Rewind to ... 1977 December 11, 2010

The thirty-year feud

In a week where Ian Botham and Ian Chappell had to be prised apart in a car park, Martin Williamson looks back at the 33-year feud between the pair
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Long-standing feuds, as opposed to brief rows, between players are not unknown in cricket and some of the game's greats have been involved in them. Don Bradman was almost always at odds with Bill O'Reilly and Jack Fingleton, so much so that when he was dismissed for 0 in his final Test innings the pair were reported to be rendered almost helpless with laughter. In the 1970s the animosity between Geoff Boycott and Ray Illingworth turned into genuine hatred.

Ian Botham seems to have rubbed more than one person up the wrong way. His animosity towards Peter Roebuck is well known, and he was another to fall out with Boycott. But perhaps the most acrimonious and violent dispute is the one between Botham and Ian Chappell. Neither man is known for backing down in the face of conflict, nor does either mince words. That heady mix has ensured that a deep resentment which started three decades ago continues to this day.

The whole thing kicked off during the Centenary Test at Melbourne in March 1977. Botham, at the time an 21-year-old with no shortage of self-belief and two ODIs under his belt, was in Australia playing club cricket on a scholarship. Chappell, who had retired from Test cricket 18 months earlier with a reputation for being a pugnacious batsman and uncompromising captain, had quit the first-class game to play for North Melbourne.

The pair found themselves in a bar at the MCG, next to the Hilton Hotel, during the match. On that they agree. On almost everything else that happened, they offer wildly different views.

According to Botham, Chappell was holding court and indulging in some fairly vocal Pommie bashing which got under his skin and so the pair clashed. Chappell, in a more detailed account, recounts a conversation which centred around one claiming that Australians were second rate and the other that England were much the same.

According to Chappell, Botham accused him of not wanting to tour England in the following summer (1977) because "too many blokes were looking to knocking his block off," adding for good measure that "everyone's looking for you because you're a prick". He then claimed that Botham put a glass to his throat and warned him he would "cut him from ear to ear", an accusation Botham vigorously denied. "The day I have to resort to that," he wrote in his autobiography, "is the day I know there is something wrong."

After a few more words either Botham punched Chappell and sent him flying backwards off his chair into a crowd of Aussie Rules players scattering their drinks (Botham version) or he pushed him backwards off the chair and got hysterically angry (Chappell).

"As I got up, he suggested we settle it outside," Chappell recalled almost 30 years later." I replied: 'I don't fight. You either finish up in jail or hospital and I don't intend visiting either over a **** like you'."

Chappell then fled the bar making a final rude comment at Botham as he left, resulting in Botham sprinting out of the bar and hurdling a car bonnet to get at him (Botham) or he calmly walked out of the bar pursued by a ranting Botham who had to be restrained by one of Chappell's team-mates (Chappell).

"As far as I am concerned it is par for the course," Chappell wrote of Botham's version of events. "As far as I am concerned, Chappell as human being is a nonentity," Botham retorted.

The pair clashed again in 1979-80 when Chappell was on the comeback trail after World Series Cricket and Botham was in Australia with Mike Brearley's ill-fated England side. After Botham had dismissed Chappell for 0 in a state game, with an appropriate send-off, the two men met in a Benson & Hedges ODI.

Chappell made an unbeaten 60, in the course of which Botham bowled a bouncer which was a no-ball. By his own admission, Chappell needed no excuse to have a go, warning Botham that if he did it again he had "better hit me because if it doesn't I'm going to come down there and whack you with bat."

In between innings Brearley contacted Greg Chappell, Australia's captain, and demanded an apology. It never came. When Botham came out Ian Chappell sidled up to Dennis Lillee and told him that Botham would be expecting a bouncer so to bowl a yorker. Lillee dug the first ball in short and it disappeared for six. The following over Rodney Hogg took Chappell's advice and trapped Botham leg-before.

