test cricket

Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad were two of cricket's most high-profile players in the 1980s. Both mixed brilliant play with an unfortunate tendency to attract controversy - and newspaper headlines. These two abrasive characters came up against each other when Pakistan toured Australia in 1981-82, with explosive consequences.

Pakistan arrived in October 1981 for a three-Test series under Miandad's captaincy. It was his first overseas trip as captain, and he was leading a side that contained deep divisions. Several senior players were unhappy with his appointment and made their dissatisfaction fairly clear. Wisden noted that "he did not appear to have the support of the whole team".

In the first Test, in Perth, Australia were bowled out for 180 after being put in on a moist pitch, but there was still enough juice to enable Lillee (5 for 18) and Terry Alderman (4 for 36) to rout Pakistan for 62 - they were 26 for 8 at one stage. Second time round, Australia piled up 424 for 8, setting Pakistan an almost impossible 543 to win and leaving them almost two days to survive.

Two early strikes by Alderman reduced Pakistan 27 for 2, when Miandad came out to bat. A fired-up Lillee, aided by a vociferous crowd, gave Miandad and Mansoor Akhtar a torrid time, but they held firm. With a decent third-wicket stand building, a tense situation then boiled over 40 minutes before tea.

Miandad turned Lillee behind square for a single, and in completing an easy run he collided with the bowler. Eyewitnesses agreed that Lillee was to blame and most observed that he had deliberately moved into the batsman's path. The two players' versions of events differ - both their autobiographies feature a lot of self-justification. Miandad claimed that Lillee blocked him and "pushed him out of the way"; Lillee's version of events has Miandad subjecting him to abuse as he approached and Lillee replying in kind - no mention of any contact.

As Lillee turned he maintained that Miandad struck him from behind with his bat; Miandad countered with the claim that Lillee had kicked him as he passed. What isn't in doubt is that Lillee then turned to confront Miandad, and Miandad lifted his bat above his head as if to strike him. The unedifying images of Tony Crafter, the umpire, stepping in to hold back Lillee while Miandad wielded his bat like a deranged javelin thrower were beamed around the world.

As Greg Chappell, Australia's captain, rushed to intervene, Lillee walked away, but after about six yards he turned and came back for more. Again Crafter and Chappell blocked him, and with it being the end of the over, he eventually headed out to the boundary. "When this sort of things happens I believe in an eye for an eye," he said at the close.

If the incident itself - described by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack as "one of the most undignified incidents in Test history" - was unacceptable, what followed off the pitch just rubbed salt in the wound. The media were in no doubt where the blame lay - with Lillee. Bob Simpson, the former Australian captain, wrote that it was "the most disgraceful thing I have seen on a cricket field". Keith Miller, in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, added that Lillee "should be suspended for the rest of the season", and Ian Chappell added that Lillee's actions were those of "a spoiled, angry child".

The Australian players - who sat in self-judgement on such matters in those days - found Lillee guilty but maintained he had been provoked and fined him A$200, a decision that attracted almost as much anger as the incident itself. The two umpires complained at the leniency of the punishment, and the under-fire Australian board swiftly convened a hearing.

But Greg Chappell supported Lillee, a position at odds with almost all the local media and much of the public. "If we thought he had been responsible in the first place for what happened, we'd have had no hesitation in rubbing him out," Chappell said, before trotting out a catalogue of previous clashes between the two countries as self-justification. "What Miandad did," he wrote, "was the most disgraceful thing I have seen on a cricket pitch." He even suggested that it had all been part of a plot by Pakistan to entrap Lillee.

Ijaz Butt, Pakistan's manager, who three decades later was to prove an even more outspoken figure than he was back then, filed a complaint with the Australian board. He claimed Lillee had been taunting his players from the start of the match by "mimicking, clapping, and his antics of sitting on the pitch" and concluded: "If he were one of my players he would not play Test cricket again." Butt's assistant Shafqat Rana said the fine was "pathetic".

Hours later, Crafter and his colleague, Mel Johnson, sent a formal letter of protest over Miandad's behaviour to Butt.

The next day Lillee went into the Pakistan changing room and apologised, but only for his reaction. Miandad and Butt immediately rejected the overture. "Lillee was concentrating on one word - retaliation - when he apologised," Miandad said. "Everyone can see he is guilty."

As the match drifted to a conclusion - Australia won by 286 runs - the tension mounted. After the finish, the Australian team sent a letter to the Pakistan management, condemning Miandad's action of "striking Dennis Lillee during play" and said Lillee had been "extremely provoked". Pakistan countered with an assertion that an apology was "uncalled for because the incident has been seen by everyone on television and it is clear the fault lies completely on the shoulders of Lillee".

The posturing continued. Lillee told reporters he would immediately retire if he was suspended, while Butt hinted to anyone who would listen that Pakistan might pack their bags and go home were no action to follow.

The ACB sat the next day and reduced the fine to A$120 but added a two-match ban. Cynics noted that the punishment ensured that Lillee missed two fairly low-key one-day internationals, and none of the Tests. Butt was appeased ("I am glad something has been done and the incident is now closed"), while after a night's sleep Lillee reconsidered his retirement threat and said: "The matter should now stay closed in all quarters."

The tour continued to be played under a cloud, not helped by the perception that Miandad had got away scot-free. Australia won the second Test by 10 wickets, with Lillee dismissing Miandad in both innings, while Pakistan got some consolation with an innings victory in the final match.

Lillee and Miandad eventually patched things up, though both continue to argue their relative innocence to this day.

