Steven Lynch, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo, where this delightful essay bears the title ‘“You’re fired”
Roy Gilchrist was probably the fastest bowler to emerge from Jamaica before Michael Holding – and he mixed up his express deliveries and bumpers with the odd very nasty high full-toss – the now-banned “beamer”. But not long after taking 6 for 55 against India in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1958-59, Gilchrist unleashed one beamer too many – at an old Cambridge team-mate of his captain, Gerry Alexander. He was sent home from the tour, and never played for West Indies again.
A hard-hitting allrounder seemingly made for the one-day game, and who latterly made a mark in Test cricket, Queenslander Andrew Symonds often sailed close to the wind: in England in 2005 he was dropped after a night out, which wouldn’t have made so many headlines if Australia hadn’t promptly lost to Bangladesh. Then, in August 2008, he achieved the unlikely feat of being sent home from a series at home – Bangladesh (again) were about to provide the opposition in a one-day series in the “top end” (Darwin and Cairns) of Australia, when Symonds missed a team meeting as he had gone fishing. Protests that he’d left the hotel before the meeting was called fell on deaf ears. He was welcomed back that time, but fell out with the Australian hierarchy for good a year later.
Chucked out for chucking?
The Pakistan offspinner Haseeb Ahsan, who died recently, started the 1962 tour of England with 5 for 53 in the first match in Worcester. But he didn’t feature much after that, and eventually returned home: officially with an injured foot, unofficially suspected of throwing (he had already been called in a Test in 1960-61). Some thought Haseeb simmered about his treatment in England: he became an administrator, proved a combative manager on the 1987 tour of the UK, and the following winter was widely thought to be behind the policy of appointing controversial umpires for the 1987-88 home series against England, including Shakoor Rana, whose ugly spat with Mike Gatting made worldwide headlines and led to a day’s play going missing. Scyld Berry, later to edit Wisden, wrote a tour book in which Haseeb was described as the “Grand Vizier” pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Scoring too slowly
Ken Barrington fell foul of the England selectors’ clarion call for “brighter cricket”, after a painstaking 137 in 437 minutes against New Zealand at Edgbaston in May 1965. Barrington was dropped for one Test as a disciplinary measure, returned for the third one, at Headingley, and smacked 163 in less than a day. The establishment hadn’t seemed quite so bothered the previous year, when Barrington had amassed 256 against Australia in 11.5 hours.
Scoring too fast
Between Kapil Dev‘s Test debut in 1978-79 and his final match in 1993-94, India played 132 Test matches… and the great allrounder himself appeared in 131 of them. The one he missed was against England in Calcutta in 1984-85. In the previous match, in Delhi, Kapil had come in with India less than 100 ahead in their second innings, hit his second ball for six and holed out off the next one. England won by eight wickets: “I was dumped for one Test,” wrote Kapil, “in order to prove some obscure point about discipline.”
Scoring a hundred too late
Back-to-back Tests in Melbourne and Sydney were a bit of a rarity back in 1972-73, and the Australian selectors thought they’d save time by choosing their team for the second game against Pakistan in the middle of the first one. John Benaud – Richie’s younger brother – was dumped after two low scores. But he still had a second innings in that Melbourne match… and smacked 142, which obliged the selectors to choose him for the West Indian tour that soon followed.
Contravening conduct obligations
The England Lions have just completed a forgettable tour of Australia, losing seven of their eight games (the other one was abandoned). To make matters worse, the Durham allrounder Ben Stokes and Kent fast bowler Matt Coles were sent home in February, after “contravening their conduct obligations” once too often.
Hitting team-mate with bat
Shoaib Akhtar was sent home just ahead of the inaugural World Twenty20, in South Africa in September 2007, after a dressing-room argument escalated; he apparently hit his new-ball partner Mohammad Asif with a bat. But Shoaib said he hadn’t meant to hit Asif: it was Shahid Afridi he was aiming for. “I got agitated when Afridi used bad words about my family,” he said, “and [in the ensuing argument] Asif was accidentally struck on the thigh.”
Not getting on with the captain
Lala Amarnath, scorer of India’s first Test century, fell foul of the autocratic Maharajkumar of Vizianagram during the 1936 tour of England. “Vizzy” was captain on account of his princely background, but was a very modest player (his six Test innings brought him 33 runs). It was a chaotic tour: 22 different players appeared in first-class matches, and one player supposedly got a Test cap as a thank you from Vizzy for insulting CK Nayudu (seen as a captaincy rival) over breakfast. In the middle of all this Amarnath displeased his captain somehow, and was sent home for indiscipline. The manager apparently told him he’d been seen chasing after women: Amarnath replied that he “had come to England to play cricket, which I like much more than women”. He later captained India himself.
Early in his career Geoff Boycott was, like Ken Barrington, dropped for slow scoring (after making 246 not out against India at Headingley in 1967). Much later, Boycott’s England career ended when he left the 1981-82 tour of India not long after passing the then-record for most Test runs. He went off the field unwell during the Calcutta Test, but attempted to recuperate by playing a few holes of golf. The other players were outraged: told to apologise, Boycott apparently skewered a note to the dressing-room table with a corkscrew. Soon after this he returned home and – after joining a “rebel” tour of South Africa – never played for England again.
Jeff Thomson took 33 wickets in the first four and a half Tests of the 1974-75 Ashes series: a series of shell-shocked England batsmen had visited casualty departments Australia-wide, and 42-year-old Colin Cowdrey was summoned from a quiet winter at home to take on Thommo and his high-speed partner Dennis Lillee. With a match and a half to go, Thomson looked certain to smash the Australian record for wickets in an Ashes series (at the time, Clarrie Grimmett’s 36). But then, on the rest day of the fifth Test, he wrenched his shoulder playing tennis in Adelaide. “I felt a terrible pain in my shoulder,” he said. “I dropped the racket and went straight to a specialist, who diagnosed a pulled tendon and torn muscles. Mind you, it made me feel a bit better when I realised that I served an ace.” Thomson played no further part in the series, and after Lillee also pulled up injured in the sixth Test, England won by an innings to pull back to 1-4 overall.
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013. Ask Steven is now on Facebook