Obituary: Colin Cowdrey

By D.J. CAMERON

Cricketer. Born in India. Died on Tuesday in Kent, England, aged 67.

Michael Colin Cowdrey was born to cricket greatness when he was given the initials MCC. He achieved all that his father must have wished for him, captaining England and scoring 7624 runs and taking 120 catches for his country in 114 tests.

And when he died, as Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, world cricket lost a great man - and New Zealand cricket a great friend and ally. Cowdrey toured New Zealand with the MCC in 1954-55, as an uncapped novice, and again in 1958-59 - the second a rather bitter affair in which the MCC management and the New Zealand administrators were frequently at odds.

Lord Cobham, of cricket's aristocracy and Governor-General of New Zealand at the time, was horrified that New Zealanders thought so ill of the famous Marylebone club, and asked Cowdrey what could repair the damage.

Soon there was a letter from Government House in Wellington to St John's Wood in London, urging the MCC to send a touring side designed to show New Zealanders that all MCC people were not rude and intransigent. So was born the MCC A side of 1960-61, splendidly captained by Dennis Silk and helped by New Zealand's legendary manager Jack Phillipps.

From that point on Cowdrey made a point of helping New Zealand cricket in a multitude of ways, principally by acting as New Zealand's friend at the MCC cricketing court.

At and away from the crease Cowdrey affected a slightly dilettantish air, as if cricket was some aesthetic pursuit. That is, until the bugles sounded, and Cowdrey's batting would take on a fearless approach. He helped complete an England win at Lord's in 1963, his arm broken by a Wes Hall lifter.

But this was nothing compared to the bravery Cowdrey displayed in Australia in 1974-75. The England batsmen were being badly burned by the fiery blast of Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee. Cowdrey, then rising 42 and with his best days far behind him, was summoned as a replacement in time for the second of the six tests, at Perth.

Even Pom-baiting Australians feared for his middle-aged safety on the fastest, bounciest pitch in Australia. However, the Cowdrey technique of getting quickly into the line of the delivery was sound enough and eventually David Lloyd, the battered and bruised England opening batsman, complimented the unharmed, unflustered Cowdrey during a between-overs chat.

"This is famous fun, isn't it?" said Cowdrey.

He played for his county, Kent, for 25 seasons, and was captain from 1957 to 1971.

Amid all the brave centuries and brilliant first-slip catches, one Cowdrey statistic stands out.

He played only one one-day international, against Australia at Melbourne in 1971, ending with the exotic line, "c Marsh, b Stackpole ... 1."

Not for Cowdrey the madly improvised strokes and death-defying, sliding saves at the boundary line.

No mud stains on the Cowdrey creams. "To me, cricket is a game played on your feet," he said. And if the feet moved only at jog-trot so much the better.

He had three sons by his first wife, Penny, two of whom played for Kent - Chris, who also played for England, and Graham. After a divorce he married Anne, a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 20 Dec 2014 09:46:20 Processing Time: 313ms