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Best and Worst: Afflicted cricketers – From Flintoff’s Edgbaston to Gooch and Gatting’s ‘fusion cuisine’

Flintoff, Edgbaston 2005 (Afflicted cricketers)
by James Wallace 4 minute read

Diarrhoea, drips and dehydration… illness and injury have led to some memorable moments over the years. James Wallace lists down the best and worst afflicted cricketers’ tales in issue 28 of the Wisden Cricket Monthly.

THE BEST

Dean Jones – Chennai 1986

“When you are urinating in your pants and vomiting 15 times, you’ve got massive problems.” Only the second tied Test in history, this match had Dean Jones all over it. Literally. After batting for eight hours in savage temperatures, dehydration inevitably struck, resulting in bodily fluids cascading from the increasingly shrivelled Victorian at regular intervals and multiple exits. He wanted to retire on 170 but his captain, Allan Border, taunted him from the other end: “We’ll get a tough Queenslander out here instead”. Double-century duly posted, Jones was promptly rushed to hospital to be put on a saline drip, having lost seven kilograms. Coach Bob Simpson later called it the greatest Australian innings, while Border took credit for “inspiring” it.

Meg Lanning – Nagpur 2016

Lanning felt the icy hand of gastro grip on the morning of Australia’s World T20 opener against South Africa but ruled herself fit enough to play. That looked an optimistic call when the Aussie skipper shuffled off the pitch in the early stages of South Africa’s innings. When Australia slipped to 9-3 in their chase, Alyssa Healey was dispatched to wake Lanning from her sickly slumber. “Morning! Time to get padded up!” Lanning duly boshed 30 runs off 19 balls and helped ensure her team got off to a winning start. She then went back to bed for two days Australian coach Matthew Mott described the win as “gutsy”. Too easy.

Andrew Flintoff – Edgbaston 2005

The greatest performance in the greatest game? Flintoff strode to the crease with English nerves jangling more than Jonny Marr’s house keys; the Aussies smelling blood in the River Rea as a target of less than 200 looked likely – a successful chase of which would all but destroy England’s Ashes hopes. Flintoff was left clutching his left shoulder after an innocuous cut shot. A nation drew its breath. He carried on but couldn’t play in his usual style, having to rely on bunting the ball in steady accumulation. He struggled through to lunch and an injection. One can only presume the needle contained a concoction of Samson’s dandruff, Atlas’ tears and Hercules’ porridge, as Flintoff’s performance from that point on was no longer mortal but the stuff of myths and gods. You know the rest.

Tim Paine – Old Trafford 2019

“I was feeling a little bit ill and there were some big, dark clouds rolling in over the grandstand and we only had about seven overs left and obviously we needed that one wicket,” Paine giggled to the Keepin’ It Real podcast. “No drinks break left, umpires starting to talk to each other about (bad) light.“I just had a horrible feeling that I needed to go to the toilet … it was number two and so I basically just thought, ‘Righto, can’t waste any time, I’m gonna have to’. I remember saying to Davey Warner, ‘I’m actually going to have to do this,’ and did. Unfortunately, it was one of those moments where the crowd went quite quiet. Because I was a bit unwell, it was a bit runny and you could actually hear it hit the ground.“That ball was bowled I think by Mitch Starc to big Overton. Luckily he didn’t edge it because myself and David Warner literally had tears in our eyes, we could not stop laughing.” Australia retained the Ashes soon after, but at what cost?

THE WORST

Ewen Chatfield – Bangalore 1988

Tummy trouble was legion in the Kiwi team in this game, so much so that they had to coax Jeremy Coney and Ken Nicholson out of the commentary box and onto the field to make up the numbers. Chatfield was no stranger to on field drama having been given CPR on his Test debut, a consequence of taking a Peter Lever bouncer to the noggin. The moustachioed seamer again found himself in peril when, at the top of his run-up, his guts gave him a motion of no confidence. Legging it straight past the umpire, two confused batsmen and into the pavilion, he was still clinging onto the match ball and, just about, his dignity. New Zealand eventually lost by 172 (don’t say it…) runs.

Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting – Chennai 1993

The tour from hell. With Anil Kumble and a sickness bug running through England’s players like a hot knife through ghee, Gooch’s side became the first to lose every Test of a series in India. On the eve of the second match, Gooch and Gatting, somewhat improbably, “shared” a plate of Chinese prawns, conjuring images of that scene from Lady and the Tramp. The ropey crustaceans led to Gooch being unable to play and Gatting probably wishing he hadn’t, conspiring to drop one of the easiest catches of all time, as England slumped to defeat. The food for the rest of the tour can be seen as an early example of ‘fusion cuisine’ consisting as it did of baked beans, corned beef and naan bread.

Neil Smith – Peshawar 1996

Ostensibly an off-spinner, Smith was chosen as England’s ‘pinch hitter’ in the ’96 World Cup. The most indelible mark the Warwickshire stalwart made on the tournament was a damp patch at mid-on, where he violently barfed the contents of his stomach in the 13th over. He was actually named Player of the Match for this game but no one remembers that over the horrific but weirdly touching image of Smith, bent double, being comforted by two UAE opposition players as things go full Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Smith only played a handful more internationals, in which he failed to summon anything as memorable as his Peshawar pizza purge.

First published in Issue 28 of Wisden Cricket Monthly

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