Michael John Smith
January 04, 1942, Enfield, Middlesex
November 12, 2004 (aged 62y 313d)
Right hand bat
Slow left arm orthodox
Twenty years ago, before computer scoring was even dreamed of, a retired professional cricketer who did not have a job in the city, a sports shop, a pub or a job in coaching, usually became the county scorer. Not all of them were suited to the job and one has to wonder how anything of any accuracy got into some of the scorebooks. For instance, at the end of an over, the scorers usually check the number of runs conceded in that over and the running total against the bowler. Jim Sims of Middlesex used to say: "I'll leave it to you partner" while Jack Mercer of Northants, who could neither see nor hear too well, was probably busy doing a card trick.
The introduction of computers changed all that and we knew the writing was on the wall when the Middlesex scorer, Harry Sharp, a former player said: "They're talking about a menu. Isn't that what you have for lunch?" Mike Smith, who died aged 62 on November 12, was the last ex-player to take up the job, taking over in 1994 after Harry Sharp retired, and often boasted of being the 19th-best scorer on the county circuit. This was typical of his self-deprecating humour which made him such good company and so popular among his fellow scorers. He often said, with a degree of mock pride, that his benefit in 1976 paid for his divorce. Nothing escaped him and if he could make a joke out of it, Smith did. While still at Enfield Grammar School, he made his debut for Middlesex as a 17-year-old slow left-armer against the Indian tourists in 1959 but Middlesex soon realised that his future was as a batsman rather than bowler. It took him a little while to establish himself in the Middlesex side and he was not capped until 1967, by which time he was regularly opening the innings. His was an unorthodox method, as he moved during the bowler's run-up and was somewhere outside off stump at the moment of delivery. He was still able to play some fine off-side shots and, when you look at some of the players who played for England during the 1960s and 1970s, it is remarkable that he never gained a full cap, but was selected only five times for the one-day side.
It is always said, on someone's death, that he will be missed. But there is no doubt that Smith will be. I feel very lucky to have spent a lot of time with him during his career as player and scorer. The scorers' box at Lord's will never be quite the same and the press tent at Southgate will be much quieter and more sombre for his absence.
Norman de Mesquita, The Wisden Cricketer
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