Michael Angelow (right) is famous for his streaker’s antics when Australia met England in 1975 Ashes © Getty Images
When it comes to the word streaker, cricket is littered with instances of many an invader making an unannounced entry during the course of a tense match, unabashedly nude and naked, thus disrupting the game in progress and also bringing about some amount of comic relief to the fans and players in question. Vineet Varma takes a look at how cricket history has been filled with instances of people dashing out on to the pitch and stopping games with their intent to grab fifteen minutes of fame and also dwells into why the phenomenon occurs which leaves the streaker either with a ban from attending matches or a ticket straight to the nearest prison!
Streaker: Someone who engages in streaking, purposely appearing and running nude in public. (Wikipedia)
Mention the word streaker and the first image that comes to the mind is that of the great Greek scholar Archimides leaping out of his bath tub and running with unbridled joy on the streets of Syracuse yelling and shouting at his findings of historic importance. Now whether as to the great Greek was a sport-lover or not will remain a mystery but still his iconic naked image of joyful yelling and shouting has led many a man to be inspired and replicate the same in international football, cricket and tennis matches.
Moving away from the Archimedes era and if we focus on cricket then the most famous incident of a streaker interrupting a match and paying a heavy price for it came in Australia in 2008, when Ricky Ponting’s team were facing India in the second final of the Commonwealth Bank series at Brisbane. Australia, who were batting second, had Andrew Symonds at the crease and were trying to hunt down India’s 259-run target. When Australia were precariously placed at 34 for three in the ninth over, on came a naked man who rushed onto the field with ground police trying to swarm over him like a horde of locusts, hounding after him.
The amazing part apart from the man’s courage was that he tried to run past Symonds and only found himself at the end of a shoulder tackle from the burly Australian which sent him sprawling across the ground. The police’s job was done and the man was ‘covered’ and ushered out of the ground thanks to some quick reflexes by Symonds which may have made any Australian Football League quarter-back proud. Though Australia later lost the match by nine runs, still the match will always be remembered for Symonds and his tackle on that nude streaker.
If we turn back the clock to 1975 then Australia were facing England in the Ashes series at Lords and with the match heading towards a dull draw, Michael Angelow’s idea of fun was to dash on straight towards the stumps naked and hurdle over it thus bringing some entertainment to the bored crowd. As the amused English and Australian players looked on at the streaker’s antics, it prompted Test match pundit John Arlott to call him as a ‘freaker’ and a ”splendid appearance by a not so shapely and masculine guy”.
Though Arlott’s comments will forever go down in history as iconic words (the only phrase that comes close in the same context was Richie Benaud’s “there was a slight interruption there for athletics”) the most amazing part of the comical incident was of Angelow not being fined a single penny despite his on-field interruption and was asked to ‘moderate his behaviour’ and let off by the local police. It was later revealed that Angelow had a pound 20 bet with the Australian fans in the stands for streaking out to the field and as it turns out he promptly won the bet hands down!
Coming to the women and it seems that even the fairer sex have indulged in a lot of streaking throughout cricket matches in history with the most famous incident being that of Sheila Nicholls who in 1989 interrupted a England-Australia One-Day International match at Lords (again!) and to the surprise of the watching fans even performed a cartwheel before being taken away by stadium security. The incident prompted the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) members who were present in the Warner Stand to choke on their beers in shock and awe and also reminisce on the occasion of a female fan who had streaked naked across the England-Australia Rugby Union game at Twickenham in 1982 and quarrel upon whom was the better streaker!
And undoubtedly it was Nicholls who was the unanimous choice for the club members with the then secretary Colonel Stephenson also stating on record that it was the best display of ‘streaking’ he had ever seen in cricket history!
So as this article is nearly on the verge of ending it may well be done to be questioned as to why does the phenomenon of ‘streaking’ occurs in cricket as well as in other international sports? Though the streaker risks the chance of getting banned for life from attending matches at a particular stadium and even gets heavily fined or jailed for his or her infringement during a game, the fact is that it is the thrill to earn that momentary fame and place in the lime-light is what which spurs such people to perform frenzied acts in the midst of a game and later get punished for it.
This author feels that despite the phenomenon of streaking being a fun and comical sight to watch in international sport still strict measures must be taken against those indulging in the act as who knows someday some mad-head fanatic may cause serious trouble thanks to his or her antics on the field. Until then inspired by Archimedes I yell ‘Eureka’!