Radley Clive Radley played just eight Tests and four ODIs for England. However, he ended with a Test average of 48, an ODI average of 83, two Test hundreds and a century in his last ODI. One of the legends of Middlesex, he stands sixth in the all-time list of run getters for the county. After his playing days, he was the head coach of MCC from 1991 till his retirement in 2009 and also served as the president of the Middlesex County Cricket Club. Arunabha Sengupta caught up with him at Lord’s during the Middlesex-Nottinghamshire County match.

CricketCountry (CC): You made your Test debut in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Geoff Boycott was your captain. In that same match Boycott was run out by his partner Ian Botham. Could you tell us a bit about what exactly went on in the dressing room during that time?

Clive Radley (CR): That was my first Test, and the situation of the game was that on the fourth day we were well ahead and all we had to do, with all our wickets in hand, was to get as many quick runs as we could so that we could have all of the fifth day to try and bowl them out. Geoffrey went out and did not get his runs very quickly. I don’t remember the exact figures but I think he got about 25 runs in 25 overs. (Boycott scored 26 from 80 balls in two hours)

Anyway, Ian Botham went in and ran him out. Whether he did it on purpose or not I don’t know. If he did, he did a very good job of it. We’ve still got it on tape, from the New Zealand Broadcasting people and it looked pretty genuine. Not many people could run Geoffrey out.

 

Geoffrey got back to the dressing room and threw his bat down. Somebody else (Chris Old) had gone in and I was due to go in next. I said to him, “Captain, do you want me to go in next? This is my first Test and there are some pretty good hitters down the order, perhaps it would be a good idea to send them.” And he said, “I can’t make any decisions, I am playing with a set of babies here. I am going back to the hotel. There is a vice-captain outside, go and ask him.”

In fact, we got enough runs and bowled them all out by tea the following day.

CC: It must have been a surprise to be called up to play for England all of a sudden.

CR: The situation was that I had taken over from Mike Brearley as a batsman because he had broken his arm in Karachi. I had been asked to be on standby for the winter in case someone got injured. I didn’t think anyone would. Batsmen don’t often get injured. Bowlers sometimes do. I did not give it much thought and went down to Sydney to do some coaching.

And then I got a phone-call in the middle of the night from someone here at Lord’s saying that Mike Brearley had broken his arm in Karachi and I had to get on the next flight. That was two o’clock in the morning and I was on the eight o’clock flight to Karachi.

I did not get there on time to play the final Test, because our flight got stuck in Bangkok. It was held up for 24 hours, which meant that I reached just an hour-and-a-half before the Test was due to start. I had been travelling for 36 hours, but I did not want to miss out on playing my first Test and so I said I was fit. But the management was sensible and I did not play. Mike Gatting played instead. He was just 20 years old and had gone to the tour for experience. They played him and I sat and watched. Gatting got a pair of low scores (5 and 6) which I quite enjoyed actually because he had taken my place. (laughs)

Boycott had taken over from Brearley as captain. When after the long flight to Pakistan I got to my hotel, I heard something going on in the next room. It turned out to be the team meeting and Geoffrey was speaking. They had decided that they would not play in that Test match if Pakistan insisted on playing three cricketers who had returned from World Series Cricket. Pakistan had got back Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad. The English team did not want to play the third Test match if these three were included. There was a lot of ill-feeling between the two camps of World Series and the establishment. In the end, the Pakistan Board backed down and the three were at the ground but did not play. So there was no international incident. It fizzled out into a dull draw. There were three Tests that series, and all were dull draws. And then we flew to New Zealand.

I did not play in the first Test at Wellington, and we lost that match. I think that was the first time England had ever lost to New Zealand (it was England’s first defeat against the Kiwis. It came after 48 years of cricket between the two sides and was the 48th Test between the two countries). I did play in the next one at Christchurch, and then we went on to Eden Park and I also played in that one (Radley scored 158 in that final Test).

CC: You played eight Tests.

CR: Yes, then we came back and had the series against Pakistan and New Zealand, three Tests each, and I played in all of those. And that was it. Eight Test matches in all.

CC: You scored two hundreds and then there was the injury.

CR: Yes, I got two hundreds. I scored one in the second Test I played at Eden Park and then in the first Test I played here at Edgbaston. At that stage I was getting hundreds at about the same rate as Don Bradman. But it didn’t last after that.

