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Not scared of a scrap

Submitted by on Saturday, 31 January 2009No Comment
Not scared of a scrap

Allan Lamb talks about why Imran Khan isn’t on his Christmas card list, why Hansie Cronje didn’t deserve to be forgiven after lying about match-f ixing, and why SA can rightly regard themselves as the No 1 team in the world.

How much are you still involved with cricket?

I’m actually not. The only time I really go to cricket is when I have clients. I do have a blog and I occasionally do some TV work for an Indian Television Company, like when England tour there – I do the studio work and have a chat show – but other than that I’m not really involved in cricket in any sense. As I say, the only time I go to cricket is when we are entertaining clients.

What other sport do you play?

I play golf, I go to the gym and I cycle a bit – I’ve done the Argus Cycle Race in Cape Town a couple of times. I can’t run – my knees are stuffed.

What does your business, ‘Allan Lamb, Associates Limited’ do?

We are an event management company. It’s all corporate work.  We do conferencing; things like product launches and incentive travel. We have a wide range of clients, such as the banks although some, for example Lehman’s don’t exist anymore (laughs). But it’s quite tough at the moment with the credit crunch, because it’s the first thing companies cut back on.

Do you get out to South Africa much?

Yes, we have a place at Port Alfred where we usually spend Christmas and then I see guys like Hughie Page and Brian MacMillan down there. Also my wife Lindsay’s mom is still in SA, so Lindsay likes to go back and see her.

When you came over to play for England, was there any resentment because of the fact that you were South African?

There was some – but I just thought bugger them, I’m going to look after myself. Although it was just initially that there was an anti feeling. I played with the likes of Gower, Willis and Botham, and we all became big buddies so it wasn’t a real factor in things. I think it boiled down to if you were good enough – not where you were born. Of course when you weren’t good enough, then it mattered a great deal where you were born.

Did your South African origins cause you any problems during games?

In my playing days they always pointed out that I was a South African. I was always Allan Lamb the ‘South African, born’ cricketer. Funnily enough when I went to India and Pakistan I never got any abuse at all, but when I went to New Zealand and Australia – they always accused me of being a racist and that I should get back to South Africa.

You had a few well documented problems with the cricket authorities, what is your relationship with cricket officialdom like now?

I think it is fine. Northampton has asked me to get involved with them again. But I have my own business here, so for me to go and attend meetings is going to be fairly difficult. However if I did get back into it I wouldn’t want to become manager. I would like to have much more say in training and motivation, to make sure the players were always playing to their best. But it’s all the committees and meetings that are too much for me. The way, for example, Hampshire run things is fantastic. They have a cricket manager and a director and those two make all the decisions. So there are no twelve people sitting on a panel trying to manage everything. If the cricket guy messes up you simply get another guy.

You were sued for libel by Pakistan international cricketer Sarfraz Nawaz, for allegations you made in an article in The Daily Mirror. Effectively you won that, when they dropped their claims. Then you in turn sued Imran Khan for libel. That didn’t work out as well – talk me through that briefly.

The reason I issued a writ was I believed Imran had called me racist and ‘lower class’ in an article he wrote. My name had been defamed and I thought that natural justice would put it right. However I was very wrong about that! I will never forget that day, Wed 31st July 1996 when the jury found for Imran. I have had my fair share of knocks and disappointments, but I was devastated by their verdict. I kept trying to think of reasons why we lost, but couldn’t come up with even one. His entire defence was that he had been misquoted and that the remarks were taken out of context. It was a very trying time for my whole family – we all took a lot of strain.

Your book (Allan Lamb, My Autobiography, Collins Willow), ends with you stating that you would be taking the Imran Khan case on appeal. What happened with the appeal?

We lost it. It cost an enormous amount of money. In hindsight I don’t think I should have done it. But the whole thing has to be put into the bigger context of ‘ball tampering’ and the reluctance of the England Cricket Board to confront the Pakistanis and the perceived, by the Pakistanis, racism in cricket. We could do a whole interview just on that subject, but suffice it to say, I stood up for what I believed was the truth. And to put it politely, I never got the support from my fellow players or from the England Cricket Board that I expected.

Sounds familiar. With all your scraps against the Pakistanis – have you still got any Pakistani friends?

