John Michael Brearley
April 28, 1942, Harrow, Middlesex
Right hand Bat
Right arm Medium
City of London School; St John's College, Cambridge
Mike Brearley was an outstanding captain - intuitive, resourceful, sympathetic and clear-thinking - but at Test level his tremendous record owed much to a superb and versatile attack. Its spearheads, Bob Willis and Ian Botham, took respectively 112 wickets (at 24) and 150 wickets (at 19) under Brearley's leadership, and missed only five Tests between them. Brearley unusually combined a scholarly mind (a first in Classics and a 2:1 in Moral Sciences at Cambridge) and a total lack of intellectual snobbery, enabling him to make easy friendships at every social level. He first took charge in 1977, when Tony Greig's undercover work for World Series Cricket came to light. But it was his final series, in 1981, that made certain of his lasting fame. Taking over from Botham, who lost his own confidence and the selectors' after an Australian win at Trent Bridge and a pair at Lord's, Brearley so completely and rapidly restored it that Botham, with bat then ball then bat, propelled England to three successive victories, the first from a seemingly impossible position at Headingley. Brearley pulled the strings, however. He never appeared ruffled either on or off the field: a favourite answer when a bowling change or team selection was criticised would be a smiling "You never know, the alternative might have been still worse." His batting record for England was inadequate. But he was well worth his place without a stack of runs. As Rodney Hogg, the Australian fast bowler, put it: "He has a degree in people."
Batting & Fielding