Gatting recalls Botham's phoenix moment for England 40 years on

Ian Botham’s decision to resign the England captaincy after 12-winless matches was ‘GOOD for him’, recalls Mike Gatting, as he looks back on Beefy’s phoenix moment 40 years on from THAT iconic Ashes Test

  • Mike Gatting says Ian Botham’s horror run as captain in 1981 was good for him
  • Botham resigned the England captaincy after 12 winless matches in charge
  • After being dismissed for nought, Botham was struggling in a rain-hit Ashes Test
  • What followed in the third Test in Leeds endures in British sporting folklore 

As Mike Gatting trawls through his Lord’s memories, he dwells on the phoenix moment in Ian Botham’s career.

Forty years ago on Wednesday – stung by the jeers from the MCC blazers, after being dismissed for his second nought in an innocuous, rain-hit Ashes Test – Botham resigned the England captaincy after 12 winless matches in charge.

What followed in the third Test in Leeds endures in British sporting folklore.

Mike Gatting says Ian Botham’s (pictured) horror run as captain in 1981 was good for him 

‘Sadly, the membership here at Lord’s weren’t very generous to Beefy when he got his pair, somebody shouted something at him as he was walking through the pavilion and it became a match memorable for the wrong things,’ recalls Gatting, one of four England ever-presents in that fabled 1981 series.

‘Although, it certainly spurred him on to Headingley, so they did some good in that respect.’

Freed from captaincy’s manacles, a 25-year-old Botham produced the performance that would define his career – inspiring England to only the second win by a team after following on in Test history, by crashing an unbeaten 149 alongside the tail.

Gatting, pictured promoting a new wall at Lord’s which charts some of the ground’s most memorable moments, says Botham’s decision to resign the captaincy ‘did him a favour’

‘He faced nine matches versus West Indies home and away and three against Australia at the start of his tenure. That was just unfortunate. There was no light at the end of the tunnel,’ Gatting recalled.

‘But he needed to be Ian again and I suppose you could say losing the captaincy was good for him because it allowed him to be himself again – the batter, the bowler, the fielder, the match-winner. I don’t think he likes people saying this but it probably did him a favour.’

Gatting, promoting a new wall at Lord’s which charts some of the ground’s most memorable moments, added: ‘Mike Brearley was one of few people Beefy would have accepted as captain after he lost it, and it was typical of Brears – on the outfield, the afternoon before the match started – to test the water and suggest he was thinking of leaving him out after a really rough time, because he possibly wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind.

Botham went on to hit a famous 149 not out in 1981 to find that spark again in an iconic series

‘Beefy’s answer was typical. “Don’t be stupid, Brears,” he said, “I want to beat Australia and if you leave me out you might find yourself hanging off that balcony over there and England might need another new captain.” 

‘Brears got the reply he wanted. He knew he could drag something out of him, he did and it was quite spectacular.’

The Lord’s Father Time Wall celebrates 100 of the greatest milestones ever to take place at the Home of Cricket. Fans around the world can be part of the history by purchasing a personalised plaque to commemorate their own significant memories at Lord’s. Five per cent of the proceeds go to the MCC Foundation to support its life-enhancing projects within cricket, both at home and abroad. To find out more, visit fathertimewall.lords.org




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