CLEAN THE SLATE PLAN PERFECT
FOR CRICKET'S MEN AT WAR
Ian Wooldridge, Daily Mail, 13 November 1999
I HAVE two friends, both wonderful cricketers, who detest
one another with poisonous intensity. One is Ian Botham, the
other Ian Chap-pell, the ex-Australian captain. The circumstances
that generated this implacable antipathy occurred many years
ago and I don't propose to reconstruct them here. Since they
are mutually heroic trenchermen I have offered them a lunch -
say a few dry Martinis, a bottle or four or excellent claret
followed by as much Cognac as it needs to find a taxi - to get
the hatchet buried.
This is rather sad. Botham, a royal-ist who believes and played
for everything this country until recently stood for, is some
man. Note that yet again he is painfully tramping the length
of Britain to raise yet more millions for the victims of leukaemia.
Likewise Chappell, a republican who fought to the limit and beyond
for the honour of Australia. You could have no stauncher or more
generous friend, unless it happened to be Botham. So there it
is then. Impasse. Or is it?
This week there arrived through my letter box a document which
looked suspiciously like a religious tract. These, along with
free-offer pamphlets normally head straight for the dustbin along
with copies of The Watchtower, the doom-laden official magazine
of the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose persistent door-stepping evangelists
retreat in horror when you explain that your life was probably
prolonged by the generosity of blood donors.
As a distraction from the hysterical build-up to some football
match or other being played in Glasgow today, I gave it a quick
glance. Five names leapt off the page.
They were those of Bobby (now Sir) Charlton, Colin (now Lord)
Cowdrey, Gary Lineker and two great men of English and British
lions rugby, Roger Uttley and Tony Horton. So what was it that
united five prominent sportsmen to endorse this venture called
Clean the Slate Campaign?
God forbid you should ever confuse this column with some moralistic
repent-ye-sinners billboard. Its perpetrator has too many skeletons
in too many cupboards for that. But this sounded like a reasonable
To mark the millennium, instead of wasting all that cash on that
ridiculous hamster wheel and the perishable wigwam further down
the Thames, you simply list the ghastliest things you have done
in your life and write to or ring up the other party to effect
In my case, this would fully occupy me between now and New Year's
Eve. The conversations with Juan Antonio Samaranch, president
of the International Olympic Committee, and Tony Banks, our late
and totally unlamented Sports Minister, would almost certainly
be interminable and inconclusive.
I would definitely apologise to Graham Kelly, former Football
Association chief executive, about whom I once wrote a hurtful
article with knowing all the facts. Never would I give in to
Clive Lloyd, a brilliant West Indies cricket captain, who once
sued me for libel and squeezed £10,000 off the Daily Mail
for an article that was incontestably true.
Will Colin Cowdrey ring Ray Illingworth, I wonder, to discuss
the bad blood there was between them over the England cricket
captaincy in the Sixties? Will Will Carling ring Gary Lineker
about matters of a domestic nature?
Who knows? But at least many of these worthy citizens will be
turning up at London's Reform Club on December 1 to propagate
what seems a thoroughly decent idea.
Ian Botham and Ian Chappell? I'm still working on it. If there
is any progress, you will be the first to know of it in this