"There are many skeletons dangling in Botham's cupboard, ranging from stories of drug-taking to general thuggery, and if he keeps peddling his lies, there's every chance more of these stories will emerge"
Chappell interviewed when Botham received his knighthood

Whereas people often tend to mellow with age, not so in this instance. They both simmer. Chappell recounts the story of when the two were on a current affairs programme in the 1990s and the host turned to Botham and asked whether the two would have a drink at the end of the day. "Yea," replied Botham. "That's cricket. You sit down and have a beer or a wine." The host then turned to Chappell. "And you?" "No," he said. "I can find plenty of decent people to have a drink with ... I won't be drinking with him."

There were fireworks expected when Channel Nine hired Botham to commentate on the 1998-99 Ashes alongside Chappell, one of their permanent team. On hearing the news Chappell said: "That's all right as long as they don't expect me to socialise with him because I certainly won't be doing that." And asked about the 1977 incident, he answered: "I haven't had many words with him since ... it would suit me if I never spoke to the guy again."

It is believed the pair have not spoken since 1980 even though they have often been in close proximity as commentators. While the initial argument may belong to ancient history, neither man is willing to accept their own version of events is wrong and, by definition, that the other is simply not telling the truth.

When Botham was knighted in 2007, Chappell was, inevitably, asked for his opinion and in Bulletin magazine said: "There are many skeletons dangling in Botham's cupboard, ranging from stories of drug-taking to general thuggery, and if he keeps peddling his lies, there's every chance more of these stories will emerge. Someone is going to regret awarding him a knighthood. And then, again harking back to that night in Melbourne, added: "Apart from having us in the same bar, the rest is a fairytale."

Both men are now grandfathers, and yet the animosity rumbles on, perhaps because neither is the kind to blink first. The latest scrap in a car park at the Adelaide Oval suggests they might well be firing verbal broadsides with the occasional flurry of fisticuffs for many years to come.

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

Bibliography
My Autobiography Ian Botham (Collins Willow, 1994)
Hitting Out Ashley Mallett with Ian Chappell (Orion, 2005)

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

  • POSTED BY bkraks21 on | December 13, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    @SrinR - Most of the aussie commentators suck. They will favor australia no matter what the match situation. Not only that they will even justify staright forward drop cathches.

  • POSTED BY IPLisdull on | December 13, 2010, 5:42 GMT

    it was good to see at least one Aussie showing some fighting spirit against the Poms in adelaide...

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 23:48 GMT

    This is the real ashes, at least its between 2 strong sides with pride on the line. Like all of these cases the truth is somewhere in between. I smell a charity boxing match...

  • POSTED BY bumsonseats on | December 12, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    i think its just a kane and abel story. iv found itb as a cricketer was great i watched many test matches during his time inc his 1st test. ic i did not see much of but was a hard cricketer. as a commentator itb is average. ic iv found till at least the last couple of years was always down on england whatever they did. but during the last few year on cricinfo and on his tv work has mellowed or at least so it seems and his pieces on he iv found very good and honest. on the whole i think as older adults they are similar. if they were kids u would smack their backsides. dpk

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 12:41 GMT

    Finally, after all the gloomy news about Zidane and Matterazzi shaking hands we finally have two real men who stick to their pride and fight it out to the finish. Good on you and please don't stop the entertainment ever

  • POSTED BY pakwellwisher on | December 12, 2010, 6:24 GMT

    @subbs_97 I am not surprised at all. Ian Botham's comments reflect the typically sick british mentality.

  • POSTED BY Australia17594 on | December 12, 2010, 6:06 GMT

    How come in the versions Botham makes himself to be the worse person of the two? Threw a bonnett?? Punched Chappell? jeez, aren't they using walking sticks now?

