Jackie McGlew (1929-1998) Tribute

9 June 1998

Derrick John "Jackie" McGlew (1929-1998)

Trevor Chesterfield

Centurion (South Africa)

Few South African opening batsmen from an earlier era, other than Jackie McGlew, were capable of building a reputation which set them apart from those heroes of today.

But McGlew, who battled bravely for four years against increasing pain and leukemia, and died on Monday night at a relatively young 69, did not need the luxury of mass media coverage to retain the attention of an often fickle public.

He was also the captain who once inspired the great Barry Richards to comment, "There are few world-class players today who would survive a close inspection of their record as would Jackie (McGlew)".

And only Derrick John (Jackie) McGlew, could claim the title of "Little General", the sobriquet he carried with pride and dignity during his years as South Africa and Natal captain.

An opening batsman of stature, journalist and author, McGlew was a shrewd judge of the game: little escaped his perceptive insight which surfaced at an early age when he played for Maritzburg College, Natal and SA Schools. This was later transferred to his provincial senior side and South Africa.

There have been critics who classed him as a dour batsman, which was a serious error of judgement for he was as technically correct and orthodox as Barry Richards. And when in 1951 he toured England for the first time, his captain, Dudley Nourse, rebuked him early on for his behaviour but then ear-marked him as a future Natal and Test and leader.

McGlew's driving on the up in front of the wicket was often classical as were his square cut and pull shots; even the occasional sweep carried his hallmark of approval.

Forget that slow century at Kingsmead against Ian Craig's Australian side of 1957-58. It was an innings to suit the occasion and geared to rescue a South African side, which had that summer batted poorly, from defeat.

There are those of us who still remember his batting skills at the Basin Reserve in March 1953 when he scored South Africa's then highest Test score of 255 not out against New Zealand. It was one of perfect balance, perfect timing and a sense of drive and purpose. Others remember him on the 1955 South African tour of England when under his astute leadership the Springboks levelled the series 2-2 at Headingley.

Against a side which contained some of the biggest names of the game in England, Peter May, Tom Graveney, Denis Compton and Trevor Bailey, South Africa faced a serious battle. Yet the victory by 224 runs was perhaps his greatest Test triumph with only two fit bowlers: the dual left-hand all-round specialist Trevor Goddard and off-spinner Hugh Tayfield to do the job.

With Neil Adcock and Peter Heine injured, the bowling attack was severely handicapped, but it was a triumph of complete self-belief which, along with astute field placings, he had in his bowlers.

McGlew's first-class career spanned 20 seasons, starting as a cocky teenager in 1947-48 and ending was a first-class batting average of 45.92 and a Test average of 42.06 from 34 matches. He scored seven centuries on his way to 2 440 runs at Test level, once batting through an innings. He captained Natal in 54 Currie Cup and 75 first-class games and led South Africa 14 times.

In retirement he became convener of the Nuffield Week selection committee, a post he held for 18 seasons and held similar posts while at Northerns in the early 1970s and what was then Transvaal in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. He was also, for a time convener of the national panel during the rebel era.

Although he rarely mentioned his old province, Natal, he once felt aggrieved that they did not, the first years of his retirement, call on his services or tap into his wide fund of knowledge. Some Natal players consulted him when seeking technical advice but the province he led with pride ignored him.

As a tribute to his leadership, he was made captain of an all-time South African side, selected by a panel of former Test players as part of the old SA Cricket Union's centenary celebrations in 1989.

In his final years he enjoyed watching matches at SuperSport Centurion, a venue he preferred to the Wanderers, where often his sense of humour sparkled as he made dry comments about field-placings to Willie Watson, the former Yorkshire Test cap. They would sit together and their wise, warm counsel was better than reading through a book on the game's technical skill and know how.

"When you go into a match, the first thing a captain should be looking at is of ways to win the game and work accordingly," he said five years ago when we were working together on "South Africa's Cricket Captains".

His drive for perfection, often hidden from those who did not know him, surfaced often as we discussed little known details of other captains. Yet the quiet, gentle traits, also emerged. His recall of incidents of his playing days was as remarkable as his batting talents; and there was nalways a thought, or studied opinion, of new faces coming through the ranks.

He would fax off pages of advice to Hansie Cronje, the future South African captain, and Dale Benkenstein, who is to lead the South African A captain in in Sri Lanka.

"To me he was an inspiration and a tremendous source of knowledge about the game and which I have not found among others," Benkenstein said.

From his early association with selection of the SA Schools (Nuffield) teams he sought a new direction; when it came in 1991 he involved himself in the unity process. It was this which led to his appointment as manager of the SA Colts team to the West Indies in 1992 with Benkenstein as captain.

Yet what many remember of him Down Under is how he took over the 1952-53 side from an injured Jack Cheetham and moulded it into the finest fielding combination of the decade. It was this flair, displayed so long ago, which made him an outstanding leader.

Months before the tour he approached Danie Craven about a pre-tour fitness plan designed to turn the tourists into a top fielding team to support what was, Tayfield apart, an average bowling attack. The strategy worked with South Africa, against expectations, drawing that series 2-2,

Sport rarely produces men like Jackie McGlew. He was always there when needed, not the spectacular type perhaps, but very effective; an aggressive intelligent captain, and for a number of players who made their mark in the great sides of the 1960s, certainly the best they played under.

Now, in that great pavilion in the sky, he would be strapping on pads and eagerly walking to the middle with Nourse for some unfinished buisness with Ray Lindwall.

Source :: Trevor Chesterfield, Pretoria News (tche@ptn.independent.co.za)