David Steele: His name exemplified his spirit at the batting crease
David Steele in 1979 © Getty Images

David Steele, born September 29, 1941, was a rather obdurate man. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at “the bank clerk who went to war.”

I remember watching Zack Snyder’s epic 2007 movie 300 based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. There was a scene when Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler) meets Daxos (played by Andrew Pleavin). Irked by Daxos’ comment that Leonidas’s Spartans lack commitment Leonidas asks Daxos’ Arcadians what their professions are.

The first turns out to be a potter, the second a sculptor, and the third a blacksmith; when Leonidas turns to his own army and asks them about their profession he is met with the chorus of “War! War! War!”

It sounded very good when I had watched it, but later, while going through the scene in my mind I asked myself: it’s a fact that the Spartans are better, but who is the more committed? Who is the braver of the two? The man who is trained to go to war or a man from a different profession but takes up arms for the same cause?

The warrior? Or the potter or sculptor or blacksmith?

It was then that I remembered a man described by Clive Taylor on The Sun: of a man he called The Bank Clerk Who Went to War.

Entering the war

It was a debut matched by few others. England had been outplayed in the Ashes of 1974-75, and when the Australians came over for the return Ashes it seemed that the hosts were still in a hangover of sorts. They had lost by an innings on the fourth morning at Edgbaston with Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, and Max Walker sharing 19 English wickets between themselves; Graham Gooch, the Essex batsman who had been drafted in to encounter the Australian speedsters, had registered a pair on debut.

Tony Greig was appointed captain mid-series when Mike Denness had resigned and Geoff Boycott pulled out. Immediately after getting the job, Greig asked who the best English player against fast bowling was. The unanimous answer was, obviously, Boycott. Greig asked the next name on the list. It was then that someone named David Stanley Steele to him; the closest Steele had come to playing for England was when he was a contender for Tony Lewis’s side that had toured India in 1972-73.

So Greig picked the bespectacled, silver-haired man straight out of the Championship to bat at first-down for England; he looked frail, he looked terribly out of place on a cricket ground, and at 33 he looked at least 10 years older. The media criticised the decision; they even laughed; but Steele found a place in the first XI.

“We were crying out for a hero but, amid the ruins of a first Ashes Test thrashing and the resignation of captain Mike Denness, never imagined a working-class saviour with grey thatch and silver specs,” confessed Ian Chadband in The Telegraph decades later.

Steele had reached Lord’s early that morning. He was not used to entering the home dressing-room of Lord’s: on his way in he bumped into Len Hutton, one of the selectors who had chosen him out of obscurity. Hutton greeted him with the phrase “’Morning, Derek”.

Steele was not amused. “’Morning, Bill”, came the retort.

He went into the dressing-room and made himself comfortable. If Steele’s teammates were surprised when they suddenly saw a man of his appearance making his way to the dressing-room they kept it to themselves. Steele waited for Tony Greig to come back after the toss with Ian Chappell.

Steele: What’re we doing?
Greig: We’re batting.
Steele: Fine.

Not a word more. There was no need to. Steele calmly brought out his pads and strapped them on. He was, after all, expected at No. 3.

By the time Barry Wood and John Edrich were out in the middle, Steele was ready. He pushed a towel into his jockstrap and wrapped it around his left leg — that was going to be his only protection against Lillee, Thomson, and Walker.

The ball was still new; it was the 10th over; the score read 10. A short-of-length ball jagged back from just outside the off-stump and rapped Wood on his back pad. Lillee appealed vociferously, Bill Alley raised the finger, and Wood was declared out.

It was Steele’s turn. The cap was proudly pulled over the gray hair, the glasses were adjusted, the willow was picked up with all respect it deserved, the strides were more proud; he was, after all, playing for his country. The innocuous-looking ‘bank clerk’ had left for the battlefield.

The way out was not as easy as he had figured out, though. Playing for the ‘unfashionable’ Northamptonshire he had only entered the Long Room from the left till now. He went down a few flights of stairs, missed the exit, and found himself — much to his surprise — to the home team’s restrooms (which are, somewhat mysteriously, not adjacent to the dressing-room).

Steele hurried back. He met an Irish doorman who seemed unperturbed by the sight of a gray-haired bespectacled stranger in complete cricket attire coming up from the toilet. He still asked where Steele was headed for.

