In the fourth issue of the Pinch Hitter, James Wallace took a look at the best and worst teammates, from the best buddies and budding bromances to the broiling bust-ups and bubbling brouhahas.
Viv & Beefy
Sky’s recent documentary series Viv: Through His Eyes, filmed last year, shows this pair of magnificent beasts reminiscing about their escapades on and off the pitch.
Channelling Monty Python’s ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch, we find the ‘Two Somersonians’, both rather more full of flank than in their Taunton heyday, squeezed into a couple of wicker chairs on a mafting Antiguan veranda.
Regaling, ribbing and one-upping in the way that close friends do, it’s touching to see the affection each clearly holds for the other. You can imagine them chuffing on a couple of chunky cigars, Mount Gay flowing as soon as the cameras stop rolling.
Bonded together through talent and bravado, so tight were they that Botham famously quit Somerset on the back of Viv’s unceremonious ditching by the old duffers on the committee at Taunton, leading to ding-dongs with Peter Roebuck and the minutiae of county cricket transfers becoming headline news. That might all be in the past but Viv and Beefy’s bromance endures.
Mo & Rash
You’ve heard of ‘boy-meets-girl’, well, move-over-Brangelina, outta-the-way Bey ‘n’ Jay, pass-on through-Rita, Sue and Bob too…this is ‘leggie meets offie’ – this is: Rash’n’Mo.
Their fathers grew up only 14 miles apart in the Azad Kashmir region of northern Pakistan and Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid met playing against each other in junior county cricket before going on to operate in tandem for the England, both crucial cogs in last summer’s World Cup win. In the process, they have become nigh on inseparable.
So much so that any teammate hosting an evening soiree better be stocked up. “When we walk in, we walk in together,” Moeen told Wisden Cricket Monthly. “Like, if you invite one of us for dinner, we’re both coming. It’s never only Rash, or only Mo. It’s Rash’n’Mo.”
Anyone else immediately think of Chris Woakes hunched over a stove frantically knocking up an emergency portion of jambalaya as he hears ‘the banter’ drifting through from his doorstep? Just me then.
Gough & Caddick
English cricket’s odd couple. One − tall, shy, grumpy, jug-eared and with an approach to the crease that could make the hardest of hearts swoon. The other − a true showman, short, stocky and always ready with a quote, quip… or yorker. Smiffy and Plug, Caddie and Dazzler, the ‘Bash Street’ bowling duo that spearheaded England’s attack in the Nineties and early Noughties. Their apposite looks and nature, together with some ‘gaslighting’ captaincy tricks on the part of then captain Nasser Hussain, led many to believe that they were foes.
This was no doubt fuelled by Caddick’s penchant for a blunt quote – “He [Gough] was short, dumpy and pretty skiddy” – and Gough’s tendency to steal the limelight. In actual fact, under the fierce competitiveness lies a little…tenderness. They stay in touch, the ‘negging’ has given way to thoughtful recollections of wickets taken and even memories of cosy trips to the cinema. “We were good together”… you were Goughie, you really were.
Stoinis & Zampa
For starters there’s Justin Langer’s wide-eyed wonderment at A Star is Born. Then there’s the increasingly beguiling mystery of Graeme Hick’s Easter Island statue impression. Suffice to say, Amazon’s The Test is proving to have more layers than the floor of a bouji Wandsworth chemical peel salon the day after lockdown ends. If that makes you squirm then so too might the decidedly odd nature of Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa’s friendship. Don’t take my word for it, take Aaron Finch’s, who memorably describes the foundation of their relationship as being largely based on, “just doing weird s***”.
Whether it’s tousling each other’s hair or holding hands in photos, it is almost as if the two tyros have come up with an in-joke designed purely to make the rest of the team feel awkward. You can imagine Steve Waugh preferring to watch Lolita with his babysitter than having to perch on a hotel room bed and sip a latte with these two in their self-styled ‘love café’. “They are rare, mate,” Langer drawls to camera, but he could just as easily be talking about Lady Gaga’s meat dress. You just never know with The Test and these Aussies.
Miandad & Imran
Separated by background, class and temperament, but similarly touched by genius. Over the course of the years increasingly reliant on the other to eke out and fulfil their true potential. Sound familiar? Nah, not Sally Rooney’s literary bonkbuster Normal People, it’s Javed and Imran’s complex, admittedly less erotically fuelled, but ultimately fruitful relationship.
A turbulent dynamic was beset by callous declarations, captaincy coups and a decade of yo-yoing leadership that eventually gave way to begrudging respect. Imran and Miandad became so intertwined and integral to Pakistan’s success in the late Eighties and early Nineties that Richie Benaud was intrigued to notice that in a tight 1987 Test against England, Miandad was marshalling and directing the fielders on the off-side, and Imran was doing the same on the other. Miandad became the only true confidant and alternative voice that Imran would heed, and they both went down as legends of world cricket. Normal? No chance.
Bradman, Fingleton & O’Reilly
The Don undoubtedly has the best record with the bat in hand, but as a man, a teammate, there are those that have dared to go against the grain and say that he was lacking.
Reports of a religious fault line in the great Australia side of the 1930s do not paint Bradman in his usual, sainted light. With half the team, including Jack Fingleton and Bill O’Reilly, practicing Catholics and Bradman, Bill Ponsford and Bert Oldfield being part of the Masons, it wasn’t uncommon for ideological barbs to fly.
