The thrill returns of Ted Dexter at the crease
In the pomp of his playing days, Ted Dexter filled cricket grounds with spectators. The former Sussex and England captain returns to the crease as the latest guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their regular cricket-themed podcast. This also includes an appeal from Mike Atherton for the MCC Foundation. For the week from 1 December donations will be doubled in value, and will help to give cricketing experience and access to coaching for disadvantaged boys and girls. See https://donate.thebiggive.org.uk/campaign/a051r00001eojcBAAQ Ted has generously donated to the Foundation the royalties from his autobiography 85 Not Out recently published by Quiller.
Ted recalls one of his most electrifying innings, 70 in the Lord’s Test against the 1963 West Indians, which ended with all four results possible on the last ball, Colin Cowdrey with a broken arm at the non-striker’s end. (He pays tribute to the cool David Allen, who actually received the bowling of Wes Hall.) He was given lbw to Sobers, bowling left-arm over: “with DRS I would have reviewed it.”
Modestly (and wrongly) he denies that he had an aura as a player, but he always set out to the batting crease as if he meant business. Of modern players, he thinks that Virat Kohli, Ben Stokes and Steve Smith inspire awe in their opponents. Bradman in retirement had huge authority, and once silenced him in a memorable encounter.
So far the only Test cricketer to have been born in Milan, Ted speaks of his early life in Italy and then following his father on war service to distant parts of the UK. He pays warm tribute to his father’s support in his career, not least his response to a lordly President of the MCC who had criticized him as captain of the 1962-63 tour of Australia. The peer was a cactus aficionado, and Mr Dexter senior made a graphic suggestion of where his lordship might place a cactus. He discusses his relationship with the Duke of Norfolk, the unexpected manager of that tour. The Duke had once given him tickets to Ascot, and he tells how he hurried to complete victory on the fourth day of a Test against Pakistan so that he could use them on the fifth. He reveals how he himself acquired his unwanted nickname of Lord Ted as a schoolboy at Radley (a story worthy of P G Wodehouse’s hero Psmith.)
He looks back at his cricket career at Cambridge University (which owed much to his father and older brother) and as an amateur at Sussex. In his first year in the side, he sent a belated telegram pulling out of a Championship match to pursue a romance in Denmark – a story from a lost world of cricket. That romance came to naught but not long after he courted (to the background of Frank Sinatra’s Songs For Swinging Lovers) the beautiful model who became his wife of over sixty years. He and she became the most glamorous figures in world cricket and he speaks revealingly about the condition of professional sportsmen’s lives in the new cultural and social era of the Sixties.
As captain of Sussex (despite the romantic AWOL incident), he tells how he won them their first silverware (the initial two Gillette Cups) through his understanding of containment by accurate seam bowling. Although blamed for the long exile of spin bowlers from one-day cricket, he rejoices in the present paramountcy of leg-spinners in T20. He pays a warm tribute to his Sussex partner Jim Parks, a natural athlete. He is proud of his influence (with the aid of chairs) over John Snow’s development as a world-class bowler.
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