Steele: To the wicket.
Doorman: Don’t go in there. These are the toilets. You’ve come down too far. You’d better go back up to the Long Room.
Steele: Right. I’ll just nip back up, then.

Steele made his way up but still had problems finding the way to the middle. He was somewhat confused by the fact that there was no one to show him the way. Then, thankfully, he saw Wood coming in through a door some way above him. Four confused eyes met each other.

Wood: What’re you doing?
Steele: I’m trying’a get out! Which way?
Wood: Through that door. I’m out.
Steele: I can see that.

So Steele walked out. He was fortunate that the Australians had not appealed for a timed out. There were comments from the swarms of MCC members on either side of his way through to the stumps. A few not-too-pleasant comments flew in the air:

Member 1: Oo’s this old gray bugger they’re playin’?
Member 2: Crikey, he’s very gray, isn’t he?

Steele, of course, did not get to hear any of this. He later wrote: “I always had tunnel vision. Whenever a colleague held up play because someone walked in front of the sight-screen or moved in the crowd I used to ask them why they were looking in that direction. They should have been watching the bowler with the ball in his hand. A herd of elephants could go past and it wouldn’t bother me.”

This was oddly reminiscent of Arjun from Mahabharat — the man who looked at only the eye of the bird when taking aim; nothing more, nothing less, wasn’t it? Bank clerk or not, he was the perfect man to be sent to the front. He was not the most attractive; but he was brave, he was committed, he was determined, and he was focused.

“Steele wore his England cap with the peak turned upwards like a jockey’s, giving him a schoolboyish air, the look of a raffishly silver Puck, Andy Warhol’s spitting image puppet and Jerry Lewis’s Professor Julius Kelp rolled into one,” Rob Bagchi wrote later of his appearance in The Guardian.

The Australians were obviously confused to find a man of Steele’s appearance to walk out at 10 for 1. “Who the f**k’s this, then? Father-f**king-Christmas?” asked Thomson, his hands on his hips. “Looks like Father Christmas”, nodded a close-in fielder.

Steele reached the wicket, adjusted his cap to make it tilt slightly upwards, and aligned his steel-rimmed glasses to perfection. Lillee had meanwhile joined the fray.

Steele: Good morning, Thommo.
Thomson: Christ! They’ve even picked Groucho Marx now!
Lillee: Who’s the gray ghost? (Suddenly recognising Steele) Steeley, you little sh*t!
Steele: Bugger off, you two.

[Note: Recollections vary regarding the words uttered by Lillee and Thomson upon Steele’s arrival at the crease; however, though it is unclear regarding who said what, all sources agree on the words and the names.]

Lillee walked back to his mark. It was Rodney Marsh’s turn to join the fun: “Oi, Dennis! You didn’t tell me your grandfather was playing!”

Steele had finally heard a sledge. He turned towards Marsh, tapped his posterior with the bat, and retorted: “Take a good look at this arse of mine, Marshy. Get used to it, because you’re going to see a lot of it this summer.”

Lillee had backed himself to bowl short. He had two slips, a leg-slip, a leg-gully, and a short-leg. The third ball was bounced, as expected; Steele saw it early, moved across very fast, and pulled it hard, past the leg-gully to the square-leg boundary. He was off the mark.

“I hit a four early on the morning and the crowd erupted. It sounded a long way off. Beautiful feeling. I loved it, knowing I was in command,” Steele later wrote.

Two more boundaries followed soon — a pull and a hook off Lillee, both of which raced to the boundaries. Lillee, however, was at his best yet again when he removed Edrich, Dennis Amiss, and Gooch (who scored his first Test run) in quick succession to reduce England to 49 for 4. None of the four men out had reached double figures.

The tall frame of Greig walked out to join Steele. It was one of the oddest pairs in history: the towering Greig used his feet brilliantly to launch a counterattack on the fast bowlers; Steele did not get carried away at the other end and was happy to hold up an end.

Steele kept on telling himself “watch the ball, watch the ball” before every ball was bowled. He was, however, particularly harsh on Lillee whenever he pitched one short. “This is what all of England has been waiting for,” commented an exalted Denis Compton when he saw Steele’s composed strokeplay off back-foot.

