Ray Illingworth © Getty Images
Ray Illingworth © Getty Images

Ray Illingworth, born June 8, 1932, was a handy all-rounder, administrator, and commentator who led England to a stable and successful period, often being complimented for his man-management. Shiamak Unwalla looks at 10 interesting facts about one of England’s shrewdest-ever Test captains. 

1. Illingworth and Illingworth: It is a misconception that Ray Illingworth is the father of former English all-rounder and current umpire Richard Illingworth. Though both men were born in Yorkshire, there is no relation between Ray and Richard.

2. The Pudsey men: Pudsey is where the likes of John Tunnicliffe, Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton, and more recently Matthew Hoggard, hailed from. Illingworth is the fourth cricketer to be inducted in the Yorkshire Hall of Fame after Fred Trueman, Geoff Boycott, and Hutton.

3. A heady double: Illingworth is one of just a handful of players to have scored over 20,000 runs and captured over 2,000 wickets in First-Class cricket. To put that in perspective, neither Sir Garry Sobers nor Imran Khan — widely considered two of the greatest all-rounders of all time —managed to achieve this feat.

4. Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1960: Illingworth was named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1960. Ironically, it was the same year he was dumped as Test captain!

5. Miserly off-spinner: While he was never a renowned wicket-taker — he averaged a high 31.20 and took a wicket every 97.8 balls — Illingworth rarely gave away easy runs. He enjoys the best economy rate among bowlers who have bowled in 100 or more innings: 1.91.

Illingworth later said in an interview with Cricinfo, “Because I bowled so much in my younger days, I could leave bowling for a fortnight, and come back and bowl straightaway again. Don’t forget I was bowling a thousand overs every season.”

6. A part of history: Though it was not planned, Illingworth will go down in history as the first captain to lose a One-Day International (ODI). He was England’s captain in the first-ever ODI, while Bill Lawry was the winning Australian captain.

7. Playing till a ripe old age: Illingworth played First-Class cricket from 1951 to 1983, meaning that he played for 32 years, playing his last game when he was over 50.

8. All in the family: Ray Illingworth is the father-in-law of fellow Yorkshire cricketer Ashley Metcalfe. Incidentally, Metcalfe started his career in 1983, the same year Illingworth retired.

9. Much-loved captain: Despite his numerous personal achievements, Illingworth is perhaps best known as an excellent man-manager during his captaincy days. Despite having two of the most volatile players in his side — Geoff Boycott and John Snow — he had the unwavering loyalty and respect of his team. He was known to fight hard for the players he wanted, and was often at odds with the board in order to get better wages and accommodation for him and his teammates.

10. (Un)able administrator: Strangely, though he was such a loved captain, Illingworth was far from admired in his role as chairman of selectors. He was often at odds with then-captain Michael Atherton over player selection; their antagonism culminated when he insisted on Jack Russell as wicketkeeper during the 1996 World Cup, ahead of Atherton’s choice Alec Stewart. Illingworth was removed from his position soon thereafter.

At a different point, he also had a showdown with Devon Malcolm. This was in spite of the fact that Malcolm had recently bowled England to an amazing victory over South Africa with a spell of nine for 57.

(Shiamak Unwalla is a former reporter with CricketCountry.A self-confessed geek who loves cricket more than cricketers,his Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)