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

Menace - Dennis Lillee (Headline, 2003)
Cutting Edge - Javed Miandad (Oxford University Press, 2003)
Wisden Cricket Monthly - Various
The Cricketer - Various
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1982

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Umair on November 16, 2010, 23:31 GMT

    @Hema_Adhikari - Yeah looks like nobody is more infected with Tendulkar Attraction Syndrome than you...hehe..by the way your latest post is nothing a piece of opinion which has no logical value. And please refer to previous posts where your point about Javeds average has already been countered. If you are to go by those standards than the best batsmen of modern era would be Ricky Ponting whose average doesnt drop against any team...see it to believe it...

  • Umair on November 16, 2010, 23:04 GMT

    @ Sai Prasad - Well the figures with respect to McGrath are one on one figures. Sachin scores at around 50 against Warne and other spinners including some other mediocre bolwers (like Fleming) but his average drops to 22 when we consider the one on one record. Also Sachin's average drops to 46 whenever McGrath is in the side (in Australia). I request you to read my previous posts to get a more clear picture. Thanks

  • Andrew on November 16, 2010, 22:47 GMT

    @sai prasad - being in a losing side does not preclude one from being considered the man of the match. MOTM Awards are subjective, but can be used for arguements - just not the be all & end all of debate. @Azam_Ali - true, they should never been compared in the first place, it was just specifically about overall match contribution. Anyways I don't particularly go on about it, because the arguement has blinkers on!

  • Umair on November 16, 2010, 22:34 GMT

    @Sai Prasad - No they do give Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards to the players in the losing teams as well. Seems a lot of time has passed since you checked last time. If I can recall correctly last time Sachin Tendulkar was awarded MOM in a losing match was in the one day series match against Australia (in India) during which he scored (something like 175) and had to chase something like 350. Also Sachin has been awarded MOM few times for his bowling performances. Besides this you need to be specific how many man of the match and man of the series in ODIs and Tests. We primarily here are doing a comparative analysis on Tests. Also I request you the same thing I request all Indian fans i.e. to not bluntly put statistics without any brain. As far as I remember man of the match awards became regular feature of tests in mid-80s. Sachin made his debut in 1988 and lot of former cricketers like Gavaskar, Sobers, Chappell, Miandad made their debut well before mid-80s.

  • Hema on November 16, 2010, 22:14 GMT

    Looks like TDS have become an epidemic. Everyone is suffering from it even Mr. Meety whom I used to think as pretty reasonable commentator. Comparing Imran to Bradman and Sachin is like comparing apples to oranges. They dont belong to the same category. Jokes aside both Miandad and Lille were overhyped players who did not perform well outside their comfort zones. Lille used to go to extremes to avoid tour to subcontinent where his average was sure to balloon. And thats why it is Malcolm Marshal and not Dennis Lille who is in the world eleven. Miandad's short coming (as evidenced by his avg. 29 against WI) against the short ball is well known as well. Can we stop arguing and agree that these two players got more recognition than they deserved?

  • Mars on November 16, 2010, 22:05 GMT

    @Meety: I think Gulshan has really exposed flawed in your reasoning. An allrounder is not necessarily better than a specialist. Expertise has its own place.

  • Mars on November 16, 2010, 22:03 GMT

    @Meety and U.A.1985 Saching has the most number of man of the match and man of the series awards. Last time I checked, they don't give those to players teams that lose matches. So your allegation of Saching scoring in losing matches is baseless. One more hilarious point you have raised is Sachin's average against Mc Grath. You see when a batsman scores a 100, the runs are scored against 4-5 of the bowlers of the opposition team. So on a average a batsman who scored a 100 averages approx 20 against each bowler. You want to compare Ponting's average against Harbhajan or Ishant, be my guest! Here are a few more stats about Sachin that may be of interest to you http://sachinandcritics.com/sachin_rec.php.

    very well said indeed.

  • Azam on November 16, 2010, 21:49 GMT

    there is no sense in comparing Imran with Sachin..Imran was the best all rounder of his times and sachin is the best batsman of his times..Imran was a great Captain,the only one to challenge windies in 80's and sachin is not a great captain..so they dont even belong to same category..I believe Imran can only be copmpeted by Sobers where imran still wins because of being a better captain

  • Umair on November 16, 2010, 19:05 GMT

    cont..d @Dynamite Kid

    4 - Sachin averages 46 against Australia (in Australia) in games where McGrath has played. This is way below his career average?

    5 - Sachin was found wanting against better Australian bowlers? If you observe the total of 4 series he has had in Australia he possesses an average of 46 for the first 2 series he had in Australia and 70 odd for the last two series in Australia. This goes to show that when better Australian bowlers like McDermott, McGrath and Reid were around Sachin scored pretty averagely like average batsmen?

    6 - Credibility of peer-evaluations, appeal to authority and various opinion soap operas? Kapil was named Indian Cricketer of the Century ahead of Tendulkar and Gavaskar but Legends of Cricket and Jenkings ranks Sachin way higher than Kapil? Theses are just opinions? No credibility? Basically you are unable to draw a conclusion based on these surveys which you are referring to.

  • Umair on November 16, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    @Dynamite Kid - You are asking me about rebuttals but you yourself are giving none. First you were running the show on Gavaskar v. Miandad then you introduced Tendulkar v. Miandad but the truth is you still havent answered follwoing hard facts:

    1 - Why does Gavaskar's avg drop in tests which India won?

    I know your reasoning that India didnt have great bowlers but the question is why did his average drop in tests which India won. This means that someone else in Indias batting order was performing the winning business and not Gavaskar thus Gavaskar was reliable batsmen to only lead you toward a draw

    2 - Is Sachin a flat track bully? Consider the he has scored in Aus, NZ, SA, WI & Eng; his average for playing in these places falls to 48; which is at least 8 average points lesser than his career average.

    3 - Sachin's poor record (avg 22.16) against the best Australian bowler of the modern era: Glenn McGrath?

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