Jack Bannister 1930-2016 January 23, 2016

Jack Bannister - player, journalist and pioneer - dies aged 85

Jack Bannister enjoyed a prolific career for Warwickshire then moved into the media © PA Photos

Cricket has lost one of its greatest friends with the death of former Warwickshire player Jack Bannister. He was 85.

Bannister enjoyed a fine career as a player and journalist, but it was perhaps his role in establishing the Professional Cricketers' Association - the players' union in England - that will prove to have the greatest ramifications.

He attended the organisation's inaugural meeting and went on to serve it for 20 years as secretary and then as chairman and president. Having helped establish a standard employment contract and minimum wage for cricketers, he then set to work establishing their first pension system. Later he helped negotiate a solution when some counties were keen to ban players who had appeared in Packer's World Series.

The roots of better salaries, freedom of movement and more equitable terms and conditions for players all grew from those roots. The players of today owe Bannister and his colleagues a great deal.

A medium-fast seamer, Bannister was a good enough player to take 1,198 first-class wickets over a 20-year career at an average of 21.91. His figures of 10 for 41, taken against Combined Services in 1959, remain the best innings figures taken by a Warwickshire bowler, while he also claimed 9 for 35 against Yorkshire in 1955. He featured in the Warwickshire sides that won the County Championship in 1951 and the Gillette Cup in 1966. He retired at the end of the 1969 season; the year in which the Sunday League was introduced.

He established a successful chain of bookmakers during the later years of his playing career but, once his broadcasting career blossomed, relinquished control of the business to his daughter.

He had started to write for the Birmingham Post during the latter years of his playing career - a relationship that was to endure for 40 years - and subsequently enjoyed a distinguished career as broadcaster and writer with the BBC and TalkSPORT. He was chairman of The Cricket Writers' Club between 1994 and 1996.

He referred to Richie Benaud as his "best friend in life" and, every week from 1987 - when Bannister joined Benaud in the BBC TV commentary box - to three-weeks before Benaud's death in April 2015, the pair exchanged racing tips. Golf was another great passion they shared.

"There is no denying that every cricketer owes Jack a huge debt of gratitude because he was one of the pioneers who were responsible for laying the foundations for the organisation we have now," Jason Ratcliffe, the assistant chief executive of the PCA and chairman of the Warwickshire Old County Cricketers' Association, said.

"Jack was always a players' man and he worked tirelessly to improve pay and conditions for players during his long association with the PCA.

"He was a fantastic cricketer with an outstanding record for Warwickshire. After he retired from playing, Jack became an influential figure in the broadcasting box from where he continued to promote the game he loved. Everyone at the PCA is very saddened to hear the news of Jack's death and our thoughts go to his family, many friends and colleagues."

Wolverhampton born, Bannister's family moved to Birmingham and he gained entry to King Edward's School Five Ways through the 11+.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo