Cricketers' wives tell how charge of racism has upset family life

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The Independent Online
Emotions were running high on the seventh day of the Imran Khan libel hearing yesterday. There was laughter and tears as the wives of Allan Lamb and Ian Botham stepped into the witness box to stand by their men - followed by a hush as George Carman, QC, delivered a rousing speech to the jury.

Lindsay Lamb had to go it alone; her husband of 17 years had to miss her star turn because of a prior engagement. Fighting back the tears, Mrs Lamb chose her words carefully. "This is my 11th day, my lord, listening to ball tampering. I've had four days with Mr Nawaz and this is another seven days I've been listening to balls," she said. The court loved it; the judge hated it. Mrs Lamb apologised for the pun.

The accusations of racism, allegedly made by Imran in an article in India Today in 1994, had taken their toll on the whole family, said the South African mother of three. "Can you imagine how I felt when my six- year- old daughter came home and said: 'Mummy, why doesn't daddy like black people?'" Mrs Lamb said she had taught her children basic phrases in Xhosa - Nelson Mandela's native tongue - "so they can be more polite to black people in South Africa when they go out there," she said.

Kathy Botham, who last week sat through a rehash of the lurid details of her husband's alleged antics during their 20-year marriage, said: "It took me back to the Eighties, when we seemed to go through five or six years when our marriage was very much under the spotlight. It was hell to live with and I went through hell again last week, especially when we opened the newspapers the next day."

Last time around, their youngest daughter, Becky, now 10, was a baby. "It took me back to the times when I had to sit back with Liam and Sarah and explain everything was fine with Mummy and Daddy. I had to do the same with Becky."

And finally, could Mrs Botham please settle the matter of her husband's nails? "I always say when the camera pans on him on the field he would either be picking his nose or chewing his nails," she said.

Mr Carman made no apologies for his so-called "muck-raking". In drawing the court's attention to Botham's alleged sex and drugs escapades, he said: "It's not me who brought it up, it's Ian Botham in his own book to the world at large," he said, referring to Botham's autobiography, which carries the subtitle Don't Tell Kath.

He asked the jury to consider why the plaintiffs had rejected Imran's attempts at reconciliation. "Because the knives were already out for him and the Pakistani team," he said. "Revenge was sought for the inglorious England defeat of 1992. The knives were out and Allan Lamb and Ian Botham, for their own reasons, were prepared to join in and reject the olive branch of friendship and join in the attack on Imran Khan. That's the truth."

The hearing continues today.