Australia-New Zealand World Cup final at MCG revives 'underarm' memories

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Melbourne, March 27: Whatever happens in Sunday's ICC World Cup 2015 final between Australia and New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), it will have to go some way to matching the bitter fall-out from another one-day international clash between the two countries at the MCG back in 1981.

World Cup Special; Interview with Trevor Chappell

What might have been a forgettable third final of the one-day series produced one of the most controversial finishes of all-time when, with New Zealand needing six to tie off the last ball, Australia captain Greg Chappell instructed younger brother Trevor to role the ball underarm along the ground.

Australia-New Zealand World Cup final at MCG revives 'underarm' memories

Angry New Zealand tailender Brian McKechnie, who was on strike, threw his bat away in disgust and Greg Chappell's decision brought forth a torrent of criticism.

New Zealand's then Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, said the delivery was "an act of true cowardice and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team were wearing yellow".

Meanwhile former Australia captain Ian Chappell, Greg and Ian's older brother, said: "Fair dinkum, Greg. How much pride do you sacrifice to win AUD 35,000?"

Trevor Chappell said he "thought (the underarm) delivery was a pretty good idea at the time" even though "obviously it wasn't in the spirit of the game".

Last year, Trevor Chappell, who after he retired took up coaching roles with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Singapore, as well as in Australian schools, told the Cricinfo website: "People probably wouldn't remember me (if the underarm incident hadn't happened)."

But Greg Chappell, who has often spoken of his regret at involving Trevor, said the first time he realised the impact of his decision was shortly after match ended. "One little girl ran beside me and tugged on my sleeve and said, 'You cheated'," he recalled. "That was (when) I knew it would be bigger than I expected."

Pressure of Packer series

Greg Chappell said the 'underarm' had come about because of the pressure he felt arising from Australia's relentless schedule in the years immediately after the split with media businessman Kerry Packer's 'rebel' World Series Cricket came to an end.

"The underarm had very little to do with winning that game of cricket, because, in fact, we'd won the game," said Chappell, now Cricket Australia's national talent manager. "They weren't going to get six off the last ball of the game.

"It was my statement. My cry for help was: 'You're not listening. This might help you sit up and take notice'," added Chappell, whose post-playing career was marked by a controversial spell as coach of India.

But while it did little for Greg Chappell's cause, McKechnie, speaking to New Zealand's Television Three, yesterday, said the incident had helped establish cricket's place in a rugby-mad country - something he was well-placed to appreciate as a dual international who kicked a winning penalty late on for the All Blacks against Wales in Cardiff in 1978.

'Huge for NZ cricket'

"It was huge for cricket in New Zealand, cricket took on a new interest almost so that was great and I think it's also helped this trans-Tasman rivalry, it's great to play Australia now so that's good for sport in general."

New Zealand beat Australia in the first round phase of the 1992 World Cup, the last time the two countries co-hosted the tournament. But with New Zealand having defeated Australia, albeit by just one wicket, at Auckland's Eden Park in the pool stages of this World Cup, McKechnie said expectations among Black Caps fans of victory on Sunday had now reached new heights.

"All of a sudden it's a game unlike '92 when we weren't expected to win that game whereas this one there's an expectation now because of the way this team is playing," added McKechnie, who after his on-field sports career ended became a Canterbury and then a New Zealand cricket selector.


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