I played in 8 consecutive Test matches and then we went to Australia. I was No 3 for England and got hit on the head in the first warm up game. It was Rodney Hogg. He was a very good bowler and had only just come on the scene. That was during the World Series and they had some very fine bowlers who went away to play in the World Series and Hoggie and Alan Hurst got into the team. They picked a lot of wickets in that series. Hoggie took 40-odd (41) in the six-Test series.

We hadn’t heard about him then. We were just on the cusp of helmets coming in. I didn’t have a helmet on and I had ten stitches on my forehead. Interestingly enough, by the end of the series helmets had come in.

We went to the next game in Sydney and Mike Brearley had by then come back as captain because his arm had mended. He suggested I have a net with Botham and Willis bowling bouncers to see whether I had lost my confidence. So, I wore a motorbike type of helmet in the nets. After the nets, a gentleman watching from the back came to me and said “why don’t you try out one of these equestrian helmets?” It looked a lot better and almost like the helmets they have got these days.

I put on that helmet and went into the dressing room, and people like (David) Gower and (Derek) Randall said, “that doesn’t look quite so bad.” By the end of that series, many of the England players were wearing helmets and so were the Australians. From there it sort of floated down to club and school levels. It started at the top and then it did not seem so sissy for club and school players to be wearing them.

It was a good thing too; it must have saved a few lives down the line.

CC: You did not get back into the side after that.

CR: No. In that game when Brears told me to have a net, he put me down from No. 3 to No. 5 and put Derek Randall back up at No. 3. He was the one I had replaced in the first place. And in the next match against New South Wales, Derek got a hundred. I did not really get in, got around 12 (Radley scored 13 in that match). And they picked him for the next Test match. I never got back in.

Fate plays a big part in the short run of things. It was an injury that got me in, and it was an injury that got me out. So, I had a short Test career of 8 Test matches and 480 runs.

CC: That gave you an average of 48.

CR: That’s right, a bit more than Mr Boycott (Boycott averaged 47.72 in 108 Tests).

CC: Interestingly, you had an average of 83 in ODIs and scored a century in your final ODI game, something very few have done.

CR: That’s right. That was at the Old Trafford, against the Kiwis. I finished averaging 80-odd in the One-Days as well. So, it was a short international career but not really unsuccessful. The average was pretty high. Whenever I see Geoffrey Boycott I tell him I averaged more than him in Test matches; and he always says, “well, if you played longer the average would have gone right down.” I am sure he is right.

CC: Your Test career had a rather late start. You had been playing for nearly 15 years by then.

CR: Yes, I was 33. I had a good year, my benefit year, in 1977. I thought I had half a chance of being picked when the side was announced, but I was not in it and I thought that was it. At the age of 33, that was definitely the last chance I had ever had. And then two or three days later, I got a letter from the chairman of selectors, Alec Bedser, offering me the princely sum of £50 to stay fit for the winter in case some batsman went bust. As I said earlier, I did not think anybody would, but Mike Brearley did. Fate plays a part in everyone’s life I suppose; it certainly did in mine.

CC: You kept playing till you were in your 40s, and did pretty well too. In fact you were 41 when you scored the double-hundred against Northamptonshire, your highest in First-Class cricket.

CR: I kept fit I suppose. I was quite naturally fit and kept going. As most young cricketers do, I went from school straight into professional cricket. I didn’t have any other qualification, and really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I hoped that somehow I would fit into coaching somewhere along the line.

I was clearly coming towards the end of my playing career and there was this offer of a second benefit that kept me going for another year. That sets you up. For the average journeyman cricketer there were not many opportunities for making much money, and we relied a lot on the benefits. It was unlike these days when you are paid considerably better. They named three cricketers who would have benefits. John Emburey, me and Gatting, in that order. So, though I was in my 40s, it gave me the incentive to keep going. The timing was right again, and in terms of raising money it went quite well. It did not set us up for life, but I wouldn’t have changed it anyway.

CC: How was it playing for Middlesex in the late 70s and early 80s? It was a great side, wasn’t it?

CR: We had a great side. I had played for the previous 15 years and we had a pretty good side then. After that there was a change as Mike Brearley came along. And he made it into a good unit.