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 4:11 GMT

    Come on youse two blokes bury the hatchet will yah life is too short

  • POSTED BY zingzangspillip on | December 12, 2010, 3:46 GMT

    Whatever cause these two may have to continue this feud, Chappell has no right to question Botham's knighthood. Apart from being a great cricketer, he has also raised millions of pounds for leukaemia research, which is a plus in my book. I've not met him, so I can't really speak to his character, but if he is a jerk, he certainly wouldn't be the first jerk to be knighted. This sounds like a clash of personality between two men who can't bear to concede that the feud is over bugger all.

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 3:38 GMT

    Come on youse two blokes bury the hatchet will yah life is too short

  • POSTED BY bkraks21 on | December 13, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    @SrinR - Most of the aussie commentators suck. They will favor australia no matter what the match situation. Not only that they will even justify staright forward drop cathches.

  • POSTED BY IPLisdull on | December 13, 2010, 5:42 GMT

    it was good to see at least one Aussie showing some fighting spirit against the Poms in adelaide...

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 23:48 GMT

    This is the real ashes, at least its between 2 strong sides with pride on the line. Like all of these cases the truth is somewhere in between. I smell a charity boxing match...

  • POSTED BY bumsonseats on | December 12, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    i think its just a kane and abel story. iv found itb as a cricketer was great i watched many test matches during his time inc his 1st test. ic i did not see much of but was a hard cricketer. as a commentator itb is average. ic iv found till at least the last couple of years was always down on england whatever they did. but during the last few year on cricinfo and on his tv work has mellowed or at least so it seems and his pieces on he iv found very good and honest. on the whole i think as older adults they are similar. if they were kids u would smack their backsides. dpk

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 12:41 GMT

    Finally, after all the gloomy news about Zidane and Matterazzi shaking hands we finally have two real men who stick to their pride and fight it out to the finish. Good on you and please don't stop the entertainment ever

  • POSTED BY pakwellwisher on | December 12, 2010, 6:24 GMT

    @subbs_97 I am not surprised at all. Ian Botham's comments reflect the typically sick british mentality.

  • POSTED BY Australia17594 on | December 12, 2010, 6:06 GMT

    How come in the versions Botham makes himself to be the worse person of the two? Threw a bonnett?? Punched Chappell? jeez, aren't they using walking sticks now?

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 4:11 GMT

    Come on youse two blokes bury the hatchet will yah life is too short

  • POSTED BY zingzangspillip on | December 12, 2010, 3:46 GMT

    Whatever cause these two may have to continue this feud, Chappell has no right to question Botham's knighthood. Apart from being a great cricketer, he has also raised millions of pounds for leukaemia research, which is a plus in my book. I've not met him, so I can't really speak to his character, but if he is a jerk, he certainly wouldn't be the first jerk to be knighted. This sounds like a clash of personality between two men who can't bear to concede that the feud is over bugger all.

  • POSTED BY on | December 12, 2010, 3:38 GMT

    Come on youse two blokes bury the hatchet will yah life is too short

  • POSTED BY Scgboy on | December 12, 2010, 1:54 GMT

    I actually read something of this account in Dennis lillie's autobiography, hes view was (and he likes Botham as well as chapple obviously) that he doesn't knows whose right , but hes not stupid enough to stand in between them either. Nuff said.

  • POSTED BY jazzmaster on | December 12, 2010, 0:50 GMT

    I bet that they occasionally meet in secret for a drink and have a bloody good laugh about how they've dined out on this so-called "feud' for years.

  • POSTED BY on | December 11, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    Well, I guess there isn't much they can do. They are also human being, and by some chance they were also outstanding players.

