Monday, 6 July 2015

The summer of Steele

Ahead of the start of the Ashes this week, here's a bit of cricket nostalgia, in the form of a great BBC article on David Steele, surely one of the most unlikely sporting heroes this country has ever seen. His story is the stuff of fiction, really, and you wonder if the same thing could happen today - probably not.

My earliest cricketing memories are of that summer of 1975. Encouraged by my dad, and my grandad, I must have started watching bits of the BBC coverage, and I was certainly outside with bat and ball in hand whenever I got the chance. It was a great summer, too, overshadowed a little by the drought of the following year, so those chances were plentiful.

Obviously, being five years old, I didn't understand most of the intricacies of test cricket, but I was hooked nonetheless. Three things stick in the memory. One is Alan Knott and Tony Greig batting together, Little and Large, with Knott in patched-up kit and Greig sporting one-piece gloves that he promoted for someone (Stuart Sturridge, perhaps). Another is the abandonment of the Headingley test, as a result of the digging up of the pitch.

And third is Steele. Whenever I watched a few minutes of play, Steele seemed to be batting. Even as a 5-year-old, I remember thinking it strange that a completely grey-haired man should be playing professional sport. He quickly became a favourite, though (helped by the fact that his brother John played for Leicestershire, who at the time were on their way to their first-ever Championship title), and I can remember feeling surprised and aggrieved the following year when he was left out of the team to tour India, despite having repeated his successes of 1975 against the 1976 West Indies tourists.

Whatever happens, we'll need a bit of his sort of grit if we're to win this Ashes series. I'm not confident, to be honest, but I do feel we have a better chance now than a couple of months back.

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