We had some very fine bowlers. We had five people capable of getting a hundred wickets a year. Wayne Daniel, Mike Selvey, Phil Edmonds, John Emburey … and then for a couple of years we had Alan Jones, a quick bowler who served his purpose here. We had a fairly good batting side too. Gatt was coming through, Paul Downton was fairly good in the middle-order, Wilf Slack played for quite a long time, Brearley and myself. We got by with the batting as well.

Daniel was obviously a terrific overseas signing, who did it for us for over ten years, the best overseas player anyone could ever wish for. He was a very, very good bowler but couldn’t get into the West Indian side because they had several great bowlers. So we didn’t lose him at any time. He was one of those players who always gave a hundred per cent. A lot of overseas players would come for a bit of a holiday, but Wayne always gave it all.

As Mike Smith used to say, he paid our rent for years, because he kept winning games; obviously, if you are winning tournaments and championships, you are earning a bit more money. We also had Jeff Thomson for a short while. And then we had Vintcent van der Bijl from South Africa who was another great signing, one of the best bowlers I ever saw.

CC: Talking about South Africa, you did coach there for a few years.

CR: Yes, I coached for a number of years in Transvaal and Johannesburg. It was good fun. South African cricket employed four coaches at that time. The Taylor twins (Mike and Derek), Dickie Bird and myself. We had a good two or three years out there. For the first two or three years they did not allow us to play, but then they did. It was a good experience.

CC: It was there that Dickie Bird received the offer of becoming an umpire.

CR: Yes. During my first year out there, Dickie had just finished playing and he had a job down in Paignton and Devon as a pro. He had come down to coach in the winter, and he received this letter from TCCB that offered him a post as an umpire. He used to come down every morning and he could not make up his mind. He had this nice little job at Paignton and Devon and thought he would not last much long in umpiring. Eventually he did take the offer, and the rest is history. But I did think at that time that if he could not make a decision about the job, how could he ever make a decision as an umpire. But he made a good job of it.

CC: You started coaching the Middlesex Second XI.

CR: They asked me to coach the second eleven with a view to taking over from Don Bennett. Once again, the timing was terrific. I did about two years, and it was coming towards the end of Mike Gatting’s career. I could see they would set up a position for Gatt and it there would probably not be a position available for me. And then Don Wilson, Head Coach of MCC, was just finishing and going off to Yorkshire to coach at a school out there. So the position of Head Coach of MCC was available and I got it. So, I am still here, going on 55 years at Lord’s.

CC: You retired as Head Coach in 2009.

CR: Yes, when I turned 65. I retired as Head Coach of MCC. The MCC had just taken over the sponsorship of the MCC Universities, the six Universities that they sponsor — Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Loughborough, Leeds and Cardiff. They wanted to run a combined side that plays in the minor counties championship. John Stephenson, head of cricket at Lord’s, asked me if I would like to oversee that. And that happened.

I am still doing it. In fact, in a few minutes I will be going to Cambridge to watch Cambridge play Loughborough to select a side for the County Second XI Championships.

That’s another avenue for young cricketers to get county contracts. A jolly good scheme too. In fact, 20 to 25 percent of English people qualified to play county cricket have come through this scheme.

CC: Having stayed fit enough to play in your forties, what is your take on the fitness levels and regimens followed by the current day cricketers?

CR: It’s completely different. The game has become more professional and they are certainly fitter than we were. The game has changed. It has evolved with a lot of white-ball cricket. Hopefully that will not take over completely from the longer format, they have to keep the balance right. They are completely different games.

But the various shots they play these days are incredible. The reverse sweep was just being played towards the end of my career. There are so many more these days.

The game has evolved and we have to move with the times. The rate of scoring these days is tremendous. It is a far better game to watch these days; we must have bored them to death. The first century I scored was perhaps the most boring innings of all time.

That’s the nature of the game and how it has evolved. The rules have been changed to make it more interesting, from the field restrictions, the circles and so on. The legislators who have made laws for the game have done pretty well to be fair.

CC: How was it to be awarded an MBE?

CR: It was wonderful really. I was really surprised. There were some people from other walks of life and even in cricket, who I felt deserved it much more than I do, but it was a very pleasant surprise. It was brilliant. It was a lovely day going down and getting it.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history of cricket, with occasional statistical pieces and reflections on the modern game. He is also the author of four novels, the most recent being Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets here.)