Robin Jackman: 13 facts about the lion-hearted pacer and popular commentator

Robin David Jackman, born August 13, 1945, is a former English cricketer who bowled pace. A Surrey stalwart, he appeared only in four Tests and 15 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for England. Suvajit Mustafi point out 13 facts about the Englishman, who later became a famous commentator.

1.  India connection: Jackman was born in the Indian hill station of Shimla. His father was a Major with Second Gurkha Rifles and lost a leg during the Second World War. A year after Jackman’s birth, the family moved to Surrey.

2.  Aspired to be an actor: He was the nephew of the famous English comedian Patrick Cargill and inspired by him. Jackman too aspired to be an actor. An acting career didn’t have a great success rate hence his maternal uncle didn’t encourage him enough to be take it up.

3.  Introduction to cricket: It was his father who introduced him to the game. His father would lay a handkerchief in the garden and ask him to bowl there — a lesson in line and length. In his autobiography Jackers: A Life in Cricket, Jackman wrote: “He paid me six pence every time I hit the handkerchief — and fined me a penny every time I bowled down the leg side. He would stand there, on his good leg, throwing balls at me for hour after hour. If Pa hadn’t spent so many hours helping me I would not have been able to get to where I eventually did.”

4.  An off-spinner: By the age of 12, he was a batsman who could bowl effective off-spin but gradually he blossomed into a paceman.

5.  True fan of Trueman: Like many aspiring English pacers of his youth, Jackman too idolised the legendary Fred Trueman. Jackman had heard that Trueman had beer and cheese roll for the lunch break. He tried the same on his debut and learned a hard lesson. Jackman was once playing against Yorkshire where his batting rescued his side. Later at the bar, he met Trueman who paid him the biggest compliment when he said, “Well done, lad. You had a good day today. I’ll tell you what, I’d like to have you in my team because you don’t give up.” 

6.  Irks Ian Botham: He had a reputation for theatrical appealing and most often it irked his opposition. Ian Botham, who later became a great admirer of Jackman, wrote in his autobiography, “When I first played against him I wanted to knock his head off because he really antagonised me; I thought ‘you arrogant, strutting gnome’.” Alan Gibson, writing for Times, rechristened Jackman — Shoreditch Sparrow.

7.  A Surrey stalwart: Over the years, Jackman proved to be one of the main players of Surrey. He was a member of the Surrey side that won the County Championship in 1971. He ended his career with 1402 First-Class wickets at 22.80 and 439 List A wickets at 21.10.

8.  Test debut at 35: Having made his One-Day International (ODI) debut back in 1974, Jackman finally made his Test debut in 1981 at the age of 35. He picked up 14 wickets from the four Tests that he played.

9.  South African connection: Jackman had a South African wife and played First-Class cricket for Western Province and Rhodesia during English winter. South Africa were then banned from international sporting events due to apartheid. Later, Jackman settled down in South Africa.

10.  “The Robin Jackman affair”: Not often have we seen a Test getting cancelled due to a player. The second Test of the 1980-81 tour of West Indies at Georgetown, Guyana, was cancelled because of him. When the Guyanese government came to know of Jackman’s South African connection, they refused to let him play. They revoked his visa for his relation with apartheid South Africa. The Test was cancelled as his team management stood behind him.

11.  Sense of humour: Jackman didn’t follow his uncle’s path to be a comedy actor, but he possesses an excellent sense of humour. Botham writes, “He’s got a fabulous sense of humour and when we travelled on coaches he would sit at the front, grab the microphone and entertain us with his John Hancock routine. I’m convinced he was good enough to have gone on stage.” Even as a commentator later, Jackman’s witty one-liners made him very popular.

12.  Commentary: Jackman went on to be one of the most popular and loved commentators. Apart from his deep insights he is also known for this hoarse voice.

13.  Battle with cancer: Wisden describes Jackman as “lion-hearted opening bowler.” True, he has been a fighter and a winner all his life. Against the most dreaded opponent — cancer, he emerged victorious and many consider him a role model because of his undying spirit.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)