Greig beat him to his fifty, but Steele was patient and eventually brought up his fifty off a back-foot stroke played off Ashley Mallett through mid-wicket. He was eventually bowled by Thomson for a 103-ball 50. He had batted for 163 minutes and had hit 9 boundaries and returned to the pavilion amidst tumultuous applause.

He followed it with a 111-ball 45 with 6 fours in the second innings, helping Edrich add 104 in 135 minutes. He looked in control till he fell to an exceptional caught-and-bowled off Doug Walters; the Test was drawn thanks to the 2 hours lost in a thunderstorm; Test cricket saw its first streaker; and Steele had arrived. He had also picked up his only 2 wickets in his Test career.

Steele had an outstanding series: coming out at 25 for 1 at Headingley he top-scored with a 169-ball 73 with 8 fours and then followed it up with a 222-ball 92 with 7 fours and a six in the second innings. The Test was, however, abandoned on the last day when the Rugby Ground End pitch was ruined by vandals with knives and oil, ruling out play on Day Five.

Steele’s fine form continued in the final Test at The Oval. After Australia as good as retained the Ashes with a huge 532 for 9, Steele top-scored with an 80-ball 39 with 5 fours and a six; when England followed-on Steele responded with a 175-ball 66 with 6 fours. The Test was saved.

Steele scored 365 runs at 60.83 in the series with 4 fifties in 6 innings, batting for approximately 19 hours. He topped the average chart but ended up scoring less runs than Edrich, who had played a Test more than Steele in the series. It was the kind of debut youngsters dream of: it was instead achieved by a man in his thirties who looked way older than that.

Despite the fact that England lost the Ashes 0-1 Steele had become the darling of the nation by the time the series had come to an end. “We’d been down. People told me it was Churchillian. I just came and got stuck in and gave them a bit of inspiration and that’s why the country got behind me,” Steele later stated. It was an understatement.

He was rewarded in more ways than he possibly had imagined. He was named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year [SPOTY] (where the presenter addressed him by the name ‘Derek’). Jim Laker, Ian Botham, and Andrew Flintoff are the only other cricketers to have received the award — all because of their Ashes achievements in series virtually named after them. He was also named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year.

Wisden was all in awe: “Test cricket has not enjoyed such a romantic story for decades. In the space of 3 matches, and at the age of 33, after 12 seasons with Northamptonshire on the county circuit, Steele emerged as the much-needed national hero with the skill, nerve and character to stand up and offer fair fight to Lillee, Thomson and Co. His selection in the shake-up following the disaster at Edgbaston was inspired.”

There was another reward, a slightly non-trivial one this time. Steele reminisced: “A lamb chop for every run up to 50 then after 50, I was on steaks. We had this list up in the kitchen and when we’d run out, we’d ring Harry at the abattoir and he’d say ‘Aren’t you finished yet?’ I’d say ‘No, we’ve still got another 200 left’. Kept us in meat for 3 years, that did.” Steele’s entire tally for the season went up to 1,756 chops.

Littlewoods and Liverpool Football Club owner John Moores gifted him an amount of £4,000. He added: “Before I left he said to his PR man, ‘Show him round the stores and let him take what he wants.’ I thought, ‘Good god, it’s Christmas here. Santa Claus has come!’ And I did: took a shirt here, a suit, hats, you name it — went home with a bloody carful.”

The man

No adjective would be an overstatement to describe Steele’s contribution to English cricket. Many batsmen have scored more runs than him in a series, even in an Ashes. What made Steele’s performance stand out was the fact that he had lifted English cricket from a position when they were battered, bruised, and psychologically scarred by the brutal relentless professionalism of the Australians.

“He applied a refreshingly new outlook, confidence and patriotism to a daunting task, and perfectly complemented the drive of the captain, Tony Greig. At the end of the series, Greig said that Steele’s inclusion was the best thing that had happened to England — and none challenged the opinion as exaggerated praise,” wrote Wisden.

His numbers show that he had succeeded against fast bowling of the best quality at the highest level of cricket. What is relatively unknown is the fact that Steele never got to demonstrate his ability to dominate quality spin — something that had earned him quite a reputation in the Championship.

His main claim to fame was, obviously, his ability to dominate the short ball. He never flinched, he saw the ball very early, shifted his balance to the back-foot in the easiest possible fashion, and the cut or the pull or the hook came down like a whiplash as the ball raced to the boundary.

