English cricket legend on "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll" tours to NZ

Publish Date
Thursday, 21 November 2019, 4:41PM


Former captain Mike Atherton says touring New Zealand is like the good old days for the English test cricket team, minus the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

Writing in his column for The Times, Atherton recalls the infamous tour of 1984 during which Ian Botham and Allan Lamb were accused of smoking cannabis and the group regularly partied with Elton John's entourage.

"No England tour can exist in the kind of vacuum that encouraged England's cricketers of the early 1980s to treat a trip here as a glorified stag do," Atherton says.

Instead, Atherton points to the nature of the grounds and the fact the teams are basically just competing for pride as reminders of days gone by.

"This two-test tour, which does not feature as part of the World Test Championship, will be a reminder, to some degree, of how things used to be.

"The venues for these tests in Mount Maunganui and Hamilton, as is now the norm in New Zealand for test cricket, are smaller than many – 'boutique' is the word used here - designed to avoid the bad look of sparse crowds at the big stadiums in Wellington or Auckland.

"The atmosphere at both will be akin to out-ground matches in the County Championship and first-class cricket can be all the better for that. Cricket was not designed to emulate football."

However, Atherton says he thinks it wouldn't be a bad thing if the players do let loose.

"It will be a big surprise… if there is a repeat of the kind of shenanigans that accompanied the 1984 tour, better known among cricketers of a certain vintage as the 'sex, drugs and rock'n'roll tour'. Still, it would stir things up if there was."

While an inquiry cleared the English team of 1984 of doing anything off the field to impair their performance, its effects were long-lasting, especially on Botham who, according to his captain of the time Bob Willis, became a recluse on tour.

"It produced this siege mentality which followed Beefy (Botham) on tour for the rest of his career," Willis told Wisden.com. "His room became known as the 'bat cave' and he was never seen in the bar with anybody any longer."

The 1984 tour saw New Zealand notch their first test series victory over England, so perhaps the Black Caps would do well to encourage the English players to express their inner rock star whenever possible.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission