Et Tu, Donald? The spat the cricket world would have paid to see

  • Ganesh Shankar
  • Updated: Feb 07, 2015 21:56 IST

'Red Mist Moments', a term coined by Sir Alex Ferguson, to beautifully conceal the transgressions of his discreet and private midfielder - Paul Scholes. Borrowing from Sir Alex's Vocabulary*, the cricket World Cups over the years have had their fair share of 'Red Mist Moments'!

(*Sir Alex's Vocabulary, while largely well intentioned, will have to be used in restricted proportions in this article owing to the current environment where expletives = jail time)

Now, while there exists a plethora of debate and opinion as to the most memorable spat at a cricket World Cup, I assure one stands out for its sheer complexity, mystery and media frenzy. The strangest thing about it though, is that none of us has actually seen this spat occur, most of us believe it happened and all of us would pay good money to watch the highlights (unless of course we can find a downloadable torrent). Ladies, gentlemen and hashtags of the digital world, I present to you the greatest ever cricket World Cup spat that may or may not have happened.

The Lance Klusener-Allan Donald run out at the 1999 Cricket World Cup

aka - What on Earth were you thinking?

aka - A cricket comedian's starting point.

Cricket historians and journalists alike will probably refer to that chaotic evening at Edgbaston as one of the greatest ever cricket matches, not just at the World Cup, but in the history of the sport at large. The punters probably refer to it as a missed opportunity. Nonetheless, the significance of that evening was not lost on anyone. From the moment Klusener struck the first boundary of that final over, till the moment he raced towards the dressing room only to glance over his shoulder and find the Australians celebrating; it was six balls that will go down in cricket folklore. (No, the pages of cricket folklore do not have room for politicians, contrary to popular opinion)

The Spat: Now, I'm not saying there was a spat, before you accuse me of being sadistic. But I am saying, that I really, really wish there was one. Sure, there were tears and emotions all over the place, but surely there must have been room for at least one teeny-tiny little argument between Klusener and Donald. Now if that argument did take place within the confines of the dressing room (a dressing room in cricket is a cordoned off zone for cricketers, team management, and the bureaucrats who order the food), it would have once and for all settled the burning question - Who's fault was it?

Hansie Cronje said during an interview much later that it really was no individual's fault, for it really should not have come down to that final over. He was right. South Africa should have cake-walked that semi-final. However, if Klusener did head back to the dressing room and point out a flaw - it would have probably been that any run front of the wicket is the striker's call. It was Klusener's call to make and Donald's job to respond.

Donald would have probably argued that he was right. He would have retorted that the first thing they teach you at cricket academies is if you are a non-striker and the ball is hit straight back down the wicket, make sure you get back to your crease (that, and never get run-out at a World Cup semi-final).

Klusener would have probably laughed off that argument citing 'the MCC cricket coaching manual', which clearly counsels non-strikers to stay as wide as possible, thereby ensuring both the crease and the striker are in the vision of the non-striker. Donald, while backing up, would have then probably spotted Klusener's run and responded instantly.

The googly to both these arguments is that all coaches, managers and captains tell you the same thing - always talk to your partner (and partner here does not refer to sports agent/Bollywood girlfriend). The most noticeable thing about the final two balls of that semi-final was that neither Klusener nor Donald seemed to communicate. They barely spoke in between balls, and seemed as alien as Test cricket now is to cricket.

Regardless of which side you pick, whether Donald walked South Africa out of that final OR Klusener ran South Africa out of that final OR that they both muted themselves out of the final OR that collectively the team choked, we will never know what the South African team thought about it.

In all likelihood, being thorough sportspersons and gentlemen, they probably will take the collective blame. But just to play devil's advocate, who wouldn't have wanted to be a fly on the wall of that dressing room?

Did they fight? Did they not? Who said what? Who blamed whom? We'll never know I guess. And as is the case with all secrets in the world of cricket, we will have to patiently wait for the 'tell-all' autobiography to come out!

(Views expressed by the writer are personal. If you want to share your thoughts on the game, mail your write-ups to

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