David Steele: His name exemplified his spirit at the batting crease
David Steele scored 22,346 runs in First-Class cricket from 500 matches © Getty Images

He was never one to put on chest-guards or other protective gear. In fact, he resented the appearance of helmets in the sport: “I do feel, watching the modern game, that some players do a lot of ducking and diving and generally hiding behind the helmet. They know that if they do get hit on the head, the helmet will protect them. The technique for playing short pitched deliveries has therefore all but disappeared.”

It was a mystery that Steele was selected to play 8 Tests and a solitary ODI. All his Tests came against the two teams with the strongest fast bowling line-ups of the era — Australia and West Indies. England lost both series, but Steele ended up scoring 673 runs at 42.06 with a hundred and 5 fifties.

Given his nature it was not surprising that he had saved his best for the highest level. His First-Class record read 22,346 runs from 500 matches at a rather ordinary 32.47 (significantly less than his Test batting average) with 30 hundreds. The numbers prove his ability to perform at the highest level.

Wisden wrote: “Instead of inducing nerves the presence of big crowds and extra responsibilities uplifted him. In short he found that he had the priceless gift of a big match temperament. Moreover he has an almost old-fashioned urge to do his best for England.”

Steele was also a more than useful left-arm spinner, with the ability to win matches on his day: his First-Class tally read 623 wickets at a very good 24.89 with 26 five-fors and 3 ten-fors. A safe fielder, he also held 546 catches.

Above everything he was a very proud British. “I regard it as a tremendous privilege to play for my country. It makes you want to try until it hurts,” mentioned the man. He proudly mentioned that “walking with the lion of England on, because that’s what you dreamed about” was the ultimate achievement. SPOTY was just the “icing on the cake” in comparison.

His attitude towards the sport and his commitment for the country made him an unlikely role-model. As Bagchi wrote, “Steele spoke to the myth of the stout English yeoman, honest, courageous and indomitable, the antithesis of decadent, who restored self-respect.”

Early days

Steele was born at Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. His school, the Enden Secondary Modern, did not offer cricket as a facility, but Steele soon came under the wings of his uncle Stan Crump, who used to play in the Lancashire League in the “Learie Constantine era”.

“He was hard. He brought me up to play in a competitive spirit, and if you returned home after a bad day the whole family suffered with you. Cricket was always a way of life with us, and I have found that once you have the right approach it clings to you throughout your career,” Steele later recalled.

He made it to the Second XI and the Sneyd Colliery Under-15 side at an age of 14 (somehow this writer finds it terribly difficult to imagine a 14-year-old David Steele), and participated in the Staffordshire League at 16. By 19 he was a professional with Hartshill. During this period he also worked as a printer’s apprentice, earning £14.50 a week.

By this time Crump had laid out a concrete wicket in his back garden where cricket was played with a ruthless consistency; there were instances in the harshest of winters when they had to sweep the snow off the pitch for the cricket to begin. Providing Steele with company would be his cousin Brian Crump (who became a Northamptonshire all-rounder), the son of Stan, and David’s brother John (also an all-rounder who played for Leicestershire and Glamorgan).

The competitiveness in the backyard never waned, even with age. David and Brian did not get to play a lot against each other, but David always came to his elements when he was up against John. While bowling to his brother David trampled over the pitch to make it deteriorate, bowled close to the stumps and followed through in a straight line mid-pitch — basically everything to get him out.

One incident stands out. In a match between Northamptonshire and Glamorgan, David Steele picked was seen picking the seam of the ball rather ostensibly before bowling to John. When a startled Dickie Bird decided to intervene, David retorted with the words “Don’t you worry about it, Dickie. This is a family matter.”

He carried this give-nothing-away attitude outside the ground as well. During a match he had the following conversation with an umpire:

Steele: I went to the fair last night and I am not happy.
Umpire: Why’s that, then, David?
Steele: Well, I spent sixpence on the hoopla and didn’t win a thing. I’m so disappointed.

His miserly attitude earned him the nickname ‘Crime’ (which, as we all know, doesn’t pay). The other nickname was, of course, the obvious ‘Stainless’.

First-Class debut

Steele made his First-Class debut against Oxford University at The University Parks at an age of 21. He picked up 3 for 65 and 1 for 63, and scored an unbeaten 10 in the only innings he batted in. He ended the season with 116 runs at a terrible 11.60, but picked up 12 wickets at 28.16.

