Contributed by Haresh Pandya
England’s legendary all rounder Ian Botham has always been admired for his phenomenal genius, fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude. But he is equally renowned for his tremendous sense of humour. It was Botham who once famously quipped: “Pakistan is the sort of country to send your mother in-law to.”
Equally well known is Botham’s alleged hatred for Australia and the Aussies. Many interesting anecdotes and stories, both apocryphal and real, are attributed to this mega cricket star of the 1970s and 1980s. Australia has invariably brought the best out of Botham, in cricket as well as humour, and not just during his playing days.
“Aussies are big and empty, just like their country,” is one of the many quotes attributed to Botham, who was affectionately called Guy the Gorilla because of his muscular approach to cricket as a batsman, bowler and fielder.
“All you Aussies are a bunch of hicks who don’t know the first thing about cricket,” goes another quote. And here is another: “If you’re playing against the Australians you don’t walk.”
But the same Botham pays Kangaroos the ultimate tribute when he says: “To win in Australia, for me, has to be the ultimate success because the Aussies live for sport.” And he adds: “There is nothing more exciting in sport [than] when the top two countries in the world are battling for the Ashes.”
Botham seems to have developed a lasting enmity towards former Australian batsman and captain Ian Chappell, and vice versa. Their verbal, even physical, clashes go back to the Australian summer of 1976-77.
Chappell had quit South Australia to play club cricket for North Melbourne. Around the same time Botham was in Australia on a Whitbread scholarship and was contracted for a season with the University Club. Though there are several different versions of their maiden “meeting”, Botham has never wavered from his side of the story.
“One night I was drinking in a bar with players from both sides when I overheard Chappell giving it the typical Aussie verbals and rubbishing England. In fact, he was getting so full of himself that it would have been impossible for me not to overhear him. I didn’t like what he was saying and I told him in so many words, warning him that if he carried on there would be trouble,” he told Peter Hayter in Botham: My Autobiography.
“I don't know if Chappell was aware of my reputation for thinking with my fists or whether he was intentionally goading me, but in any case, he went on and on. Three times I warned him and three times he ignored me. Finally, I could take no more so I threw a punch at him. The impact sent him flying over a table into a group of Aussie Rules footballers, whose drink was scattered to all parts.”
Chappell was then chased out of the bar by Botham, who reportedly hurdled a car bonnet to get at him.
But Chappell’s version is understandably quite different. According to the Australian, the un-capped English all rounder had goaded him about not wanting to tour England that year because “too many blokes are looking to knock your block off” and that “everyone is looking for you because you’re a p****’ before pushing him off his chair. Chappell says that he then “calmly” walked out, “pursued” by a “ranting” Botham.
Botham, now 61, and Chappell, now 73, have only traded insults since then despite working together for Channel 9 during the 1998-99 Ashes series down under, though six summers back they came close to repeating their Melbourne brawl of more than 30 years ago.
It was the fourth day of the Adelaide Test of the 2010-11 Ashes battle. Botham was waiting for his Sky transport to collect him outside the Adelaide Oval, according to the Daily Mail. Chappell allegedly “muttered” something “highly provocative” as he went past.
A surprised Botham turned around and asked: “What did you say?” When the Aussie reportedly made another “incendiary” remark, both dropped their bags and were at each other’s throats. Luckily, they were quickly separated by the people on hand before something very nasty could happen.
Let us wind up this piece with another Botham gem. “Chappell was a coward. He needed a crowd around him before he would say anything. He was sour like milk that had been sitting in the sun for a week.”