Obituaries, 2006

Obituaries index: F-J

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This section records the lives of those who died during 2005 and were:

  • Test cricketers
  • first-class cricketers from Great Britain and Ireland
  • Other personalities of interest from around the world

    Wisden would be pleased to hear of any notable omissions. Please write to: Obituaries, John Wisden & Co Ltd, 13 Old Aylesfield, Golden Pot, Alton, Hampshire GU34 4BY.

    FAIRBAIRN, ALAN, who died on March 7, 2005, aged 82, hit centuries in the first two matches of his first-class career - a feat unmatched in English cricket - as Middlesex surged to the Championship title in 1947. An amateur left-hander from Southgate, Fairbairn marked his first-class debut, against Somerset at Taunton, with 108 as Middlesex fell just 25 runs short of a target of 359. Ten days later, Fairbairn added 110 not out in barely two hours to set up a big win over Nottinghamshire. Bill Edrich wrote at the time that he might be "a Frank Woolley of the future" - but a knee injury restricted him to just two more appearances that season, although he was awarded his county cap. Thereafter, he concentrated on business and appeared infrequently. He was British amateur squash champion in 1952 and 1953.

    FAZAL MAHMOOD, who died on May 30, 2005, aged 78, was Pakistan's first great bowler, inspiring his country to several famous victories in the 1950s. "He was the torch-bearer," said his modern counterpart Shoaib Akhtar. Tall and handsome, with a Comptonesque mop of hair that led him to feature in advertisements as Pakistan's own Brylcreem Boy, Fazal's ability to cut and seam the ball at a fair pace led him to be compared - in style and stamina - to England's Alec Bedser. He was especially difficult to handle on the artificial pitches widely used in Pakistan in the 1950s: Neil Harvey, the great Australian batsman of the time, said that Fazal "could make the ball talk" on matting. When Pakistan beat India by an innings on the mat at Lucknow in October 1952 - only their second official Test - Fazal took 12 wickets, seven for 42 in the second innings. Then, on the inaugural tour of England in 1954, he again took 12 wickets as Pakistan pulled off a stunning series-levelling win at The Oval. England were 109 for two, chasing only 168, but lost their last eight wickets for 34. He took 13 for 114 at Karachi when Pakistan won their maiden Test against Australia, "varying his swing with a mixture of leg-cutters and breakbacks", according to Wisden. Overwork dulled his edge after that: he bowled 250 overs in the first three Tests of the 1957-58 series in West Indies. Fazal still managed eight wickets in the final Test, which Pakistan won. And the following season he became the first Pakistani to reach 100 Test wickets, in only his 22nd match, and added 12 more as they won the next game, against West Indies at Dacca. By then, he was Pakistan's captain, and led them in ten Tests in all. He retired after the 1962 England tour with a first-class bowling average of under 19. Hanif Mohammad, Pakistan's first star with the bat, recalled: "He was a great human being, always willing to help anyone who sought his advice. All our wins since we started playing Test cricket were indebted to him." Fazal might have played for India: the senior Nawab of Pataudi wanted him in his side for the 1946 tour of England, but the other selectors thought he was too young; he was selected for the 1947-48 tour of Australia, but then came Partition, and he chose Pakistan. He was instrumental in getting the new country Test status: his six for 40 in an unofficial Test against the 1951-52 MCC tourists helped convince Lord's of Pakistan's suitability. He had a long career in the police force, running the sports department where he groomed several top-class hockey players, and was still working, as director of a textile firm, when he had a heart attack in his office.

    FOWLES, JOHN ROBERT, who died on November 5, 2005, aged 79, was a novelist whose work included The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman. Cricket remained a lifelong interest from the time Fowles learnt the game from the Essex captain, Denys Wilcox, at Alleyn Court prep school in Westcliff-on- Sea. He and Trevor Bailey used to cycle there together. As a fast bowler, Fowles took plenty of wickets for Bedford School, which he captained in 1944, and had a trial for Essex. His off-cutter remained a source of pride - though demonstrations of how he achieved this were lost on American film directors. While watching England nervily bat to victory over West Indies at Lord's in 2000, he was joined in his living-room in Lyme Regis by a stranger asking the score. When Fowles told him, his visitor sat down and watched with him until Dominic Cork had hit the winning runs. Only when he subsequently asked how much Fowles charged for bed and breakfast, did both men realise that the stranger had walked uninvited into the wrong house.

