Broken windows, thrown bats and temper tantrums
From Nasser Hussain punching in a locker to Mark Ramprakash destroying a helmet, Angus Fraser has survived to tell the tales
Saturday 26 February 2011
Ricky Ponting, who broke a dressing room TV this week after losing his wicket, is not the first batsman to cause damage in a dressing room after being dismissed – and he will most definitely not be the last.
There have been many batsmen – Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart, to name two – who would peacefully return to the dressing room, sit down, quietly remove their kit and contemplate what took place before joining their team-mates. Others – the majority – return with a more aggressive attitude: they have a five-minute rant then get on with the rest of the day.
There are some, however, who return snarling like a wild animal: the bat throwers and dressing-room demolishers. You can see they are seething before they reach the privacy of the pavilion. Sympathetic team-mates will close doors and windows in an attempt to contain the explosion that follows.
In any pavilion there are favoured spots – usually the corners as they afford more space – so it was with some surprise that Andrew Strauss, upon graduating to the Middlesex first team, walked into the Lord's home dressing room to notice no one changing next to the Australian batsman Justin Langer. He was perplexed. Why weren't players queuing up to change next to the great opener so they could pick his mind to advance their careers?
One match later Strauss knew. Langer went ballistic on most occasions he was out – a reaction that made his spot a no-go zone for 30 or so minutes, which wasn't ideal when you were trying to get ready to go out to bat.
Over the years the home dressing room at Lord's has taken something of a hammering. Windows, especially those on the balcony doors, have been regularly broken, either by a door being slammed too hard or by a thrown bat. On one occasion an angry Mike Gatting put his hand through the main dressing room door after being run out. It caused a horrible gaping gash and he was shortly leaving Lord's in an ambulance to have more than 20 stitches.
Mike Roseberry, the former Middlesex opener, was a well known bat thrower but on one occasion his actions caused great amusement to his team-mates. In each Lord's dressing room there are two comfy chairs either side of the balcony door and on getting out for a low score Roseberry once gave one of them an almighty whack with his bat. He then walked around for a few minutes cursing and blaspheming before returning to the aforementioned seat. On sitting down the chair collapsed underneath him. The blow had knocked all the rivets out. Even Roseberry saw the funny side of it.
Mike Atherton was usually quite controlled after getting out but on one occasion, after a particularly poor decision in a Test in Port Elizabeth, his temper got the better of him. It was England's 1995-96 tour of South Africa and the players were constantly weighed to gauge how much fluid we should take after a long period in the field. Because of this, a set of scales were always by the dressing room door.
We could tell Atherton wasn't happy as he walked into the changing room and moments later we heard a loud crash and twang. We knew the scales had copped the brunt of his frustration. After a couple of minutes the silence was broken by a slightly embarrassed request call to Wayne Morten, the England physiotherapist. "Wayne, Wayne," came the weak call, "could you come here please?" It turned out that Atherton had booted the scales so hard that he had broken the big toe on his right foot.
During my career there were two dressing-room destroyers that stood out though: Nasser Hussain and Mark Ramprakash. When either was dismissed, pavilions emptied. On one occasion when Hussain was out, however, I couldn't leave because I was padding up. I'm glad I didn't: it was one of the funniest sights of my career.
It was during a Test against the West Indies in Trinidad and after Hussain unluckily lost his wicket he returned to the dressing rooms at Queen's Park Oval. They were basic and had lockers with flimsy, slatted wooden doors. In came Hussain, who threw his bat down and, cursing his luck, punched a locker door and put his fist through it.
I put my head down and quietly started strapping on my pads. But Hussain, through gritted teeth, muttered: "Can someone come over here and fucking help me?"
The wooden slats had pinched around his wrist forming a vice-like grip. It was like a venus fly trap with all the sharp bits pointing in. With Hussain getting angrier by the second I went over and, trying to suppress laughter that was making me cry, I slowly and delicately helped him remove his hand from the door. The job was completed with just a couple of scratches – but I don't remember getting even a thank you once it had been removed.
Following Ramprakash's move from Middlesex to Surrey, and knowing his low boiling point, Adam Hollioake, the Surrey captain, asked Ramprakash if he could control his temper when he was out. Surrey were winning trophies with a happy, relaxed dressing room and Hollioake wanted it to stay that way.
Ramprakash kept his word for a while but on being run out at The Oval he lost it, hacking with his bat at a helmet that was lying on the dressing room floor. Another wicket fell quickly and a flustered Hollioake grabbed his kit and rushed to the crease. Once there, he tried to put his helmet on but the metal grill was mangled. Hollioake had to call for a new lid and Ramprakash was given a warning.
Later in the season, a seething Ramprakash returned to The Oval dressing room but, in reaction to Hollioake's warning, kept his cool, quietly removed his batting gear, put on his training kit and left. Thirty minutes later a visibly shocked gym trainer knocked on the door of the dressing room to complain about the behaviour of a Surrey player. Ramprakash had gone to the gym to lift weights to get rid of his frustrations, and while pumping iron, had been interrupted by the trainer who told him that he was not doing it correctly. The trainer, apparently, received the mother of all verbal volleys.
Obviously, players shouldn't destroy dressing rooms, and if they do, should pay for the damage, but the powers-that-be can't start disciplining them for kicking off. They are penalised for misbehaving on the field – so there has to be a place where frustration can be vented. They can't all be Gooch or Stewart.
World Cup Lowdown
Johnson's burst helps Australia ease past Kiwis
Half-centuries from Shane Watson and Brad Haddin eased Australia to a seven-wicket victory over New Zealand in their World Cup Group A encounter in Nagpur yesterday. Openers Watson (61) and Haddin (55) put on 131 from just 109 balls to back up a fine effort with the ball by Mitchell Johnson (right, 4 for 33) and Shaun Tait (3 for 35), who ensured the Kiwis folded for 206.
Ireland's opening World Cup game ended in a 27-run defeat to Bangladesh in Group B in Mirpur. Asked to field first, Ireland produced a superb bowling display as Andre Botha (3 for 32) and 18-year-old spinner George Dockrell (2 for 23) restricted the Tigers to a modest 205 all out. In response, brothers Niall (38) and Kevin O'Brien (37) were the standout performers with the bat, but despite staying ahead of the run-rate, a steady fall of wickets ended their hopes.
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