For a supposedly non-contact, gentlemanly sport, cricket has witnessed numerous instances of run-ins between players. However, it’s still rare that they actually transpire into a physical altercation, but it does happen on occasion.
One such instance involved two players who sparred often through the years, James Anderson and Michael Clarke, who became involved in a dressing-room squabble long before the infamous ‘broken f****** arm’ incident between the pair.
The instance is recounted in James Anderson’s 2012 autobiography Jimmy: My Story, and took place after England’s six-wicket loss in the second Test of the 2006/07 Ashes, with the two sides joining up for a post-game drink. While Anderson had positive words for the other Australians, whom he believed “displayed great levels of humility”, he saw Clarke as someone who was “arrogant”. He writes: “While others chatted with opposite numbers about the game, Clarke was being a complete pain, whistling away to himself and carrying on in a most arrogant manner.”
Angered at Clarke’s conduct and propelled by a couple of beers, Anderson decided to take things in his own hands. He vented his feelings to Australia batsman Damien Martyn, who would go on to announce his retirement soon after the Test’s conclusion.
“I said as much to Damien Martyn, who I was chatting to at the time, and, looking down at my feet, added: ‘See this pad here, I really want to wrap it around his head’,” Anderson wrote.
“‘Do it,’ Martyn replied, completely straight-faced.
“Now while Martyn was notorious for being someone who did not mix particularly well with his own teammates, and was not close to anyone, preferring to be something of a lone wolf, his bullish attitude nevertheless took me aback. I looked at him again as if to ask: ‘Are you sure?’
“‘Do it!’ he repeated. As I’d had a couple of beers, I didn’t need a second invitation, so I picked this pad up and cuffed Clarke with it, making the biggest thud imaginable in the process, and causing everyone in the room to stop nattering. For a split second, there was complete silence.”
Clarke wasn’t best pleased. “‘What the f*** ya doing?’ he snarled,” is how Anderson retold his reaction.
Anderson’s book would become a talking point during the 2013-14 Ashes Down Under. After the infamous ‘broken f****** arm’ incident between the two during the Gabba Test, which Australia won by a massive 381 runs, Australia’s Daily Telegraph presented an alternate account of the events.
According to the report, James Anderson was “…mortified he had upset his young opponent”. It went on to add that the fast bowler was profusely remorseful at his conduct. “Anderson apologised so much he almost started crying,” according to an independent witness, who wasn’t a player for either team.
For his part, Clarke referred to the incident in his 2013 book, The Ashes Diary. He wrote, brushing off the events, “James Anderson is the one who prefers not to talk to me. I didn’t read his book, but from what I heard, he had a crack at me. That’s fine. He’s a fast bowler, and if I was his captain I’d want to see a bit of mongrel in him too.”
Both Anderson and Clarke have been involved in controversies with other cricketers off the field. While, Anderson had an alleged physical altercation with Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, Michael Clarke once had his collar grabbed by team-mate Simon Katich over a delay with respect to the team song.