    FRENCH, SHAUN ASHLEY, who died on June 11, 2005, aged 39, was captain and secretary of the Somerset village side, Barrington. He had just made 154, the highest score of his life, against Purnells of Bath, when he collapsed and died in the pavilion, of a suspected heart attack. French, an accountant, had played for Barrington since he was 14. "He did virtually everything for the club," said his team-mate Alan Wellman.

    FUNSTON, KENNETH JAMES, died on April 15, 2005, aged 79. An aggressive presence in the middle order, Ken Funston played 18 Tests for South Africa in the 1950s. But he never reached a Test century, and in a team that valued stickability, he was often criticised for starting well and getting out. His nearest miss, 92 at Adelaide, came on the 1952-53 tour, when the South Africans stunned Australia with their athleticism; Funston, lurking in the covers, was an integral part of that. But his place was never secure: he missed the 1955 tour of England, and his best match was a heavy defeat: he scored 70 and 64 not out against the 1957-58 Australians at the Wanderers when he joined Jackie McGlew in a brave, tedious and ultimately futile rearguard action. Most of Funston's domestic matches were for Transvaal, and he also played provincial soccer and hockey. His son, Graham, was a stalwart for Griqualand West in the 1970s.

    GHOSH, JIBAN DHAN, who died on December 15, 2004, aged 69, umpired four Tests in India, including the 1979-80 Golden Jubilee Test at Bombay dominated by Ian Botham. In all, he stood in 45 first-class matches spread over 32 years.

    GRAY, WILLIAM, died on June 2, 2005, aged 73. Bill Gray ran the familyowned sports-goods business, Grays of Cambridge (which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005). He was also a director and sometimes chairman of its subsidiary, John Wisden & Co. Ltd, from 1969 until 1993, when it was bought by Paul Getty. Gray was an important figure in maintaining the independence and integrity of Wisden against such adversaries as Robert Maxwell who, as owner of Queen Anne Press, published the book while John Wisden retained ownership. Maxwell announced whimsically at the 1982 Wisden dinner that the book would switch to a larger format; he had barely sat down before Gray leant across to remind him, with his deceptively mild smile, that his firm owned the almanack and would decide the format. Gray subsequently took publication back in-house. As a director of British Cricket Balls Ltd of Tonbridge, he was a driving force in obtaining a British Standards Institute kitemark for balls in 1981. "He was very principled," said the former Wisden editor Graeme Wright. "Some people made the mistake of underestimating him because he was gently spoken and considerate. He was no pushover." Gray had been a jet-fighter pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, and later graduated to helicopters: in 1986 he was the only civilian pilot in the World Helicopter Championships.

    GUNERATNE, ROSHAN PUNYAJITH WIJESINGHE, died of a heart attack in California on July 21, 2005, aged 43. Guneratne was a leg-spinner for the Nomads club, who played one Test for Sri Lanka; he had just left Colombo's Nalanda College and was playing only his second first-class match. After dismissing Kepler Wessels and Greg Chappell on his first-class debut, for the Board President's XI in April 1983, he was picked for the only Test of the tour, but failed to take a wicket or score a run in an innings defeat. After just 17 wickets in a 13-match first-class career, he left to join his family in the US. He was only the third Sri Lankan Test cricketer to die, after Sridharan Jeganathan and Anura Ranasinghe, and the current team wore black armbands in his memory on the first day of the Kandy Test against West Indies.

    GUPTE, BALKRISHNA PANDHARINATH, died on July 5, 2005. He was 70. A prolific wicket-taker in Indian domestic cricket for Bombay, Bengal and Railways, "Baloo'' Gupte was overshadowed by his older brother - and fellow leg-spinner - Subhash Gupte. Baloo's Test debut came after his brother had been dropped, against Pakistan at Madras in 1960-61 - but he could not take a wicket. He earned a recall, having secured nine for 55 for West Zone in the 1962-63 Duleep Trophy final, but his three Tests brought only three wickets in all. However, he took 417 in first-class cricket.