  • POSTED BY Mr_Mojo on | December 11, 2010, 20:02 GMT

    Why is everybody cribbing about them fighting. I just hope someone is around with a camera when the next set of punches are inevitably thrown and the video surfaces on youtube and goes viral

  • POSTED BY on | December 11, 2010, 19:49 GMT

    The Chappell- Botham feud

  • POSTED BY Ashique129 on | December 11, 2010, 18:50 GMT

    When I first started watching cricket back in 1986, I only knew these guys from their records and legacy. Botham was still active but not kicking, and was fading before he hit 30. But what he achieved by then may not be matched by another allrounder ever again. Then I've heard folks like Imran Khan (my favorite) calling Ian C as one of his favorite captains, and a fierce competitor. I started paying attention to his commentary and I was blown away with his way of thinking and toughness. He became my favorite instantly. It's funny that they are both 'Ian's, and yet how far apart. Yet I feel they both have more in common than differences. Would've been great to see them play for the same country :)

  • POSTED BY dsig3 on | December 11, 2010, 17:01 GMT

    This is what makes the ashes the greatest rivalry in the cricketing world. You cant manufacture this sort of stuff. I like them both but I wouldn't necessarily want to spend time in either company. Fantastic!

  • POSTED BY AndyZaltzmannsHair on | December 11, 2010, 14:29 GMT

    60 year old men that really should know better. Remind me again to never listen to Ian Chappell next time he slams a player on air for being petulant or bickering. Seriously what were the two gonna do in the car park anyway, break a hip?

  • POSTED BY shanghaibatsman on | December 11, 2010, 14:22 GMT

    I agree with george204 on that the reason for the argument has changed many times. The first time I heard of this it was about who was the better batsmen Viv or Greg Chappell. Now it seems to be about something else.Chappell is a better commentator but so what.What I can not understand with so many people there why haven't we got an independent account.Was everyone so drunk?

  • POSTED BY on | December 11, 2010, 12:55 GMT

    Watch this legends fighting...

  • POSTED BY Hillaire on | December 11, 2010, 12:30 GMT

    While Botham might be egocentric, he was also the greatest thing to happen to English cricket in the modern era and certainly the young Botham was not overrated as a cricketer. If only he had kept himself fit the mind boggles as to what he could have achieved, because he achieved enough as it was. Don't really care who's right or who's wrong in this feud, but I know who I'd far rather have a beer with and thats Botham.

  • POSTED BY Fleetwood--Smith on | December 11, 2010, 12:29 GMT

    Shame that these two outstanding players cannot bury the hatchet after all these years(except in each others backs!) Both of them have shown a willingness to use their cricketing fame for the betterment of the world - Botham with his charity walks, while Ian Chappell has been a strong advocate for various human rights issues in Australia in recent years, including the plight of refugees in detention centres, as well as helping to promote aid in African countries. Seems they are both too much the alpha male to back down after all these years, for an affair which does neither of them any credit.

  • POSTED BY imetpkd on | December 11, 2010, 12:25 GMT

    Carry on mates , we all will have some fun to look forward to

  • POSTED BY on | December 11, 2010, 11:28 GMT

    Who cares about their fight anyway? I am surprised by the number of people "taking sides" in this silly fight. Seriously, haven't you guys got your own matters to deal with?

  • POSTED BY EjazMahmood on | December 11, 2010, 9:28 GMT

    I thought cricket was a GENTLEMEN'S sport.

  • POSTED BY Subbs_97 on | December 11, 2010, 9:00 GMT

    Thanks for an interesting rewind to this feud. I had to write in because of something I saw of Botham in what I would call an "unguarded moment" on television. It was during a test match at Chandigarh between England and India, and the broadcast was being beamed to Singapore (where I live). This particular network did not quite go off the air between innings or before start of play/live recording, and so we got to to see Botham on the field (accompanied that day by Sivaramakrishnan) with a microphone. Perhaps unaware that the feed was going to Singapore, Sir Ian was airing his famously honest views on things Indian in general, and the Chandigarh facilities in particular. His language was extremely colourful, and splattered with four-letter words beginning with both f and s (I don't recall if fornicating with familiy members was also part of the tirade, I just wish I had recorded the damn thing!:(). Why this boorishness was tolerated by the network is beyond me!

  • POSTED BY sideliner on | December 11, 2010, 8:58 GMT

    To Longdonkey - funniest comment i have ever read on this site. As for this story, it just highlights that sporting stars generally should not be taken too seriously - nor idolised. Having said that, i'd love I. Chappell to be captaining the aussie side right now.

