In the spirit of cricketers liking nothing more than not actually playing cricket, we recognise the gentlemen who, for reasons fair and foul, simply refused to play.
10) Testy Boycott’s
A higher profile refusenik you couldn’t find. Boycott’s self-imposed exile from international cricket lasted from 1974 to 1977, during which time he scored prolifically in county cricket. At the time the Yorkshire stalwart cited his desire to concentrate on his beloved White Rose (in 1975 he played every game for Yorkshire), but alternative theories abound. Boycott was less than impressed with the leadership and batting of England skipper Mike Denness. He cited Denness as a factor in his absence in his 1987 autobiography, and may or may not have at some point speculated that his grandmother would have made a better England skipper. It has also been suggested, scandalously of course, that Boycott’s exile coincided conveniently with the heyday of some pretty tasty fast bowlers. Boycott himself says he simply lost his hunger. Those county attacks must have tasted more palatable.
9) Tatenda Taibu loses his kit
In a rare Zimbabwean-refusenik case that didn’t send shockwaves around the world, the little gloveman refused to play in any of Zimbabwe’s five ODIs against Kenya in early 2009, after his gear was mistakenly left in Bangladesh. Taibu smelt a rat, stating that “something is happening outside the kit issue”. If that is true then never was a more nefarious and foolproof scheme concocted to keep a player out of the side. For as any club cricketer knows, to borrow pads and a bat is one thing, but a man should never be caught exploring another man’s box.
8) West Indies contract row
In 2009, unimpressed by the lack of acceptable contract offers, Gayle, Chanderpaul and co. went Scargill on the West Indies Cricket Board after playing four consecutive tournaments without contracts. The disgruntled stars went on strike, along with more or less the whole first team, leaving the WICB little choice but to cobble together a team of substandard reserves to face the touring Bangladeshis. New West Indies captain Floyd Reifer (a man boasting the stratospheric Test average of 9.25) duly saw his unknowns beaten 2-0 to give Bangladesh their first series win. It’s like mixing compost and peat when national teams and their cricket boards get together; no matter what, they always end up stinking the place out.
7) Savvy Ravi and the IPL
Ravi Bopara has graced the IPL before, and even worn the treasured orange cap still moist with the sweat of Tendulkar, but when the Rajasthan Royals offered him $150K in April 2011 he turned it down in favour of the county treadmill. Bopara’s intention was to fill his boots with early season runs and nail down the vacant spot in the England order. After a couple of fallow matches he exploded into gear with a match-winning century against Glamorgan and another against Derbyshire. It wasn’t enough though, as Eoin Morgan, who did play in the IPL before flying back for a single first-class match, ended up grabbing the No.6 slot for the first Test. Still, Ravi deserves great credit for dodging the dollar in favour of county cricket. “Not everything’s about money,” he said.
6) Kim Hughes and World Series Cricket
In 1977 Australian cricket was torn asunder by civil war. Fed up with being paid a pittance, their best cricketers defected from the Australian Cricket Board to front media mogul Kerry Packer’s new-fangled alternative, World Series Cricket. As Packer’s trailblazing puppets, the big beasts secured bundles of cash, a few spectators, oodles of criticism and, eventually, a change in tack from their estranged paymasters which brought new pay structures and improved working conditions. For Marsh, Chappell, Lillee et al, it was a risk worth taking to secure a better future. But as with all industrial disputes, there were those on the other side of the picket line. Step forward one Kimberley Hughes, a soppily arrogant, golden-haired dilettante shotmaker with the effortless capacity to get under Lillee’s skin. When the exodus came Hughes stepped into the breach, repelling Packer’s overtures to stay loyal to the ACB and take on the captaincy of a decimated national team. In the medallion brigade’s black and white world this amounted to betrayal, and they hated him from that moment on.
5) Holding won’t have West Indies cricket being ‘dissed’
Mikey Holding has never had any patience with those he perceives to be fools, and after an uncompromising playing career the Jamaican took the same approach into his broadcasting career. In 2001, following a run of poor form against England and Australia, Jimmy Adams lost the captaincy and his place in the Windies side. In his place for the Test series against South Africa came new skipper Carl Hooper, a man who divided opinion in Caribbean circles. In response, ‘Whispering Death’ belied his moniker and unloaded with both barrels, declaring that he would not be commentating on the series or attending any games. “I am fed up with all the rubbish,” the pundit fumed. “I would have supported anyone who has shown commitment to West Indies cricket, not somebody who has dissed West Indies cricket and shown interest only in himself.” Holding has since had to readjust his policy of not working whenever the WICB makes a silly decision for fear of continuous unemployment.
4) Botham refuses to scale the heights
Ian Botham may have scaled the heights of sporting achievement but the rambunctious old bean refused to get high at Seddon Park for England’s second ODI against New Zealand in 2008. The big man arrived at the ground to find he and his Sky colleagues were destined for a portacabin, precariously perched some 100 feet from the ground atop extensive scaffolding. Beefy was unimpressed, declaring in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t be making the climb and insightfully declaring that “helicopters and planes (are) meant to fly, commentary boxes aren’t”. In fairness, Nasser Hussain did later criticise the commentary perch for being rather wobbly, an observation he was only able to provide because he was in the said box having agreed to do his job.
3) Class snobbery
Bodyline raged through the winter of 1932/33. Orchestrated by Douglas Jardine to destroy the upstart Bradman, it was instantly infamous and brutally brilliant. But one of Jardine’s fellow gentleman cricketers wouldn’t play ball. Gubby Allen was an upper-class Eton and Cambridge-educated toff who bluntly refused to bowl at the body of any man, taking 21 wickets with conventional fast bowling. Whether Allen felt Bodyline was unsporting or simply beneath him and appropriate only for “gutless, uneducated miners”, as he so charmingly saw Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, is unclear. Either way, he refused.
2) The big two repel the rebels
The England XI ‘Rebel’ tour to apartheid South Africa in 1982 (and repeated in 1989) was a dark, uncomfortable time for cricket. Those players, from Gooch to Boycott to Dilley, who took the Krugger and were banned from international cricket for three years, copping censure from all angles (except their bank managers), with the Daily Mirror’s editorial describing the tourists “as contemptible as any mercenary who hires out his gun”. Two notable absentees from both goldrushes were David Gower and Ian Botham. Unbreakable moral fortitude? A refusal to undermine South Africa’s sporting exile? The truth was somewhat more humdrum. Gower “makes no bones” about his own reasons for not touring in 1982, as outlined in his 1992 autobiography: “I was advised that it was likely to be commercially unfavourable for me.” Botham’s reasons were less clear-cut, but his financial advisors were certainly influential in his decision.
1) Nasser, armbands, New Labour and the Zim fiasco
The 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya was blighted by a Mugabe-shaped elephant in the room. The Blair government made it clear that it disapproved of England playing in Harare on moral grounds, but wouldn’t officially prohibit it, leaving Nasser Hussain and his men in an impossible position: play and reap the whirlwind back home, or boycott the fixture and face the inevitable points penalty. But the heroic actions of Zimbabweans Andy Flower and Henry Olonga – whose black-armband protest mourning the death of democracy in their homeland had already sent shockwaves around the world – sharpened Hussain’s resolve, and after much filibustering by the British government and the ECB, England’s exhausted, bloodshot captain fronted up to deliver an astonishing, searing press conference in which he outlined his team’s reasons for pulling out. But the ICC, being the ICC, could only see the bottom line. England were docked two points, and went home early.