Botham and Lamb Have Failed the Cricket Test: They Took a Cricketing Matter outside the Game and into a Court of Law

By Howe, Darcus | New Statesman (1996), August 9, 1996 | Go to article overview

Botham and Lamb Have Failed the Cricket Test: They Took a Cricketing Matter outside the Game and into a Court of Law


Howe, Darcus, New Statesman (1996)


One hundred and fifty years ago a group of men slipped quietly out of an English harbour in a paddle-steamer. The names entered in the log were: H H Stephenson, W Caffyn, Griffith, W Mortlock, W Mudie, T Seawall, C Lawrence, C Bennett, T Hearne, G Wells, Iddison and E Stephenson. Setting sail late in the summer of 1862 for Australia, they drew the locals there into the fine web of an artistic pursuit: the game of cricket.

These men, whether as individuals or a team, left nothing to impress upon the game's great deeds and achievements, other than the simple fact that they were pioneers, taking to the untutored natives the best in a game fashioned at Hambledon, moulded by the spirit of the age and nurtured in the English soul.

Others landed in the Far East, the Caribbean and South Africa. Over time the Test match between competing nations became the stage upon which combatants played out their national aspirations.

Pakistan was late in coming: a religious state, born only 50 years ago. The Koran did not speak of cricket. I was 14 years old when they came to the West Indies. Hanif Mohammed, Intiaz Mohammed and Saeed Ahmed batted as though their lives depended upon the game.

Hanif made 337 at Bridgetown, Barbados. Garfield Sobers replied with 365 -- until Brian Lara came along, the highest score in Test cricket in Jamaica. The Pakistanis educated the spontaneous Caribbean in patience and durability. They brought something new to Test cricket.

It may have puzzled some. But a young nation sees in every activity a reflection of its progress, particularly since the Indians next door hissed and smirked at its early fumblings. Enter Imran Khan, the moderniser. An Oxbridge man, a bold leader, he snatched players from here, there and everywhere, defying the Imams of Pakistani cricket. Then he courted the beautiful daughters of the rich and famous.

In England Ian Botham was in his prime; Imran was his historical opposite. The plebian v the aristocrat. Imran was quicker and could bat. Botham was a tall juggler, sure of hand and eye. Botham as captain was a failure, Imran a success. And on the county circuit, with Worcestershire and Sussex, Imran did not socialise with the boys in the bar. …

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