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Cowdrey was a great slip fielder too

Published: Wednesday, December 6, 2000, 1:30 [IST]
 
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London: From the moment his cricket-loving father gave the initials MCC to Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, he was destined for a life forever linked with the sport.Michael Colin Cowdrey died in his sleep on Tuesday after suffering a stroke in July. He served the game of cricket as player and administrator for most of his 67 years.Cowdrey will be remembered not only for his great courage, defying the hostile pace of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson after answering a call to be an emergency replacement on the 1974-75 tour to Australia aged 42, but also as one of England's greatest ever batsmen.He did not have the flair or panache of great friend Peter May, but became the housewives' favourite during a career which spanned 25 years and included 107 first-class centuries and 42,719 runs at an average of 44.82.Possessing grace, timing and power he became the first England player to make 100 Test appearances, subsequently followed to the landmark by six other players and was known throughout the game as one of the true gentlemen of cricket.He had a great love of the game's history, famously having a special car number plate of MCC 307 to mark his initials and his highest first-class score made against South Australia in 1962, while two of his sons - Chris and Graham - both followed his footsteps in playing for Kent.From the moment he became the youngest cricketer ever to play at Lord's aged 13 in a schools' match, Cowdrey was tipped to be an England star, not only because of his great batting but his brilliant catching ability which helped him claim 120 catches - mostly at slip - during his 114-Test career.Despite his stature in the game, Cowdrey always took time out to help younger players and kept in touch with both the England team and players he had known during his career.Right until the later years of his life he rang John Woodcock, the esteemed former cricket correspondent of The Times, every week no matter where he was in the world just to discuss the matters of the day and find out about the game.He was not adverse to what would now be termed as "professionalism", however, repeatedly padding up to Sonny Ramadhin during a Test record fourth-wicket stand of 411 with Peter May against West Indies at Birmingham in 1957 and rarely walked early in his innings.But above all, he was a man with great stature and reputation within the game, to such an extent that after his retirement in 1975, he was elected as president of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1987 only for his year in office to be marked by internal politics and squabbles with the members rejecting the annual report.His diplomacy and charm during that period was a vital factor in him being elected as chairman of the International Cricket Council three years later and he played a major part in the reintroduction of South Africa back into world cricket.Right until his death, Cowdrey maintained close links with Kent, the county he served throughout his career and was elected their president last year.He also became only the second England cricket captain after the Rt Rev David Sheppard to be appointed to the House of Lords three years ago as Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge.Copyright @2000 AFP. All rights reserved

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