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Henry Cowen

The Ten: Crickileaks

by Henry Cowen

A leak, as the old saying sort of goes, is not just a town in Staffordshire. Sometimes, information just gets out, willfully or otherwise. Jo Harman and Henry Cowen remember 10 famous cricket leaks.

10. Langer drops a clanger

Justin Langer – once described in these pages by Matthew Hoggard as a “brown-nosed gnome” – has always been adept at Pom-baiting but he unintentionally took it up a notch in the lead-up to the 2013 Ashes when a private email to Aussie coach Tim Nielsen found its way to the Daily Telegraph. The dossier critiquing England’s squad described Anderson as a “bit of a pussy”, Strauss as a “conservative” captain and, most insulting of all, Swann as “on a par with Nathan Hauritz”. Langer said he was “shattered” by the leak while England – no doubt with the dossier pinned to the changing-room wall – won their third Ashes series on the bounce. Not too shabby for a team that, according to Langer, “rarely believe in themselves”.

9. No fan of Irfan

MS Dhoni had enjoyed the smoothest of starts to international captaincy until details of a selection meeting were leaked to the Indian press during England’s 2008 tour. The leak was particularly damaging as it alleged Dhoni had offered to step down as captain when the selectors insisted Irfan Pathan be selected ahead of RP Singh, one of Dhoni’s closest friends, in the next ODI at Bangalore. “It is disgusting and disrespectful,” said the Indian skipper. “You don’t want RP to feel that I will go out of the way and stand and defend him and Irfan should not feel I don’t want him in the team.” Irfan played the final match of the series – returning figures of 0-57 – and was dropped from the side soon after.

8. Skypey happy people

Before the technological age it was much easier to keep a private conversation private. This meant that if you wanted to blackmail your former lover, you might just have been able to get away with it. How Bangladeshi seamer Rubel Hossain must have wished he lived in a simpler time. After a fall-out with ex-girlfriend Naznin Akter Happy, Rubel took to Skype to tell her that private photographs of her would find their way into the public eye if she weren’t careful. Happy, happily enough, recorded it all and Rubel’s skullduggery was brought to light. Bad man.

Rubel Hossain

7. Warlords! What are they good for?

During the 2001 Ashes a team-briefing document was leaked in which Australia’s kooky former coach John Buchanan adapted the teachings of fifth Century Chinese military leader Sun Tzu to inspire his troops ahead of combat. Handwritten on two A4 pages, Buchanan noted that Sun Tzu’s principles “hold true for most ‘battles’” before giving a cricket-specific take on ‘The Nine Situations’ from Art of War. The English press couldn’t contain their mirth but Buchanan had the last laugh as Australia dismantled Nasser Hussain’s side with military precision, taking the series inside 13 days.

6. Benaud spills the beans

A rain-sodden tour match at Hove during the ’77 Ashes gave Ian Wooldridge of the Daily Mail a chance to investigate rumours that had been percolating of a rebel league. On a whim, he got on the blower to his old pal Richie Benaud to find out the lay of the land, only to have his questions flat-batted. Two hours later, Richie called back and gave Wooldridge an almighty scoop. World Series Cricket, a cash-rich competition offering players substantially higher salaries, would start that winter. Fifteen players – England captain Tony Greig among them – had already signed up and Benaud was a key advisor to Kerry Packer, the Aussie media magnate who founded the competition. ‘World’s top cricketers turn pirate’ blared the front page of the Daily Mail the following day. Greig, who had helped Packer recruit players, was accused of treachery and sacked by England four days later.

5. Selection suspicion

Exactly what happened here is unclear, but that’s the point. This is the anti-leak, the exception that proves the rule. Those in charge were remarkably watertight, almost as if they had reason to avoid transparency. Basil D’Oliveira, as everyone knows, had just put the cat amongst the pigeons with a brilliant 158 in the final Test of the ’68 Ashes and yet, after a six-hour selection meeting at Lord’s, he wasn’t picked to tour South Africa. The decision was apparently supported by four of the five selectors. Were minutes ever taken? Did they go missing? Who knows.

4. The best-laid plans…

Question: what don’t you want as the opposition are in the middle of compiling a 279-run stand? Answer: your ‘plans’ to dismiss them being read out live on air. England’s forgettable 2006/07 drubbing came with a side serving of humiliation as the kind gents at ABC read out their bowling plans for Australia, specifically for Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds. Previously pinned up on a notice board in the England dressing room, the plans – which included working on Hayden’s “ego” and deemed bouncers to be “essential” against Symonds – evidently didn’t work.

3. Shepherding the kale

In hindsight, England’s hammering in Oz back in 2013/14 was never going to go well. One of the first clues was the infamous leaking of the side’s ultra-specific dietary requirements. Sent out to every host venue, the 84-page document, written by ECB’s performance nutritionist Chris Rosimus, had some absolute belters in it for those looking to knock England off their mungbean perch. Screw the narrative, though, the food sounds delicious. No wonder they let Mitchy Mitch roll them over, they had lamb and pea kofta kebabs with mint yoghurt waiting for them in the hutch.

2. You bring the body but you lose esteem

A “broken f***en arm”? Give over. How about a Larwood bouncer to the heart? That was the injury that befell Australia captain Bill Woodfull during the Adelaide Test of the 1932/33 Bodyline series. Visibly shaken and dismissed soon after, Woodfull was visited in the changing room by England team manager  Pelham Warner to enquire after his health. The Aussie wasn’t in the mood for chitchat. “I do not want to see you, Mr Warner,” said Woodfull. “There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket and the other is not.” This exchange was leaked to the press – something virtually unheard of at the time – and widely reported the following day. Australia’s Jack Fingleton, a part-time journalist, was assumed by many to be the source of the leak, although he later pointed the finger at Don Bradman, who in turn denied it.

Harold Larwood hits Bill Woodfull

1. WhatsApp, doos

When your defence is reduced to arguing that what you said was just ‘banter’, you’re already on pretty thin, Keys-ian ground. For such a meaningless word, it’s very often employed to dismiss accusations of having caused offence. For most people in everyday life, there’s no evidence. When your ‘banter’ is on BlackBerry Messenger, and it’s with your opposition, and it pertains to your teammates, and it’s not always complimentary… you’re struggling. Back in 2012, KP messaged South African players – including Steyn and Morkel – and while the actual content of those messages is still debated, news that he’d done it certainly leaked out and, to be honest, things have never been the same since. #trustissues

Follow @JoHarmanAOC and @HenryCowenAOC

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