Ian Botham: England’s most charismatic cricketer
Who is England’s greatest cricketer? Well, that’s a question that we can debate on until the cows come home. W.G. Grace, Jack Hobbs, Walter Hammond and Ian Botham, there are many contenders. But when it comes to England’s most charismatic cricketer it has got to be Ian Terrance Botham. The man is an enigma. His cricketing feats are unmatched and what he did off the field to raise the lives of the underprivileged are unparalleled.

The runs he scored and the wickets he took are no doubt legendary, but there’s more to the man than his taking a five-wicket hauls or scoring hundreds.

The charity walks that he undertook across Europe to support children suffering from leukemia disease earned him much admiration and millions of Pounds poured in to support those kids. He just didn’t do it in Europe. He challenged the hot sun in Sri Lanka walking from Point Pedro to Hambantota across several days. The walk was joined by his mates such as Sunil Gavaskar and Steve Waugh. It helped raise money to build homes for the people affected by the civil war.

Like every superstar, Botham at times was eccentric. He once ran out teammate Geoffrey Boycott in Christchurch during a Test match. The reason was that England needed quick runs to declare their innings but Boycott was batting slow. This is not vintage Botham. This is a man who was on his first tour overseas and playing just his fourth Test match. And Boycott was in fact England’s captain. But the team saw eye to eye with Botham as his century and eight wickets helped them win the Test match.

Botham attracted wide press from the British tabloids. Tabloids target all celebrities. One tabloid claimed that during the 1981 tour of West Indies, Botham had such wild sex with Miss Jamaica that they had to replace the bed at his hotel room.

In Bombay when Botham saw the tabloid reporters in a corner during a training session he hit dozens of balls in their direction with the hope that someone would get hit.

That was the one-off Test tour to celebrate India’s golden jubilee of getting Test status. Botham made it a memorable one for him taking 13 wickets and scoring a hundred. He became the first man to achieve the double of ten wickets and a century in a Test match.

Botham had several run ins with his Aussie rival Ian Chappell. Their first fight took place in 1977 inside a bar. Their most recent one was a few years ago at an Adelaide Oval car park. By this time both of them were grandfathers.

After being hard done in Pakistan by umpiring and challenging conditions Botham wrote, ‘Pakistan is the kind of place you would want to send your mother-in-law on a paid holiday.”

When daughter Sarah was robbed in South Africa during the 2003 World Cup, he wrote, ‘b######s’ I am coming for you.’

Botham’s book, ‘Don’t tell Kath’ is such a fine read shedding light into the man and the cricketer. Kath by the way is his wife.

Such was Botham’s impact that England have tried to tag many players as the next Botham. There was Andrew Flintoff then and Ben Stokes now. No doubt both men had their moments, but to replicate Botham’s exploits is a tough ask indeed.

Botham was such a maverick that you needed a smart captain to handle him. He found the perfect match in Mike Brearley, a man who could read peoples’ minds. For example, while playing at Lord’s, Brearley would go up to Botham and say, ‘Bob Willis is useless. I don’t trust him to run up the hill and bowl.’ Botham’s reply would be, ‘Skipper, I will do it for you.’ And Botham would run up the hill whole day without ever complaining. That allowed the England captain a chance to give his best fast bowler – Willis - the opportunity of the easier task of running down the slope.

The death of Ken Barrington during a tour of Caribbean had a devastating effect on Botham. Barrington was England’s Assistant Manager and Botham was captain. Barrington was a mentor of Botham and his death at the age of 50 due to a heart-attack left Botham inconsolable.
Botham’s finest moment of course came at Headingly in 1981. After a new low at the Lords ‘Test, he had resigned as captain ‘a minute before being sacked’ according to Widen Editor Matthew Engel. Then he turned the series upside down with some brilliant all-round performance as England won The Ashes. He just loved beating the Aussies.
One criticism of Botham’s career is that he never beat West Indies. But West Indies during peak of their career were a tough side to beat and not many teams overcame them.
Somerset wasn’t a big county that had regularly produced star players for England. Botham changed that and his partnership with Vivian Richards was legendary as the County became a formidable side. He was also a man of principles. Somerset under new captain Peter Roebuck had differences with Richards and Joel Garner. Both were sacked at the end of the 1986 season. Botham left Somerset in protest showing solidarity with his friend. Later, he also refused to take up a rebel tour to apartheid South Africa as it would hurt Richards.

West Indies and England now play Test match cricket for Botham – Richards Trophy. A fitting tribute to two greats of the game.

After Somerset, Botham dazzled for Worcestershire and Durham. The Sheffield Shield had missed Australian side Queensland multiple times and in a bid to win their maiden title, they signed him up.

To understand Botham’s prominence in the game, you have got to remember that he broke Dennis Lille’s World Record for most wickets in Test cricket in 1986. The record was unbroken for more than two years. And then, he scored more Test hundreds than Mike Gatting and Nasser Hussein. Botham’s feats in cricket will live in the memories of fans forever.


Ian Botham Career Stats

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