Home > Features > The Lowdown: Gatt's Spats
picture of Mike Gatting and Umpire Rana

The Lowdown: Gatt's Spats

Former England and Middlesex cricket captain Mike Gatting had more than his fair share of arguments during his long career. Who can forget his finger-wagging stand up row with umpire Shakoor Rana during a heated test match 1987? In this PDCC exclusive Gatt sheds new light on some of his most notorious ding dongs.

Gatt's spit spat

My good mate Mike Brearley decided to hang up his boots at the end of the 1982 season and, as I was going to be the new Middlesex skipper, it fell to me to organise a surprise farewell present.

I suggested we have a whip round for a box of Milk Tray and a copy of Razzle - like we did for Fred Titmus - but Embers chirped in with: "why don't we get one of those effing strip-o-gram things and really give him a bleedin' send off to remember".

picture of Mike Brearly
Mike Brearley: his book The art of captaincy is considered a classic but the follow up volume Birds, booze and me received poor reviews.

So I had a trawl through Yellow Pages and found a company that did Police Woman-O-Grams for a tenner.

The plan was that after his final innings at Lord's, as he was coming off the field, the Policewoman would jump out from behind the sightscreen in front of the Pavilion and give Brears the shock of his life, before whipping out the hand-cuffs and taking down his particulars.

It was all arranged, then on the morning of Brears' last knock, the President of MCC came over to me and dropped a bombshell.

He said: "no women are allowed in the Pavilion and therefore your strippergram can't come in".

picture of Bob Carolgees and his bad tempered dog Spit
Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog on Tiswas in 1978. A young Phil Tufnell (left) looks on.

I blew my top. I didn't care if it was the MCC President or a local street sweeper - I gave him both barrels.

How dare they stop a great and loyal servant like Mike Brearley have a bit of fun on his last day? It was a disgrace. The MCC could stuff their rules!

I was about to get the lads out on strike when the MCC President called me in to his office. He had been in contact with Chris Hogg's Entertainment Agency and could get us Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog at short notice for the same price.

Brears was already walking out to bat so I knew we didn't have much time.

I had no choice but to agree. Within seconds a taxi carrying Mr Carolgees and his puppet pooch was hurtling towards St John's Wood.

picture of Fraser and Gatting
It's a tie: Gatt and Gus Fraser exchange forthright views 1999.

As soon as he arrived we positioned him behind the sightscreen and waited for the fun to start.

True to form Brears tickled one to slip for 3 and began trudging off holding his bat aloft to take the warm applause of the crowd.

What I didn't know at the time was that someone had tipped Brears off about the stripper gram and that he was fully expecting to cop a right eye-full of the tasty WPC soon as he reached the pavilion steps.

He was getting himself pretty excited and as he got closer to home he whipped out his old fella and stuck it in his batting glove.

You should have seen the look on his face when instead of a perfectly proportioned Policewoman he was met by Bob Carolgees and his bad tempered dog Spit. He'd dropped the batting glove and ... how shall I put this ... it wasn't his bat that was raised.

"Spit!" said a stunned Brears

"Well for £10 an hour what do you expect it to do ... swallow?" replied Carolgees.

We all laughed until the real Police came and took statements. Crazy days!

Ironically these days women are allowed in the pavilion and this sort of thing would have been avoided.

Gatt's scat spat

Not many people know this but I have always had ambitions to be a jazz singer. I love listening to records of old style singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and my all-time favourite ... Cleo Laine.

picture of Mike Gatting
On the Mike: Gatt at Ronnie Scotts 1988.

My voice is a bit rough round the edges so in 1988 I decided to find someone who could give me singing lessons. I was England captain at the time so I had a pretty busy schedule but I thought it might be a good way to escape from the pressures of test match cricket.

One day I was walking through the West End and had to make a phone call. I couldn't help but notice that in the phone box there were a number of cards from ladies advertising various services. There was one who gave French lessons and another who sold high quality furniture. I was tempted to go and have a look at her 'enormous chest'.

One of them particularly caught my eye: There was a picture of a woman in silhouette blowing an oboe with the words: 'new in town, can visit, scat a specialty.'

What luck! A visiting jazz teacher who could help me sing like Cleo. I phoned her straight away and made an appointment for her to come over to the team hotel.

Now, the ECB have some funny rules and regulations about who you can and can't have in your hotel room during a test match; and apparently voice coaches fall foul of Regulation 3.15 or something.

