Anderson: Morgan's come-uppance deserved

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 16:06 31/12/2013

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OPINION: Guess I'm a halfwit then.

Unlike Sir Richard Hadlee and Joseph Romanos, I enjoyed watching Piers Morgan receive his come-uppance against Brett Lee.

The former Australian test speedster did exactly what I expected him to do against the shameless self-promoter.

This country's greatest cricketer was appalled that Lee bowled short and quick at the former tabloid twerp, while Romanos quickly concurred.

''It was a deliberate attempt to hit, injure, hurt and maim his opponent that I viewed as a form of grievous bodily harm or a human assault that could have proved fatal,'' Hadlee railed.

''Sadly there seems to be plenty of halfwits out there willing to back Lee,'' Romanos pontificated.

But not only did they vastly over-inflate the potential danger of the sideshow, they missed the point of Lee's belligerence.

To say Morgan could have been killed is the height of hyperbole. There's the slimmest of possibilities of a fatality when facing a cricket ball - but far less than driving a car, which we do every day without calling out other drivers.

Morgan had a helmet, chest pad, arm guard, thigh pad and batting pads, along with a lengthy piece of willow that has often proved handy for repelling cricket balls.

Lee has been cast as the villain of the piece - the boorish, bad-tempered, bully-boy Australian trying to harm and humiliate yet another Pom.

Yet what Lee did was to stand up for the English test side and give support to his fellow professional cricketers.

Morgan had called out his countrymen on social media. At the heart of his criticism was the underlying barb that they had been bullied into submission, that they lacked the mental toughness to deal with the aggressive pace bowling of Mitchell Johnson in particular.

You can criticise test cricketers for errors of judgment and poor technique, but when you question their heart, you're on dangerous ground.

By including Jonathan Trott as a quitter, when the batsman had left the tour struggling with depression, showed Morgan had already made a gross error of judgment.

That wasn't unexpected - Morgan did not make his newspaper career out of an adroit understanding for the frailties of the human condition.

So sympathy was in short supply when Lee showed him just how physically and mentally demanding test cricket can be - an exam Morgan failed woefully. Lee proved a brief and brutal riposte to Morgan's ridiculous belief that his countrymen were without ticker.

If that is the case in test cricket, then you're done. Witness Jeetan Patel, who backed away a la Morgan when pushed by Dale Steyn in South Africa, and hasn't - and won't - play for New Zealand again.

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Romanos wrote following the barrage of short-pitched balls aimed at Morgan: ''There have been hostile fast bowlers since, including Ray Lindwall, Frank Tyson, Jeff Thomson, Dennis Lillee, any number of West Indians, Allan Donald and Shoaib Akhtar. I suggest none has ever set out as obviously to hit a batsman as Lee did.''

For a columnist who revels in history, that's a shonky memory.

It took me two minutes on Google to find this from Thomson:

''It's Sydney, 1975, and it's Keith Fletcher's turn to come out to bat. I'm bowling a million miles an hour and I've already put somebody in hospital, there might have even been blood on the pitch. So Fletcher comes out and the crowd are yelling 'Kill, kill, kill', you couldn't hear yourself think. Dennis Lillee ... runs up from bloody fine leg to Fletcher ... to abuse the shit out of him. Finally Dennis lets him go, this poor bloke, after telling him he's going to kill him if I don't.

''So I come into bowl ... and I missed him with the first ball. It really shits me missing with the first ball because I'm a lazy fast bowler and I don't like wasting my energy, so I dropped the sights a little lower and I just hit him right between the eyes.''

I came close to pulling off the same stupid stunt as Morgan when the Windies toured here in 1999.

As a reporter trying to make his mark, I suggested to our deputy editor during a discussion over how we could cover their visit with some new, exciting angles that maybe I should try a net session against their pacemen, who were constantly being berated with the criticism that they no longer held the fear factor that the Windies' quick battery in the era of Holding, Garner, Marshall and Croft did.

Unfortunately, he thought that was a swell idea.

I put a proposal to their manager, the legendary Sir Vivian Richards, at a warm-up match in Taupo. He eyed me for a few seconds and then replied, accompanied by a suspicious grin, in that memorable Caribbean drawl: ''So you want to faaace the paaace?''

Gulp.

Long story short  - the plan never came to fruition, as rain brought an abandoned net session in Hamilton when I was due to pad up.

And while it undeniably would have made a great front-page piece, I have no doubt what would have happened. A couple of West Indian fast bowlers would have rightly taken the idea as an insult to their ability and their fortitude and peppered me with short stuff that I would have been incapable of coping adequately with.

Morgan's stunt had the same air as the Fight for Life 'celebrity' boxing bouts when competing media members claim that they ''simply want to test themselves''.

If that's your sole goal, do it in private and donate your money - or time - to charity, without seeking the public spotlight.

They're all painful reminders we shouldn't forget that when the combatants are in the arena, we are in the press box for a reason.

- Stuff

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