(Laughs) Oh yes – Wasim Akram is a great friend of mine – it was more the officials we were complaining about – our board should have done more. But our officials were so weak and scared. The way it works is, if it is Pakistan involved, somehow we never do anything, because we are scared of the racist issues with them. I don’t see Imran Khan, he isn’t on my Christmas card list, but Wasim I see quite a lot of. Imran said it was because of my background as a South African and my upbringing that I behaved the way I did. That’s what made me so angry. He was totally wrong. And it was an easy slur for him to cast on me given the politics of South Africa at that time. My kids even asked me why I didn’t like black people any more. It was extremely unpleasant and unsettling.

In the same vein, are you still friendly with any of the West Indians?

Yes. I was involved with the Stanford 20/20 series in Antigua in October of 2008 – and they asked me to get some players to play beach cricket against guys like Joel Garner and Viv Richards – which was great fun. So yes, I still keep in touch with all of them. The reason I was there is that Darren Gough and I were adjudicators for the Stanford series. It’s a really wonderful thing Stanford (Sir Allen Stanford – billionaire backer of the Stanford Super Series), has done there – it’s an exhibition game with a lot of money involved. Although I was really disappointed with the England team; they way they behaved and carried on and their performance on the field was abysmal.

allan-lamb1aWhat do you think of the 20/ 20 format?

Well it’s definitely here to stay – you’re not going to get rid of it. I think it’s good for the game. It is great entertainment and I think people are taking to it, which can’t be bad for cricket; because then they get dragged in to the other formats. No, I think it’s a good thing.

Would you have enjoyed playing it?

Yes I would – in fact I would have enjoyed playing now with all the money around (laughs). I don’t think I would be sitting behind this desk then. I do think 20/ 20 is going to put pressure on the 50 over game; although I don’t think Test Cricket will ever be affected.

How do you think Kevin Peterson did as Captain of England?

I think one of the main things he did was he created a bit more of a free spirit. You know, go out and play and enjoy yourself – relax. The big thing about the English players is that they are scared of failure so they become very tense and negative. He got the best out of players like Harmison and Flintoff. Also he has an arrogance which I think is essential. Think of all the top players, Viv Richards, Barry Richards, Alan Border, Graeme Pollock, they were all arrogant to some degree. I don’t mean be totally up yourself, but I think you have to show ‘Who’s in charge here?’ otherwise they will knock you over. I also think it’s important in other aspects of life – like in business for instance – it helps to have a certain confidence.

You never played on the Rebel Tour of South Africa in 1981/82 – why was that?

If I’d gone on the Rebel Tour I don’t think I would ever have played for England. I did play in SA when I played for Orange Free State – I was their overseas player. We got into the final of the Currie Cup that year against Transvaal. I still remember the wicket at Wanderers was a complete disgrace – a wet wicket for a 4 day match which was over in two days – something I pointed out to Ali Bacher; a couple of times (laughs). After that Free State started winning the Currie cup.

In your biography, one of the people you name who didn’t stand up for you was David Gower. Apparently he is a good friend of yours, was he offended that you mentioned it in your book?

(Laughs) No, I understood where he was coming from and I think he understood what I was on about. I could see his point – he didn’t want to get involved. I don’t see as much of him now because he has moved down to Hampshire and I see more of Ian Botham, because we do the same things – we go fishing and we play golf; David doesn’t. But we’re still good friends – there are no ill feelings. That’s how I felt then; that he could have come to the party, but he chose not to, so I said it.

When Hansie was rumbled for match-fixing what did you think?

I couldn’t believe it. I mean he was a Christian, he believed in God and everything was around giving thanks to God and all that sort of religious stuff. Later, when people said he should be forgiven, I said no. He lied to everyone and to top it all, he lied to God. And he let down millions of people. The whole thing was tragic.

Did you ever come across, or suspect there was match fixing in any of the games you played?

Funny you mention that – I didn’t at the time think there was, or come across anything. But we had a series in India and the third test was played with the Indians not wanting Sunil Gavaskar as captain. I remember at the time thinking ‘Gee what are these guys doing?’ because they played outrageously. All they had to do was block the afternoon out and it would have been a draw, but they were all playing wildly at everything we threw at them. Everyone said it was because they were going against Sunil, but when I look back, that’s the only time I suspected there might have been match fixing.

For a long time you, Ian Botham and Henry Blofeld (commentator) have been involved in an advertising campaign for British Meats called ‘Beefy and Lamby’. Is that still happening?

Yes they are still being flighted – in fact we have just signed another two year contract. The campaign has been running for a couple of years now. It’s quite a big thing. They are on television and there is also a print campaign in various magazines. They came out of a show we used to do on stage called Beef & Lamb. Initially they wanted to film us, but then they decided to make us voice-over animated characters.

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