Brian Close 1931-2015 September 15, 2015

Close's toughness 'legendary' - Holding

ESPNcricinfo staff

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Holding: Close was never one to back down

Michael Holding has described Brian Close, who died on Sunday, as one of the "toughest people in the game". Holding was one of the West Indies bowlers who peppered Close in his final series in 1976, when the Yorkshireman was recalled by England at the age of 45.

Close stood up to Holding, Andy Roberts and Wayne Daniel, often taking the ball on the body and all without a helmet. The Old Trafford Test, Close's last, left him covered in bruises but the lasting result was a close friendship with Holding.

"His toughness was legendary," Holding said. "The mere fact that England thought that Brian Close at the age of 45 was the right man to be coming back to face the West Indies in 1976, with their four-pronged pace attack, just shows what they thought of him.

"But even before that time, everyone knew of his toughness. There were famous pictures of him with all those bruises on his body when he batted against Wes Hall, when he just stood there and took the blows.

"He was never one to shirk an issue, he was never one to back down, when they called him back at 45 to face West Indies he didn't say to anyone 'No, I am too old', he went out there and tried to do his best, and gave everything for his country.

"Not just the toughest batsman, he was one of the toughest people around in the game."

Tales of Close's courage are commonplace and Holding described him as "hard but fair". They went on to become good friends, although their discussions in later life tended to be more about horse racing than cricket.

"I heard a story, in same Test match, to get rid of Alvin Kallicharran, who loved to sweep, Pat Pocock was told to bowl on leg stump, 'I'll field at short leg, I'll block the shot with my chest and Knotty you take the catch.' He played hard but fair. Never gave an inch and was a very fair man.

"Closey and myself were very good friends throughout. We never spoke much cricket, Closey and myself are big fans of horse racing so spoke a lot about that, and on the phone. I went to benefit functions at Yorkshire, that sort of thing, and we got on well.

"His wife Viv called me when we went up to the Test at Leeds and said, 'Come and see Closey, not sure how much longer he is going to be with us'. I went and visited him during the New Zealand Test and I am glad I did because now he is gone."

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