Robert Damien Bale Croft
May 25, 1970, Morriston, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales
Right hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
St John Lloyd Catholic School, Llanelli
A Welsh patriot, Croft thinks of England as the British Lions. As an offspinner, he gives the ball less flight than he used to, but still possesses a deceptive arm ball. With the bat, he collects most of his runs with front-foot drives, but his back-foot play has improved since the Aussies roughed him up in 1997. Croft has fallen in and out with the selectors, and when he was dropped in 2000, he huffily declared he'd had enough anyway. He was a fixture in England's one-day side from the end of 1996 until the World Cup in 1999, and bowled with real guile during the Tests in New Zealand in 1996-97. But his confidence took a battering in 1997, and his career waned: the flight and turn virtually vanished, and his best moment came as a batsman, when he held South Africa at bay for more than three hours to save the Old Trafford Test in 1998.
Croft tried to reinvent himself in 2000, but his new variations proved to be no more than gimmicks. He did nonetheless play a part in England's success in Sri Lanka, replacing Ian Salisbury and forming an effective partnership with Ashley Giles. But his career was effectively ended when he pulled out of England's tour to India in November 2001 because of concerns over safety. Although he was picked to tour Sri Lanka in 2003-04, he sat out all three Tests and, shortly after returning home, he announced his retirement from international cricket, to enable him to concentrate full-time on the captaincy of his beloved Glamorgan.
In that job, he excelled: under his leadership, Glamorgan won the one-day league in 2004 and in the same year they returned to Division One of the Championship. Croft has led by example on and off the pitch and his appointment as captain did not diminish his consistent form with both bat and ball. However, he stepped down as captain towards the end of the 2006 season, handing the reins to David Hemp.
In 2007 he signed a contract extension, admitting that he was in the twilight of his career but setting himself the goal of reaching 1,000 first-class wickets. His performances barely dimmed, and in July 2010 - the year he turned 40 - he became the first Glamorgan player to achieve the 1,000-wicket, 10,000-run double in county cricket on the second day of their County Championship clash against Leicestershire at Swansea. He also became the ninth player in the post-war era to reach the landmark in county cricket, joining Trevor Bailey, Tony Brown, Tom Cartwright, Ray Illingworth, Derek Morgan, John Mortimore, Peter Sainsbury and Fred Titmus. He also picked up his first ever hat-trick that season, against Gloucestershire, and remained an important part of Glamorgan's set-up in 2011.
Lawrence Booth June 2011
Batting & Fielding