I wasn't aware of this at the time so when the lady arrived at reception I was more than happy for her to come straight up.

picture of Gatt's spats
The actual spats that caused Gatt's spat.

Sadly, Chairman of Selectors Ted Dexter was staying at the same hotel and was pacing up and down the corridors checking that none of the players were smuggling crumpet in. My poor singing teacher got spotted right away.

Dexter fancied himself as a bit of a crooner and I think he didn't like the idea of me being better than him at the old karaoke.

As soon as my visitor had sat herself down on the bed Dexter was knocking on my door demanding to know what was going on.

He said "I strictly forbid you from having guests in your room after 8pm".

I politely pointed out that it was 7.57 and that for the next three minutes I was perfectly within my rights to indulge in a little vocal inflection - and with that I shut the door in his face.

Sadly my lesson didn't quite turn out as planned.

The jazz teacher rather bizarrely asked me to strip naked and lie under a glass topped coffee table. I think it was to warm my vocal chords up but unfortunately the poor lady must have been scared by Dexter sticking his big nose in and had an attack of the trots all over the table. I had to spend the next three hours cleaning it up.

The TCCB sacked me the next day. David Gower tried to cheer me up by saying I could borrow some of his jazz mags but the last thing I wanted to do was read about Johnny Dankworth.

Gatt's spats spat

My most famous barney was with umpire Shakoor Rana during a test match against Pakistan in Faisalabad during the 1987/88 tour.

picture of Rana and Gatting
Fancy dress fall-out: "He should have gone as Mr. Pilsbury" Rana tells TCCB official.

The bloke was a useless umpire and gave us nothing all game. He really got on my wick.

Matters weren't helped when some of us were a little worse for wear after attending a function the previous evening

I doubt if the current test team have anything stronger than Horlicks during a match but in those days we were usually on the lash every night.

This particular do was a fancy dress event at some posh hotel. I went as a French Infantryman and took third prize behind Broady's Gunga Din and Neil Foster as Carmen Miranda.

I should have won but that's another story.

Anyway, I woke up very late the next morning and found that I had missed the team bus. With only 10 minutes to go before start of play I had to grab whatever I could and dash to the ground.

I joined the lads just as they were taking the field and didn't have time to put my cricket boots on.

You guessed it. I had to spend the first session at mid-on still wearing my spats.

Shakoor should have been concentrating on getting our LBW appeals right but for some reason he took exception to my attire.

He called me over and said: "Mr. Gatting as you are well aware rule 65 subsection 4 of the ICC code strictly forbids the wearing of French military apparel on the field of play".

My blood was boiling. I wasn't prepared to take such nonsense. Perhaps in retrospect I should have counted to 10 and walked away but that's not the Gatt style.

picture of Mike Gatting
Gatt's spot spat: Gatt flies back from the West Indies after a disagreement with team-mate Graham Dilley over his unauthorised borrowing of Dilley's Oxy 10.

I looked round the field and the lads were 100% behind me.

There was steam coming out of Bill Athey's ears.

He was still wearing his Mr. Spock ones from the night before and the intense sun was making them fry.

And Eddie Hemmings still had his Hitler moustache on - he'd bowled ten overs before anyone complained; and that was only when he goose-stepped back to his mark. Eagle-eyed umpire Mr. Rana hadn't even noticed that one.

I reminded Mr. Rana that Imran Khan once spent an entire test match dressed as Napoleon and nobody said anything.

One rule for one, one rule for others.

Let's just say that Mr. Rana was left under no illusions about what I thought about him, his umpiring ability and his country's fancy dress judges!

Mr. Rana took the huff and there was a bit of a stink about it. The MCC got involved and suggested I apologised to Mr. Rana and get the game started again.

I told them in no uncertain terms that I was making a stand for fair play, for English cricket and for the right of anyone to enjoy a fancy dress party - whatever the standard of the judging.

"You're right Gatt," said the top man at the MCC "but I'm afraid you will have to take it on your chin and eat humble pie, old fruit".

I thought he was offering me pudding, so I said yes. Turned out he wanted me to say sorry.

Rana - being a pedant - wanted his apology in writing, to which I very reluctantly agreed.

But I still had the last laugh. I signed a piece of paper saying "I apologise" but whilst I was signing it I was flicking the V-sign to him with my other hand.

He never saw that either. Funny that!

Crazy days!