Brian Close Biography
Brian Close entered international cricket as a teenage prodigy in 1949. His final appearance was as a hard-bitten, bald-headed 45-year-old, facing the incredibly quick and hostile West Indian fast bowling at the top of the order in 1976.
Neither outing was marked by dramatic success. Nor were the sporadic Tests in between. But if there was one thing that was shown in plenty it was guts. In 1963 he walked down the wicket to meet Was Hall’s red hot pace halfway. In 1976, the photograph of his bare torso, with welts and contusions underlining Michael Holding’s fiery handiwork, entered the folklore of cricket. In between, he crept closer and closer to the wicket, and was often hit by forceful strokes, once right on the forehead. He never flinched.
His Test career was mediocre, never managing to quite recover from the disastrous debut series under Freddie Brown. He was a gutsy left-handed batsman with plenty of strokes and a bowler who could send down both seam and off-spin. But he never quite made the grade in the highest form of the game. His fantastic all-round feats for Yorkshire for over two decades meant that he was never too far from the call for national duty. But the ill-advised sweep stroke during the tense Old Trafford Test of 1961 was just one of the marks in his career that were never quite erased.
In spite of the failures at the international level and his many run-ins with authorities and peers, a battered England side did reach out to him for the final Test against West Indies in 1966. Drafted as captain due to his splendid leadership ofhis county, he led England to their only win that summer against the great side of Garry Sobers. The following year, he led in six Tests against India and Pakistan, winning 5 and drawing 1. But following a controversy involving slow over rate in a county match, he never led England in a Test match in spite of this wonderful record. He did lead the country in a series of ODIs against Australia in 1972, winning the series 2-1. During the series he became the first English captain to lead in a full ODI series and to win an ODI.
Close’s brushes with controversy continued, and he had to leave Yorkshire as he neared his fourth decade on earth. Yet, there was plenty of cricket left in him as he turned out for Somerset, hammering over 7,000 runs for them while picking up 74 wickets over the next few years. He ended as a mediocre Test cricketer but a phenomenal all-rounder in First-Class cricket.
He played First-Class cricket till 1977, moved on to league cricket and even turned out in a Scarborough Festival match in 1986 at the age of 55. He served as England selector and as the chairman of the Yorkshire CCC — during the course of which he was instrumental in drawing the final line on the career of Geoff Boycott. He remained controversial and combative till the end, but inspired loyalty and was a splendid leader.
Brian Close passed away on September 14, 2015.