    HALSE, CLIVE GRAY, who died on May 28, 2002, aged 67, played for Natal shortly after leaving school, before he had turned 18. He made his debut on New Year's Day in 1953, but did not become a regular until 1960-61, by which time his fast-medium swing bowling had matured. Two seasons later, he helped Natal retain the Currie Cup and, as selection for South Africa's 1963-64 tour of Australia loomed, an enthusiastic employer allowed Halse to leave an hour early every day to practise. He duly made the trip. Though his tour figures were unspectacular, he did play in three of the Tests, managing three wickets in the South African win at Adelaide. Halse had one more season before retiring, during which he took his career-best five for 49 against Transvaal.

    HOSEN, ROGER WILLS, died on April 9, 2005, aged 71. An all-rounder who turned out for Cornwall for 15 years, captaining them from 1963 to 1967, he played one first-class match, for the Minor Counties against the South Africans in 1965. His solitary wicket was the tourists' captain, Peter van der Merwe. He scored a century for Cornwall against Wiltshire in 1962, and took eight for 15 against Dorset in 1964. Hosen was far better known as a rugby full-back, winning ten caps for England. He taught at Northampton Grammar School and Cheltenham College.

    HUGHES, MARGARET PATRICIA, who died on January 30, 2005, aged 85, was believed to be the first woman ever to report an Ashes tour for a daily newspaper. She went out to Australia in 1954-55 and persuaded Sir Frank Packer (Kerry's father) to let her report the Tests for his Sydney tabloid, the Daily Telegraph. It is thought no one emulated her until Chloe Saltau covered the 2005 series for The Age. Hughes published a discursive tour diary, The Long Hop, a follow-up to her earlier cricket book, All on a Summer's Day. John Arlott praised her eye for detail and character. But she was spurned by most of the cricket writers ("I have been treated as a freak, rather like the fat lady at the circus," she wrote) perhaps due in part to gossip about the exact nature of her relationship with her mentor, Neville Cardus, who was 30 years older. When Cardus died, Hughes became his literary executor and edited the successful collections of his work. She was a regular at Lord's until just before she died.

    IRONSIDE, DAVID ERNEST JAMES, died in Birmingham on August 21, 2005, aged 80. Ironside was the first - and so far only - Test cricketer from Mozambique, having been born in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). A tearaway fast bowler in his youth, Ironside settled down, after suffering knee trouble, to become a handy swing bowler. "He could swing it like a boomerang," recalled Neil Adcock, a team-mate for Transvaal and South Africa. Ironside won three Test caps against the touring New Zealanders in 1953-54, seizing eight for 88 in the match on his debut at Johannesburg. Different balls were used in the subsequent matches, and Ironside found them more difficult to move off the straight, but he had taken 15 wickets at 18.33 before the Fifth Test, which he missed after ricking his back on the plane. That was the end of his Test career, although he played on for two more seasons with Transvaal. He was an accountant in Johannesburg before moving to live with his daughter in England.

    JENKINS, BERNARD, died on October 19, 2004, aged 72. "Bert'' Jenkins was the Gloucestershire scorer from 1988 to 1995, having scored Second Eleven games for the previous six seasons. "He was known for his sharp wit and his ability to speak his mind," according to the Gloucestershire yearbook.

    JOUBERT, ANTON RICHERT, died in a road accident in Mpumalanga, South Africa, on April 8, 2005, aged 55. He played in two first-class matches for South African Universities in the early 1970s, keeping wicket to a high-quality attack, including his own fast-bowling brother Frank.

    JUNOR, LEONARD JOHN, who died on April 6, 2005, aged 90, was (and remains) Australia's youngest first-class cricketer. Len Junor played for Victoria against Western Australia in January 1930, at 15 years and 265 days old. A thrilling and impetuous young batsman, he failed to mature, and played just eight matches in all, none of them in the Sheffield Shield, and averaged 22. In 1996, making his first visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 40 years, Junor admitted: "I didn't have enough brains to realise that the bowler up the other end was a pretty smart fellow."

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