A day that the Chappell brothers – Greg and Trevor will never forget. February 1, 1981. A day which many including the then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and former Australia captain Richie Benaud described claimed that it was the most disgraceful thing they had seen on a cricket field. Muldoon went one step ahead and referred to the act by skipper Greg Chappell as an act of cowardice.
What is this incident?
It was Match 3 of the Benson & Hedges final. The five-match final was level at 1-1. Australia having won the toss elected to bat first. Riding on Greg Chappell’s 90 and Graeme Wood’s 72, Australia posted a competitive total of 235-5 in their 50 overs. New Zealand John Wright and Bruce Edgar got their team off to an excellent start with an 85-run stand. There on, New Zealand kept losing wicket at regular intervals and suddenly found themselves in a spot of bother.
Fast forwarding to the final over, New Zealand needed 7 to win off the last two balls. Trevor Chappell had the ball in his hand. He was not someone, who usually bowled the final over for Australia. However, there were some miscalculations from Greg Chappell and instead of superior bowlers like Dennis Lillee, Trevor Chappell had to bowl the final over as Lillee had already bowled out.
Trevor Chappell managed to get the wicket of Ian Smith off the penultimate ball of the match, leaving New Zealand 6 to tie and 7 to win the match. It was at that point Greg Chappell ran towards his little brother to bowl underarm. Greg asked Trevor, “How are you bowling your underarms?”. A surprised Trevor, said, “I don’t know.” Greg replied, “You’re just about to find out, aren’t you?” Trevor acknowledged by saying, “I guess so.”
The umpire Donald Weser was informed, then he informed the batsman Brian McKechnie. Australia wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh behind the wickets too did not look too pleased with his captain’s decision. However, that did not stop Greg and Trevor from executing their plans. Trevor bowled underarm and McKechnie just defended it and threw the bat in absolute disgust. Australia won the match but lost the respect of many around the globe, more importantly, their own countrymen.
Watch Greg, Trevor and others talk about the incident:
The Australian team, especially Greg Chappell were severely criticised for their actions. Greg was booed on his way out of the MCG and was booed when he came on to bat in the next game couple of days later. But boos turned to cheers after he scored a match-winning 87 to help Australia clinch the series 3-1.
ICC also amended the laws of cricket, which banned underarm bowling, stating that it was against the spirit of the game.
Who said what?
“Yesterday one-day cricket died, and Greg Chappell should be buried with it.” – Former Australia all-rounder Keith Miller
“Fair dinkum, Greg. How much pride do you sacrifice to win $35,000?” – Former Australia captain, Greg and Trevor’s eldest brother Ian Chappell
“I am very disappointed at Australia’s win-at-all-costs attitude” – One of Australia’s greatest batsman Don Bradman
“He (McKechnie) didn’t even try to hit the thing for six” – Former England captain Tony Greig