  • POSTED BY nickvegas on | December 11, 2010, 8:29 GMT

    prasanthch, your comments have zero zero substance. Where has Chappell ever shown any jealously. In fact I think that Chappell is the most even handed and thoughtful commentators in the game and his playing record is 2nd to none. Botham on the other hand is vastly over rated as a player and based his reputation on a few lucky innings against a poor Australian team. In his autobiography he suggests that Aussies consideer his attitude to the game as being more Australian than English. What a laugh! Nobody will ever love Botham more than himself.

  • POSTED BY george204 on | December 11, 2010, 8:24 GMT

    The funny thing is that both men's accounts of the original confrontation have changed markedly over the years, I doubt either man can even remember what actually happened.

    IIRC, the current affairs program you mention was the BBC in 1993 (Chappell came over in the summer to commentate on the Ashes). I can vaguely remember thinking how petty Chappell seemed for not taking the chance to put the feud to bed (it was, as you say, Botham who offered the olive branch).

    Chappell seems the more consumed of the two men by spite/resentment - it has become drearily predictable that whenever Botham is in the news (e.g. the knighthood), Chappell can be relied on to make some unpleasant comments.

  • POSTED BY SrinR on | December 11, 2010, 8:13 GMT

    Disagree with nzcricket, Chappell is vastly better as a commentator. He offers intelligent analysis as opposed to the occasional grunts of Botham when he is on commentary. As a person, Chappell definitely comes across as more personable than Botham.

  • POSTED BY Dubby49 on | December 11, 2010, 8:13 GMT

    longdonkey wins the prize for the only sensible comment.

  • POSTED BY Something_Witty on | December 11, 2010, 7:26 GMT

    I'd be likely to believe Ian Chappell to be honest. Botham is a ridiculously egocentric braggart who can't go more than a day without spewing some biased pommy propaganda. At least Chappell is honest. One of the most ridiculous things I ever heard was when Botham was commentating on the recent ODI series, Aus vs Eng. It was the end of the Australian innings and they had batted first and made 290. Botham said something along the lines of "Well that's not a great score, Australia didn't bat that well really". Shortly thereafter, England was bundled out for 230 or so, and what did he say? Did he amend his statement and say "whoops I must've misjudged what a "great score" is."? Nope. He simply came out with something to the effect of "Well Australia didn't bowl that well, England's batsmen were just irresponsible because it was a dead rubber." - If I ever hear Ian Chappell come out with something equally ridiculous, I will lose any respect that I have for him as well.

  • POSTED BY prasanthch on | December 11, 2010, 6:34 GMT

    Ian chappel after all his age and experience couldnt come out of his teenage mental weakness. He should have atleast learned to control his jealousy and hatred against better players than him and his country players atleast infront of media. Its surprising he never learned dignity from his age. All his predictions goes wrong and still claims to be an expert. Cricket boards should make sure that these persons who breathes quarrels shouldnt enter the grounds.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | December 11, 2010, 6:14 GMT

    Neither man could be described as intellectual. They are both given to wild overstatement and inability to analyse. I suppose they are kept on their respective broadcasting teams because they are 'characters', as well as being good natural cricketers. I'm not at all interested in their opinions of each other and if I want sensible discussion about cricket these two would be low down on my list. At least Botham has put his celebrity to good use in raising money for charity and I commend him for that. Chappell may have done the same (I am not aware if he has or not) and, if so, good on him, too. I just don't think either adds much to my understanding of test cricket.

  • POSTED BY SUNDOS on | December 11, 2010, 5:50 GMT

    Makes one wonder when two greats whose skills while playing and reading of the game after retirement could have sunk into sheer loutish behaviour.Don;t give an inch may have been the motto they both lived by but for a generation of cricketers who grew up with stories of the cricketing urban legends of these two gentlemen(?)it's an unseemly row.

