Some cricketers are born to achieve greatness
Some cricketers are born to achieve greatness. Others have it thrust upon them. Lancashire captain Jack Bond comes into the latter category. His success as leader of the new-look Red Rose side can be attributed to a determination to succeed against the odds by a man who thought his career at an end almost before it began. When Lancashire were faced with the task of finding a successor to Brian Statham in readiness for the 1968 season few gave a thought to an Old Trafford regular who had served his county faithfully since 1955 but had been in the shadows for several years.
When it came down to a close analysis of the needs of the moment and the demands of a membership and public who had grown tired of Lancashire's lack of success only a man in close touch with the players, the problems and the followers, could hope to succeed. Bond fitted the bill. He had experience. He had earned the respect of the club officials. The players knew him as a great fighter and a good companion -- a man who had played the game the hard way, suffered rebuffs through injury, illness, and loss of form, but still remained cheerful. Out of the first team far oftener than he was in it in 1967 Jack Bond never complained. He helped with the coaching, encouraged the newcomers, and captained the second team with distinction. Lancashire felt there was nobody at Old Trafford better equipped to undertake a mammoth task. They placed their faith in Bond and in three years he has led the side back to cricketing respectability.
It has not been easy. New players, young newcomers and experienced overseas stars, had to be introduced to the side. They had to be encouraged, yet not embarrassed. Ability had to be harnessed to enthusiasm. Willingness to work was an essential requirement, for Lancashire had got into the habit of playing cricket the professional way - efficiently but with no apparent enjoyment. To Bond fell the burden not only of leading the side but remaking it. His first demand was for fitness. His second for loyalty. He had to recreate enthusiasm and rebuild confidence. No man knew better the perils of failure and the consequences of it. Yet, within a year, Lancashire began to play better cricket. In 1968 the side began to win matches again. A mid-season run of five successive victories was the spark that lit the new fire. Players who had forgotten what it was like to win suddenly tasted success again and liked it. Bond's infectious enthusiasm seized upon a heaven-sent chance to put the past in the background and build all over again. It was a job, for a fighter and Bond was always that.
John David Bond was born at Kearsley on the outskirts of Bolton, on May 6, 1932; he learned his early cricket at Bolton School where he was the smallest boy in the side for four years but by no means the smallest contributor. A natural step from school cricket was to Bolton League cricket with his local club and Bond was forcing his way into a tough school of league cricket at the age of 16. He pays tribute to the coaching he received on his way up from his school coach Ron Booth, and from the Kearsley professional, Edwin St. Hill, one of the many West Indian players to make their mark in Lancashire league cricket. Success with Kearsley spurred Bond on. The more prosperous Radcliffe club in the Central Lancashire League where both Frank Worell and Gary Sobers held professional appointments wooed Bond away from home and soon he was hitting the headlines along with the Radcliffe professional, Cec Pepper. It was inevitable that Bond should be recommended to Old Trafford. A Manchester newspaper organised a talent-spotting mission which eventually took Bond to undergo a winter's training in the indoor school before joining the county playing staff in 1955. His county cricket debut came in August the same year when he played against Surrey at Old Trafford and first sampled the delights of top-class cricket. He soon discovered there was no easy way to the top. Lancashire were a struggling side and Bond struggled with them.
He won his county cap in 1961 and in 1962 made his biggest impact of all by scoring over 2,000 runs in the season. He proudly recalls that he had an aggregate of 2,115 and an average of 36.01, but his cricketing life took a turn for the worse instead of the better. He played against the West Indies tourists the following year and broke a bone in his arm fending off a bumper from Hall. Out of action for six weeks, Bond made the mistake of coming back too soon and although he was always a fighter and a hard man to get out he lost his consistency and his place in the side. And so he drifted on. Facing challenge after challenge and lacking encouraging leadership, Bond slowly slipped out of the picture yet always did enough to merit a further year's engagement. It went on that way until 1968. Lancashire recalled Bond up from the ranks and invited him to be captain. Nobody was more surprised than the player himself but he rose to the challenge and now he has emerged as Lancashire's best captain in a decade. His secrets are few, his demands simple but all embracing. He demands loyalty, fitness and application to the job. Because he knew failure himself he tolerates it in others. He plays his cricket as he lives his life... in the belief that if you do unto others what you would have others do unto you all will be well.
A religious man with a charming wife, Florence, a daughter of fourteen, Stephanie, and a son of ten, Wesley, the Bonds make up a happy family group. They go to church regularly and are noted for the power and tunefulness of their hymn singing as well as their modest bearing and willingness to offer aid. Bond and his family still live in Bolton and his only excursions have been for cricket -- three winters' coaching in South Africa with the Christian Brothers College in Kimberley. A brass band enthusiast and a table tennis player of local repute, the Lancashire captain is strictly a down-to-earth character. He praises and criticises with equal fervour. He is ever ready to throw out a challenge or accept one. He does not mind losing once he has exhausted all possibility of winning. He has one main cricketing ambition as yet unfulfilled. He wants to lead Lancashire to the county championship but he wants to do it in a manner that will make people want to watch the side play. His simple creed for success is to go out and enjoy his cricket. He stresses this to every member of the side. "If you enjoy playing the public will enjoy watching you," were his words when asked why Lancashire had suddenly turned over a new cricketing leaf. He is content with the present make-up of cricket with 24 championship games, the John Player League and the Gillette Cup, but if changes come, he and his team will accept them and endeavour at all times to provide top cricketing entertainment. John David Bond may not be cricket's most talented captain but he is certainly the game's most enthusiastic leader. No man with anything less to offer could have revitalised Lancashire cricket, so completely, so soon! -- J. K.