He earned his Northamptonshire cap in 1965. The first hundred came the same season when he scored 104 against Essex at Northampton. Later that season, Steele picked up 3 for 41 and 6 for 40 to rout Derbyshire for 168 and 96 at the same ground: it was his first First-Class five-for.

Thereafter, his career ambled on. He topped a thousand runs in almost every season and picking up useful wickets. He bowled out Lancashire for 125 (they were 67 for 1) with a career-best 8 for 29 at Northampton and led his county to an unexpected victory. His highest First-Class score of 140 not out came against Worcestershire at New Road in 1971.

By this time Steele had taken up a job as a sales representative for Staples Printers and worked out of his home at Kettering where he stayed with his wife Carol and his son Arran.

Then came 1972 — the season when everyone took notice of him for the first time. He missed out on being the first to reach a thousand runs that season by a mere 20 minutes. He finished the season with 1,618 runs at 52.19 with 5 hundreds, 5 wickets at 18.60, and 25 catches from 22 matches. He was considered for the India tour but was eventually rejected.

Test debut

Refusing to give up, Steele continued to score runs, especially in 1975. Other than several fifties he played a crucial role in the victories over Glamorgan at Northampton (he scored 126), Oxford University at University Parks (he picked up 7 for 70), and Worcestershire at New Road (he scored 102 and 67 not out).

With the England batting line-up crumbling at Edgbaston Steele earned a call-up for the second Test at Lord’s. The rest, as has been mentioned above, is a part of Ashes folklore.

Immediately after the Lord’s Test Steele played them again, this time in a tour match. He scored 29 in the first innings but resumed his fine form against the antipodeans, scoring 102 in the second innings and adding 181 with Mushtaq Mohammad. He finished the season with 1,756 lamb chops runs at 48.77 with 3 hundreds, picked up 11 wickets at 13.45, and held 26 catches from 21 matches.

It was also his benefit season, thanks to his contribution to English cricket in an era of gloom, inflation (24.2 per cent — the highest since 1800 — and political unrest he had become an extremely popular figure in the country, especially in his own county. The season earned £25,500 for him.

The form continues

Steele toured South Africa with DH Robins’ XI that winter. He top-scored with 356 runs at 71.20 (nobody else reached 200 or averaged more than 35; Steele also scored the only century for his side — 110 against Western Province at Newlands against Garth le Roux and Eddie Barlow). With the ball he picked up 5 wickets at 10.80.

With a decent start to the next season (93 not out against Lancashire at Old Trafford and 139 against Middlesex at Lord’s in back-to-back matches) Steele was ready to take on Clive Lloyd’s West Indians in what would turn out to be the famous ‘grovel’ series.

England fought gamely in the first Test at Trent Bridge. West Indies had in their line-up a pace quartet in the form of Andy Roberts, Wayne Daniel, Bernard Julien, and Vanburn Holder. They piled up 494 and removed the debutant Mike Brearley for a duck. Steele walked out.

As before he handled the pace attack with considerable ease, moving back to bring out the cuts and pulls and hooks from his repertoire whenever the ball was pitched in the bowler’s half of the crease. He lost Edrich and Brian Close in quick succession before finding an able ally in Bob Woolmer.

Fifty came up with a flick through mid-wicket for a hard-run three. This time he was not going to throw it away with anything stupid. He did not hesitate to hook Roberts off his face to fine-leg for a powerful boundary, and was almost run out going for the 99th run off a misfield.

The hundred eventually came up with a hook off a no-ball from Roberts. The elation of the maiden Test hundred was evident on his radiant face. He kissed the emblem on his Test cap, waved it to the crowd to acknowledge the cheer and the Union Jacks, and a broad grin spread across his face.

England obtained a 68-run lead in the second Test at Lord’s; Steele top-scored in the second innings with 64 and the Test was drawn as time ran out with Roy Fredericks leading a mad chase.

Thereafter it all went downhill: Gordon Greenidge’s 134 took West Indies to 211 before Michael Holding, Roberts, and Daniel bowled out England for 71 at Old Trafford. Steele was the only batsman who managed something respectable, top-scoring with a 23-ball 20.

Set to chase 552, Edrich and Close survived an intimidating bouncer barrage from the three West Indian fast bowlers before stumps on Day Three. They survived the 65-minute reign of terror, made the two highest scores, and never played a Test again. Steele managed to hook a bouncer for six but fell for 15; England scored 126 and lost by the proverbial mile.