  • POSTED BY _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on | December 11, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    lol this is the most childish story I have read in years, these 2 need to stop the nonsense.

  • POSTED BY nzcricket174 on | December 11, 2010, 4:35 GMT

    Ian Botham is a better commentator, but he is an arrogant prick.

  • POSTED BY Ozcricketwriter on | December 11, 2010, 4:33 GMT

    I don't like either of them!

  • POSTED BY on | December 11, 2010, 3:57 GMT

    I had respect for Ian Chappell as the only Chappell with some self-respect (the other 2 would never be in anyone's good book after the under-arm incident). But now reading this I loose that respect for Ian!

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  • POSTED BY on | December 11, 2010, 3:57 GMT

    I had respect for Ian Chappell as the only Chappell with some self-respect (the other 2 would never be in anyone's good book after the under-arm incident). But now reading this I loose that respect for Ian!

  • POSTED BY Ozcricketwriter on | December 11, 2010, 4:33 GMT

    I don't like either of them!

  • POSTED BY nzcricket174 on | December 11, 2010, 4:35 GMT

    Ian Botham is a better commentator, but he is an arrogant prick.

  • POSTED BY _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on | December 11, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    lol this is the most childish story I have read in years, these 2 need to stop the nonsense.

  • POSTED BY SUNDOS on | December 11, 2010, 5:50 GMT

    Makes one wonder when two greats whose skills while playing and reading of the game after retirement could have sunk into sheer loutish behaviour.Don;t give an inch may have been the motto they both lived by but for a generation of cricketers who grew up with stories of the cricketing urban legends of these two gentlemen(?)it's an unseemly row.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | December 11, 2010, 6:14 GMT

    Neither man could be described as intellectual. They are both given to wild overstatement and inability to analyse. I suppose they are kept on their respective broadcasting teams because they are 'characters', as well as being good natural cricketers. I'm not at all interested in their opinions of each other and if I want sensible discussion about cricket these two would be low down on my list. At least Botham has put his celebrity to good use in raising money for charity and I commend him for that. Chappell may have done the same (I am not aware if he has or not) and, if so, good on him, too. I just don't think either adds much to my understanding of test cricket.

  • POSTED BY prasanthch on | December 11, 2010, 6:34 GMT

    Ian chappel after all his age and experience couldnt come out of his teenage mental weakness. He should have atleast learned to control his jealousy and hatred against better players than him and his country players atleast infront of media. Its surprising he never learned dignity from his age. All his predictions goes wrong and still claims to be an expert. Cricket boards should make sure that these persons who breathes quarrels shouldnt enter the grounds.

  • POSTED BY Something_Witty on | December 11, 2010, 7:26 GMT

    I'd be likely to believe Ian Chappell to be honest. Botham is a ridiculously egocentric braggart who can't go more than a day without spewing some biased pommy propaganda. At least Chappell is honest. One of the most ridiculous things I ever heard was when Botham was commentating on the recent ODI series, Aus vs Eng. It was the end of the Australian innings and they had batted first and made 290. Botham said something along the lines of "Well that's not a great score, Australia didn't bat that well really". Shortly thereafter, England was bundled out for 230 or so, and what did he say? Did he amend his statement and say "whoops I must've misjudged what a "great score" is."? Nope. He simply came out with something to the effect of "Well Australia didn't bowl that well, England's batsmen were just irresponsible because it was a dead rubber." - If I ever hear Ian Chappell come out with something equally ridiculous, I will lose any respect that I have for him as well.

  • POSTED BY Dubby49 on | December 11, 2010, 8:13 GMT

    longdonkey wins the prize for the only sensible comment.

  • POSTED BY SrinR on | December 11, 2010, 8:13 GMT

    Disagree with nzcricket, Chappell is vastly better as a commentator. He offers intelligent analysis as opposed to the occasional grunts of Botham when he is on commentary. As a person, Chappell definitely comes across as more personable than Botham.