On one occasion at the SCG, Bradman had learnt that Fingleton, who opened the batting, had gone to the lengths of having a Catholic priest sprinkle his favoured blade with holy water. It didn’t help, and when Fingleton was on his way back early, Bradman strode past him and apparently sneered, “Let’s see what a dry bat can do out there, shall we?” Inevitably, he notched up a century.
The rifts never truly healed before the pair died – perhaps not all that surprising when it’s reported Fingleton and O’Reilly collapsed in fits of laughter after Bradman was bowled in his final Test innings.
Katich & Clarke
‘Mateship’. That elusive and, let’s be frank, entirely made up term. Don’t let Simon ‘Kaddidge’ Katich hear you say that though, not if you want to escape with an intact sternocleidomastoid − that’s not made up. Neither was ‘Kato’ when he famously took umbrage with Michael Clarke for trying to hurry along the celebrations after Matthew Hayden’s final Test at the SCG in 2009. Clarke had booked an ‘area’ in a Sydney bar – I’m imagining it involved a red velvet rope and a semi-melted ‘vodka luge’?
Apparently, the official team celebrations cannot be called done until the team song, Under The Southern Cross I Stand, is sung. The Aussies take this very seriously. So much so that Katich ended up grabbing Clarke by the throat and the two had a right old set-to. Clarke soon ascended to the captaincy and Katich, serendipitously, never played another Test. As Dionne Warwick didn’t quite sing: “That’s what mates are for”.
Flintoff & Fletcher
The dust had not long settled on big Dunc’s England coaching days before he very publicly slammed his one-time captain and all-rounder. Describing Freddie as “out of his depth” as skipper as and of having “lost his edge” after 2005.
The public were already aware of the ‘Fredalo’ fiasco at the 2007 World Cup, as Flintoff’s sandy-footed shame was splashed all over the front and back pages. Fletcher also, however, chose to go into detail about Flintoff’s drunken escapades on the calamitous 2006/07 Ashes tour, describing how his captain struggled with the booze all tour, even turning up for a morning training session after a night out with Ian Botham where it quickly became apparent that Preston’s finest shouldn’t have been near cones and quoits, never mind a cricket ball.
Their relationship had always been fractious. Flintoff accused the coach of having ‘favourites’ long before his own booze and bad behaviour ruled him out from ever being one. Flintoff has since gone on record to say that Fletcher once asked him, “What do you ever do for me?” – intimating that other players got him gifts including trainers and sunglasses. Perhaps Fletcher had one eye on those blinding book sales all along?
Warne & Waugh
‘Tugga’ and ‘Warnie’ fell out irrevocably in ’99. Before then they were pretty tight and can be seen in many a photo grinning and gurning over various yellow-tinned beverages as recently decimated, mentally disintegrated opposition lick their wounds out of shot. Then, Waugh dropped an under-performing Warne, overruling his fellow selectors, for a Test match against the Windies.
Warne never forgot how his friend had, in his eyes, humiliated him. His retaliations, allegations even, against his former captain are wince- inducing. Amongst them he claims that Waugh was the most selfish player he ever played with and that he only cared about keeping his average above 50.
“Warnie will make sure [this] goes on for a very long time. He brings it out once every year!”https://t.co/w3BVf1kjSX
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 24, 2020
Memorably, Warne also took Waugh and the other baggy green worshippers to task after orders from his captain for the entire squad to wear them to watch the tennis at Wimbledon. “They made me want to puke with it all.” The pictures of this excursion are well worth a gander. Warne, for his part, flaunts the directive and wears a generic sports cap, while the entire squad all sport shades that make them look like 12-year-olds on a French exchange trip trying to hide some Lemon BonBons and a mucky Euro vid from Princess Michael of Kent.
Sarwan & Gayle
“I say let his conscience ride him.” Credit to Chris Gayle, he certainly knows how to conjure a disturbing image when necessary. For him that was delivering a very public, extremely bizarre video smackdown of former teammate Ramnaresh Sarwan. The whole 15-minute video is surely a PR person’s worst nightmare as it not only accuses Sarwan of being “poison” and a “snake” (could have combined those two big man!) but also kicks off with the ‘Universe Boss’ proclaiming his old batting partner is, “Worse than coronavirus right now”. Crikey Chris, choose your moment.
Safe to say that Gayle is not happy. Released by CPL side Jamaica Tallawahs, he duly decided to give both pixelated barrels, squaring the blame solely at assistant coach Sarwan’s door.
Should Gayle be sanctioned for his outburst on Sarwan and the Tallahwahs? https://t.co/T5QN2aDHHn
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 13, 2020
Intriguingly Gayle harks back to ’96: “We shared the same room in the under 19s… you told the management team you can’t sleep because Chris Gayle was watching TV too late in the night. That’s what I got sent home for.”
Fantastic stuff. Christmas the same year I secretly shrouded and hauled the family Grundig into the bedroom I shared with my brother so I could partake in a clandestine viewing of Die Hard, only to suffer the same fate as Chris Gayle before Bruce Willis was even down to his vest. People don’t forget. I’m off to fire up Zoom.
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