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Mumbai feasts on 'Beef and Lamb'

November 26, 2004 19:43 IST

Ian Botham was looking beefy as ever. Allan Lamb, short and stocky and without his strapping moustache, made up with his treasure of anecdotes. After ten years on the road, and almost 150 appearances the "Beef and Lamb" show had come to Mumbai.

On a young Thursday night at the Cricket Club of India, the former England cricketers ridiculed their former mates, particularly Geoffrey Boycott, Dickie Bird and Derek Randall.

Boycott made five runs in eleven overs, Bird still shoved pigeons off his window with a note tied to their legs (it was easier and didn't cost anything) and Randall was "not normal". "That guy was definitely not normal," they declared, twice each.

Botham and Lamb kept a small audience in good spirits with cricket stories on the master sledgers from Australia and the West Indies, some absurd characters in their dressing room and the weirdest events they were involved in.

Headingley flooding when the pipes underneath burst open and manoeuvering the pager in Dickie Bird's pocket (apparently handed over to him by Lamb) to go off with Waqar Younis in mid-stride at the crease while bowling ranked the best.

Their stories, weaved in good humour, also provided a taste of cricket in the 1970s and 80s, when the game was about unabashed bliss.

"Do the players now enjoy as much as we did? Of course, not. Now after the game they have to warm down, which means do a couple of rounds of the ground, stand in ice pools; all we did was gulp down a couple of beers," said Botham.

"The players don't have the time to enjoy the game as much. With so much money coming in they have too much at stake. They don't have to make friends in the countries they tour. We played cricket in the right era."

The show over, the tales narrated, the names of yesteryear exposed, the duo got down to some serious cricket.

For the English, it is about the Ashes and the eternal claim that this time England looks in good shape to pull a mickey out of the Australians.

"England have the best chance to win the Ashes since 1987. All these years we didn't have the bowlers to bowl out Australia twice. I think this team is capable of that," said Lamb.

Botham was more beefy. "I think England will take the Ashes this time. Andrew Flintoff and Steven Harmison will trouble the Aussies in the winter," he said.

"The Australians are on a roll right now and look pretty good, but once you get under their skin you can unruffle them. Because most of them are a bit like their country, big and empty."

By now the Aussie bashing was complete. But some of their best friends are the Australians. There's Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh, Ian Chappell. "Not him," Botham quickly reminded. Chappell is the only one he doesn't get along with.

Then surfaced another issue the Australians are intimately involved with. Walking.

Lamb informed that after a lot of discussion the England players decided not to walk against the snaring West Indies on his first tour to the islands in 1985-86.

On the day, Lamb decided to differ from team protocol.

"Malcolm Marshall was running in, and I was all ready for him, when he stooped just at the popping crease and said to the umpire: 'Umpie, man, the ball still has Gatting's nose stuck in it.' [Mike Gatting had just been carried off the field after being hit by a Marshall bouncer on the face].

"I faced my first ball, and hit a cover drive. Not bad, I thought. Then I heard Viv Richards call from the slips, 'Maco, no more drive balls.'

"The next ball, what they call the 'smell the leather' ball went past me. The one after that, I saw the label on the ball -- Dukes made in England. Again Richards called from the slips, 'Maco, bowl him a serious ball''. If this wasn't serious, I really feared my life.

"I stopped and asked Viv what a serious ball was.

'Lambie, you don't want to know that.'

'No, please, Viv tell me what it is.'

'Okay Lambie. A serious ball is the 'eat the leather' ball.'

"Malcolm Marshall ran in, I played forward and the ball crashed onto my pad. I didn't wait for the umpire and just started walking off. When I was gone 20 yards or so, Viv called to me and said, 'Hey Lambie, the umpie gave you not out man.'

"That was one moment in my life when I had gone completely deaf."

Deepti Patwardhan