New Delhi: Former Australian captain Greg Chappell opened up about the infamous ‘underarm’ ODI against New Zealand in 1981. Reflecting on a decision that forever altered his legacy, Chappell revealed that the underarm incident was not solely motivated by on-field dynamics but rather fueled by frustration with the subpar conditions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
Chappell explained, “It’s not one of the better moments I get to reflect on… the difficult part probably for people to understand is it had very little to do with what was going on on the field on that day,” Chappell told SEN 1170 Breakfast.
He expressed discontent with the MCG’s playing conditions and ongoing discussions about improving facilities, highlighting the challenges faced by Cricket Australia in advocating for better standards. Amidst this backdrop, in 1981 New Zealand needing a six to tie on the final ball, Chappell ordered his younger brother Trevor to bowl underarm, ensuring a win for Australia. While the move wasn’t illegal, it went against the spirit of the game, leading to the subsequent outlawing of underarm bowling.
“That was part of it, obviously. But there was a lot of stuff going on around the team and cricket at the time, not least of all around the MCG and the standard of the pitches that we were copping at the MCG at the time.
“I was in the middle of plenty of discussions on a regular basis... about getting better facilities. They (Cricket Australia) didn’t own the ground, so they would go to Cricket Victoria who didn’t own the ground, who would go to the Melbourne Cricket Club… who didn’t seem to care much, which was a great shame. To serve up those sorts of conditions consistently at the MCG, it was disappointing from everyone’s point of view, except, it seemed, the MCC at the time. It was a decision that was made on the spur of the moment… and my thinking as he walked out to bat was, ‘I’ve had a gutful of this, this is what I think of it,” he added.
“It was probably about as good a decision as I was in a state of mind to be able to make.”
Chappell recalled the aftermath of the incident, acknowledging the impact it had on his and Trevor’s legacies. He vividly remembered a young girl accusing him of cheating as he left the field, foreshadowing the public backlash that followed.
“I didn’t hear Bill or Richie’s commentary until much later… but the most noticeable thing of that day… I was fielding down at long on so I had a 100-metre dash to the players’ gate to get off the ground, and I couldn’t get off the ground fast enough (before the crowd came on),” he continued.
“There were kids running across, there was a young girl… she was running across and I slowed down but as she ran in front she turned, grabbed my sleeve, tugged on it and said, ‘you cheated’.
The former captain’s decision, made on the spur of the moment, left him grappling with the consequences. In the dressing room after the match, the atmosphere was somber, with Chappell admitting, “I didn’t say anything and I don’t think anybody was game to say anything… I realised the guys probably needed a bit of space, and I needed a bit of space.”
As the controversy unfolded, Chappell opted to fly to Sydney ahead of schedule to avoid potential confrontations in Melbourne. The incident, initially met with silence among players, eventually became a topic of discussion during a cab ride to the airport. IANS