CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1983

Trevor Jesty

When TREVOR EDWARD JESTY mauled the bowling of Bob Willis and his Warwickshire side on the penultimate day of the first-class season, it was a vivid, silent expression of his frustration at being overlooked yet again for international recognition when every formline suggested his moment had come at last. Just 48 hours earlier, the squad to tour Australia under Willis had been announced. There was no place for Jesty and now, at the age of 34 and with comfortably his best season drawing to a close, he wondered in vain just what he was expected to do before being selected for England.

That the England captain was present, indeed on the receiving end, as Jesty concluded his 1982 business with a 64-minute century almost murderous in its intent, was an appropriate irony. Little was said between the two over that weekend and, although both Willis and chairman of selectors Peter May were subsequently to say Jesty had been unlucky, it was small consolation for one who was dolefully aware that he would never have a better chance of realising his ambition.

When considering Jesty's achievements in 1982, the most striking is undoubtedly his total of eight first-class centuries, the most made in a season for Hampshire since that prodigious batsman Phil Mead managed ten, from a larger programme of matches, 49 years earlier. Jesty was also, and this is a much more obscure statistic, the first English-registered player to top his county' s batting averages since Peter Sainsbury in 1967; for fifteen years the presence of Barry Richards, Gordon Greenidge and, for one year, Chris Smith kept Hampshire's home-bred talent in the shadows. But in 1982, although Greenidge was far from idle, averaging 46 and consistently giving the Hampshire innings a conscientious start, he could not compare with Jesty.

The argument against Jesty as a Test candidate has generally been that he is inconsistent. Certainly, as indicated by the ten years it took him to register a maiden century, his potential long remained somewhat unfulfilled. But he will point out justifiably that until recent years he was always batted in the lower middle order for Hampshire and given little chance to build an innings.

Born on June 2, 1948, he was not short of opportunities in early life, despite attending Privet Secondary Modern School in his native Gosport, where cricket was not a major part of the sporting curriculum. His stroke of luck at this stage was the presence among his masters of one F. J. Davies, a keen follower of the game and Jesty's first significant influence. Perhaps, he recalled now in his quiet, level manner, he took an interest in me because I showed some aptitude for the game, but the standard of cricket was very poor. The only competitive games were a handful of inter-house and inter-school affairs. Nevertheless, he did enough to attract attention. He played for Hampshire Schools, then the English Schools colts side, and finally for the full English Schools XI, an honour which must have smoothed his path into a county career.

Much of his cricket had already been played among the Hampshire clubs. Trevor's brother Aubrey, ten years his senior, was a very capable cricketer who was offered a place on the county staff as a wicket-keeper but preferred to complete his apprenticeship in the Portsmouth dockyard. Aubrey's weekend cricket was played for the powerful Gosport Amateurs club, and his young brother, taken along as scorer, dreamed that one day he would play for the same team. But it was not to be. Trevor was ready and willing to play club cricket at the age of twelve, but the Amateurs considered he was not up to their level. Consequently he joined the neighbouring Gosport Cricket Club and played at a lower standard.

Jesty remembers the surprise with which he received the letter from Hampshire, inviting him to join them. I had no doubts about accepting, but funnily enough I had never really considered a career in cricket up to that point, he said. Suitably grateful, however, he withdrew an application for a job with a yacht company near his home and made his Hampshire d├ębut in 1966, aged eighteen. By this stage the emphasis of his talents was unclear. At school, he had often begun a match as wicket-keeper, then removed his pads and bowled if things became sticky. Although he never kept wicket for Hampshire, he tended to do most other things and, remarkably, it was not until 1975 that he settled into what seems to be his optimum batting position at No. 4.

Trevor married in 1970 and, soon afterwards, it was his wife, Jacqueline who helped him over one of the personal crises of his career. It would not be stretching a point to report that he seldom saw eye to eye with Richard Gilliat, Hampshire's captain of the time, and they clashed heatedly when Jesty was hardly bowled in Championship matches one year. He contemplated changing counties and was fleetingly prepared to give up the game altogether, but Jacqueline and the county's coach, Geoff Keith, talked him out of both options. The episode serves to illustrate how badly Jesty wants to be thought of as an all-rounder, rather than just as a batsman who can turn his arm over. In 1982 his seamers, bowled with a pleasantly high action from a gentle run-up, captured 35 wickets at only 21 apiece, good enough to make him the second Englishman in the national bowling averages.

To most, however, he has always been a batsman first. A strokemaker who, in appearance at the crease and in a certain fluency of stroke, has often been compared with Barry Richards, a colleague he much admired. He loves to get on the front foot and drive and, if he has a noticeable weakness, opponents claim it is when he is forced on to the back foot against the fastest of bowling.

The season of 1982 began like so many others for Jesty. Vice-captain now, a responsibility easing the disillusionment which has sometimes affected his outlook, he had more early success with the ball than the bat. But at the end of May he made 164 not out against the Indian tourists and then, a month later, he dented the pride and reputation of Pakistan's leg-spinner, Abdul Qadir, taking 26 off a single over from him on the way to 133. That, Jesty said, was the most satisfying innings he played. And it was only the beginning.

Towards the end of July, Hampshire were short of runs and Jesty sat meditatively in his hotel room on one of those long, away-trip evenings. What he decided upon amounted to a bold change of style. Someone in the side had to drop anchor and play long, restrained innings, he reasoned, so why should he not do it himself. From the next innings I played, I put all idea of quick runs out of my mind early on. I was content to stay and accumulate, and if it took me twice as long as my usual time for a hundred, that didn't matter. The success of the scheme was astonishing. In the final ten first-class matches of Hampshire's season, Jesty scored six centuries and a total of 1,079 runs. During one four-day period in which nobody seemed able to bowl to him, he made three hundreds, one in the John Player League. That same week a long-standing bogey was broken, Jacqueline being present to see all the runs. She had never seen me score a hundred before and I had begun to believe she brought me bad luck, Trevor admitted.

The season ended with that 134 against Warwickshire and a win to confirm third place in the Championship for Hampshire; as well, ironically, as with the biggest disappointment of his career.

© John Wisden & Co