Tuesday 8 June 2021

A True Great

 On the 89th birthday of the great Ray Illingworth, the best Test captain England ever had, it's tempting to wonder what he might be making of the present England shower. Actually I don't think we need to wonder...
The exemplar of Yorkshire grit, Illingworth forged a distinguished career in his own right as a hard-to-hit bowler and hard-to-shift batsman (upwards of 2,000 wickets and 20,000 runs in first-class cricket), but it was as a captain that he reached the heights. When he took charge of the England team, they had lost only one of their previous 14 Test matches and none of their last seven. Under Illingworth that unbeaten run was extended to 27 Tests without defeat between 1968 and 1971, and only one defeat in 40 Tests between 1966 and 1971. In Australia in 1970-71, Illingworth's team beat the Aussies 2-0 in the Test series – an unprecedented feat on Australian soil. They played tough, not stinting on mental and physical intimidation, and they played to win – defeat was not to be contemplated. How different, how very different, from today's approach, and today's players, whose lamentable performance against New Zealand over the weekend must have had Illingworth shaking his head in disbelief, along with the rest of us. 
And we may be sure that every other word uttered by Illingworth's men in their prime would have been enough to get them suspended from international cricket today. 

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