Headingley turned out to be a closer affair: Steele was asked to open with Woolmer as both Edrich and Close were left out. He failed, scoring 4 and a duck as the trio, now joined by Holder, went on to defeat England.

West Indies scored 687 for 8 in the final Test at The Oval. Steele walked out to join Amiss and helped him add 100 for the second wicket, scoring an 88-ball 44 with 6 boundaries. Then, chasing 435, England were down to 78 for 5 when Steele and Alan Knott fought out of their skins to resist the West Indies but eventually gave in. Steele ended up scoring 42 in 145 balls with 5 fours, and England lost by 231 runs.

Despite the rout the season went well for Steele and Northamptonshire, who emerged as the runners-up in the Championship. Steele also played the only ODI of his career that season, against West Indies at Scarborough, where he scored 8 before falling to Roberts.

The mysterious axing

Steele was not selected for the subsequent tour of India on the grounds that he was not a good player of spin. The allegation was, of course, not the most accurate one, and the axing caused a lot of controversy. A bigger blow came when he was left out of the Centenary Test; he missed out on a chance to become a part of history.

“After facing those quicks, I could have played spin with no pads on,” complained Steele. “They left me out against India, which wasn’t right. I got runs against all the quicks and as soon as the little diddlers came along I was left out. Out came the rabbits, the Fletchers and all these. Then they went and played the Centenary Test in Australia. I should have played that.”

He never played a Test again.

Derbyshire days

Steele moved to Derbyshire as the captain but resigned after a period of 6 weeks. For his new county, however, he used to bowl a lot more. In 1980 he picked up 11 for 174 against Nottinghamshire at Worksop; it was his second 10-for after his 11 for 75 against Derbyshire at Northampton in 1980.

John Wright, his fellow Derbyshireman, confirmed that he had retained all his traits: “Although a dour and gritty performer on the field, Steely was a character and a central figure in much of the Derbyshire team’s dressing room banter. He was extremely careful with his finances — we used to say he had tarantulas in his pockets — and loved batting more than anything except pound notes. Among other things it meant that when the dust cleared after a mix-up in the running between the wickets, the player heading for the pavilion with his bat under his arm and a face like a squeezed lemon was very seldom DS Steele.”

Steele was never one to give away his wicket easily. Geoff Miller, another Derbyshire stalwart, was forever in pursuit of a First-Class hundred (it eventually took him 380 innings). On one occasion Miller had reached 89 when he realised that both he and Steele were going for the same end.

As Wright wrote, Steele “wasn’t unduly troubled by his conscience”. He dived a full 3 yards to make it before Miller, who was run out. The reaction, as Wright mentioned, was “classic Steele”: “It quite destroyed my concentration — I felt bad for 3 balls. Then I thought, it’s a good wicket and I have to get my head down.”

Shortly afterwards Steele found in another situation where he played one to cover and found that the non-striker hadn’t moved at all. He realised that it was too late and rushed to the bowler’s end; to quote Wright, “Steele wasn’t the sort to give his wicket up without a fight and tried to push the other batsman out of his ground before accepting the inevitable and trudging off.” He was greeted in the dressing-room to the chorus of “there’s no business like show business”.

Back to Northants

He was selected for Leicestershire for a short tour of Zimbabwe in 1980-81; he played for Derbyshire till 1981 and was a part of the Derbyshire side that lifted the 1981 NatWest Trophy. By now the regular travel to Derbyshire had started to affect his back. He contemplated the offer from Ken Turner, the Northamptonshire secretary.

Turner offered him again with the words “I’ve lost a final but got you back. That’ll do me.” He played on, mostly as a bowling all-rounder, and eventually quit in 1984 at an age of 43. In his last match, against Worcestershire at New Road, Steele scored 16 and picked up 5 for 125.


Steele is currently a renowned after-dinner speaker. He is quite renowned for his dry sense of humour. He remains enthusiastic about any kind of discussion on cricket — past or present, his own or otherwise. He has taken up gardening as a passion, is the President at Geddington Cricket Club, and loves spending days looking after his granddaughter Gracie May.

In an interview to The Telegraph in 2012 he exclaimed: “No, I don’t look 33 anymore. Just 35 these days!”

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)