Mike Denness 1940-2013 April 19, 2013

Former England captain Denness dies

ESPNcricinfo staff

Mike Denness, the former Kent and England captain, has died at the age of 72 after a battle with cancer.

Born in Scotland, he played 28 Tests and 12 one-day internationals in a career that spanned 22 years. He later became an ICC match referee.

Denness led the team in 19 of his 28 Tests although it was a controversial tenure, especially in his strained relationship with Geoff Boycott. During the 1974-75 tour of Australia, Denness dropped himself for the fourth Test in Sydney although he later returned, after an injury to John Edrich, to score 188 at the MCG which, at the time, was the highest score by an England captain in Australia.

In his first-class career, where he played for Kent and Essex, he scored more than 25,000 runs. He was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours list for services to cricket. He remains the only Scottish-born captain of England, although Douglas Jardine, the scourge of Australia in the infamous Bodyline series, was born in Mumbai of Scottish parents.

George Kennedy, the Kent chairman, said: "This is an extremely sad day for the Club. We have lost one of our great players, a very successful captain and a good friend. It is particularly sad that this has happened during his year as president - a period when the club had two Scotsman at the helm. Our thoughts are with Mike's family and friends at this time."

Matthew Fleming, the former Kent captain, called Denness part of the "fabric" of Kent. "While I never saw him play, to me, Mike represented so much that is great about Kent Cricket and its history and its place in the game," he said. "There are so many great men of cricket who have represented Kent: Colin Cowdrey, Les Ames, Derek Underwood, Brian Luckhurst, John Shepherd to name just a few, and Mike Denness stands alongside the likes of those men in terms of the true greats of Kent cricket history.

"Mike was part of the fabric of Kent cricket, despite being a Scotsman, and as someone with Scottish blood too, I would have no hesitation in saying that the game of cricket in general has lost a very significant figure."

Denness made his Test debut in 1969 against New Zealand, at The Oval, but it was not until 1974 that he scored his maiden hundred against India. By then he was England captain and had led the team to a drawn series in West Indies after a 26-run victory in the final Test at Port-of-Spain.

He was in his final week as Kent president when he passed away and his successor, Bob Bevan, remembered a close friend. "Michael Henry Denness was the finest cricketer ever born in Scotland by a considerable distance. Both on and off the field, he epitomised the cricketing term "playing a straight bat".

"He was a man of the utmost honesty and integrity. The cricketing counties of Kent and Essex, the whole world of cricket and my wife and I, personally, have lost one of our greatest friends."

David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said: "Mike was a man who gave so much to our game in so many different ways as a player, captain, match referee and administrator. I had the honour of working with Mike in my first role in cricket administration at Essex and Mike was a wonderful source of advice and knowledge. He will be sorely missed by all - especially by everyone at Kent."

On the county scene, Denness led Kent to great success early in the one-day era. He secured six domestic trophies as captain between 1972 and 1976 - the John Player League three times, the Benson and Hedges Cup twice, and the Gillette Cup in 1974.

His time as an ICC match referee was hit with controversy when, at Port Elizabeth in 2001-02, his decision to sanction six Indian players, including Sachin Tendulkar, caused such a furore that the Indian and South African boards barred Denness from officiating in the next match, at Centurion. The ICC responded by withdrawing Test status from the game.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rod on April 20, 2013, 23:48 GMT

    Really, Denness was about as good as most English batsmen of his time. Boycott and Amiss were better, but Denness was as good as Fletcher, Luckhurst, etc. Of course, Boycott spent most of the seventies sulking about not being captain and refused to play under Denness. Denness might have done better as captain with Boycott in the team.

  • Dummy4 on April 20, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    mike was a wonderful friend of many in this part of the world. our sincerest thanks to him for all that he did and our deepest condolences to his family. chris syer on behalf of his many frieinds in malaysia

  • Satish on April 20, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    RIP sir Mike Dennes,what a legend.

  • C on April 20, 2013, 1:18 GMT

    I remember him from his first tour of India under Tony Lewis and I saw him and Dennis Amis play a three day game in Hyderabad. His career was middling at best , yet I considered him a decent batsman and a true blue gentleman. unlike most Indians I thought he was fully justified in penalising the players as a match referee. RIP Mike.

  • Mark on April 19, 2013, 22:17 GMT

    People who say Denness wasn't up to it as a Test player only need look at his average - just a touch under 40 in a day when that was a good Test average. I only saw him on the 75-75 tour and the 75 season when he was dropped. There were murmurings all through the tour that Tony Greig should have been captain, but Denness handled things with calm and dignity. He was unfairly given the nickname "Will"on tour (wilderness, get it?). On his return to England, he was appointed England's first World Cup captain, and took them through to the semi-final, a fact which is largely forgotten. He was unlucky to be on the wrong end of the weather during the 1st Test, and that cost him his Test career. RIP Mike.

  • Richard on April 19, 2013, 22:15 GMT

    Boycott refused to play for England under him - and there we were for the last 39 years thinking Boycs was frightened of Lillee and Thommo, Roberts and Holding. Tush, how naive...

  • david on April 19, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    anthony mc thats right boycs would not play under denness as he was scotch and he also thought not good enough. but he seemed a pleasant enough guy. maybe his playing career finished he came more to the fow.i can remember talking to him years ago at old trafford he was very free with his conversation and a nice person. still cancer was his end which is sad

  • Peter on April 19, 2013, 15:27 GMT

    Very, very sad. One of nature's true gentleman & a very successful cricketer. He didn't look well at C'bury last summer but was generous with his time. Spoke to him about his dropping himself on the 74/75 tour & he was happy to chat about it. Will always be known for his tremendous success as Kent skipper & opener, as well as the disastrous MCC tour at the hands of Lillee & Thomson's thunderbolts - the peak of their partnership. But he still rounded off the series successfully, admittedly when the demon duo were "hors de combat." (Incidentally, thought Jardine also Scottish but see he was Bombay-born). The difficulties MD had with India as a referee were indicative of his values as a sportsman. Can you imagine today's ICC supporting him? Hah! That's two of the 74/75 batting order gone in a few months, and with the loss of CMJ it does make a big hole where once there was erudition, skill, sportsmanship and wonderful cricketing values. Another very sad day for cricket.