Rewind: When fast bowlers attack

February 26, 1980 — An acrimonious series hits a new low in Christchurch when Croft shoulders umpire Goodall.

Holding vents his ire on the wickets.

Disputes between cricketers and umpires are not unheard of on the cricket field. When a genuine appeal is turned down, peeved bowlers usually ask umpires where they went wrong, or look away in disgust, to avoid the match referee’s gaze. But 33 years ago, Kiwi umpire Fred Goodall got a feel of West Indian muscle, in an ill-tempered series in New Zealand that was fraught with ugly disputes between the visitors and the match officials.

In the first Test at Dunedin, Michael Holding was unhappy when denied a wicket by umpire John Hastie, who turned down a caught-behind appeal. The man nicknamed ‘Whispering Death’ took out his frustration by kicking the stumps — an act that was clearly unsportsmanlike. West Indies lost the match to New Zealand by one wicket.

The second Test at Lancaster Park in Christchurch was no different, when umpire Fred Goodall said no when the Windies wanted Kiwi skipper Geoff Howarth back in the dressing room. Both teams went back to their dressing rooms for tea.

Clive Lloyd’s team did not return.

With the men from the Caribbean sulking over being wronged by the game’s ombudsmen, it was clear that some kind of compromise would have to be reached. Howarth walked up to Lloyd and said that his batsmen wouldn’t wait for the umpire, if they knew they were out. But things went back to square one, as Howarth went back on his word, after a catch had been taken without the umpire raising his finger.

Miffed, West Indies decided to pack up and leave New Zealand, after putting the decision to a vote in a team meeting. They were told by their board that it wasn’t an option.

Day 4. On February 26, 1980, the West Indian cricket team felt that there was nothing good in Fred Goodall’s umpiring, and when they felt that the issue wasn’t being addressed, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Enter Colin Croft. 6 feet 5 inches.

Tall and strapping, Croft had the Kiwi batsmen on their feet with his quick side-on action, and when an appeal against Richard Hadlee was rejected, he let loose a few verbal volleys on the way back to his run-up. Goodall summoned fellow umpire Steve Woodward and the two had a word with Lloyd who offered them a reply, with a trademark deadpan expression, hands intertwined across the chest.

Off the next delivery, Goodall no-balled Croft, lifting his left-hand. Agitated, Croft went on take the bails off, right under the Kiwi umpire’s nose. The crowd was booing Croft.

And then it happened. Croft deliberately bumped into Goodall in his run-up. While the umpire was jolted out of his stance, the ball went past Hadlee, into keeper Deryck Murray’s hands. Clutching his left elbow Goodall, summoned Woodward with a nod, and walked up to Lloyd, for another conversation.

“During that match, the relationship between me and the West Indies deteriorated. They would not listen to me. They called up a local newspaper and made a few comments about me. After I turned Colin down, it was too much for him. But before that, when I called him for a no-ball, he flicked the bails off. As a gesture of defiance perhaps. After I got hit, I walked down the pitch to Clive Lloyd, but he didn’t want to know about it”, Goodall recounted in an interview.

Hadlee who scored a 103*, his maiden hundred, in that game was frank to admit that the ton was possible, because the West Indies made it easy for him, “It was a hollow feeling. The West Indies didn’t want to play. They wanted to go home, because of the decision making, or lack of them by the umpires. They bowled with short run-ups, made it too easy. When you score a hundred, you must feel like you worked for it. Didn’t feel it was too significant, although the book says it was a hundred, I will take it. But to me it was gifted”, reminisced the all-rounder.

All said and done, it was by far one of the worst instances of on-field confrontations between a player and an umpire.

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