Jim Laker's tribute to his old comrade-in-arms, Alec Bedser



A lifetime in cricket: Alec Bedser (right) added 23 years as a selector to his 236 Test wickets © Getty Images
If Knighthoods had ever been given to' bowlers instead of batsmen I suppose Alec Bedser may well have been a front-runner. The 'Big Fella', mind you, has just about achieved most things in the game of cricket; but I doubt if anything will give him more personal satisfaction when, in April 1987, he becomes president of Surrey County Cricket Club. It will crown the best part of 50 years at The Oval and make him only the second old professional to he so honoured. Further-more he will he an excellent president for the very good reason that he has excelled at just about everything he has tackled.

In 1938 he decided to become a professional medium-fast bowler, and he subsequently became the best in the world. His run-up was never more than eight giant strides. Every inch of his height and every ounce of his weight was contained in a perfect howling action. Indeed, so fluid and easy was his action for such a giant frame that 1000 overs a season was child's play. Yet I never recall him missing a game with any form of muscle trouble. The inswing he imparted came later in the flight than anyone I have ever seen, and he brought to the game his formidable and at times unplayable legcutter.

Perfect understanding
Strangely, I probably enjoyed more our several partnerships with the bat. As a couple of late-order batsmen, Alec and I had no peers in the judgment of a run. We had a perfect understanding, and I can remember no disagreements. To begin with, short scrambled singles were taboo. A good healthy crack to an extra cover on the boundary meant a gentle unhurried single. A snick wide of slip occasionally brought us a second run. Threes were a rarity, and an all-run four quite out of the question, never considered.

I always believed AVB to he an underratedrated batsman, particularly against the quicker bowlers. His method was simple, efficient and effective. Right toot back and across, head in line, and a straight pick-up of the bat. This was amply portrayed in our first meaningful partnership against Brad-man's Australians in 1948. We were 74 for 8 when he joined me at Trent Bridge, and we added 89 in just 73 minutes. It proved a good net for him prior to the Leeds Test, when, going in as nightwatchman, he made an-excellent 79 in a stand of 155 with Bill Edrich. The previous year he had shown anarray of fine shots, with 16 boundaries, in his maiden century of 126 at Taunton.

A smile appears on Alec's lace when he remembers the day we drove Will Wooller to distraction at Cardiff with a stand of 131 in only 70 minutes. But the grin quickly disappears if Roly Jenkins's name crops up. The Worcester legspinner performed the hat-trick in each of our innings there in 1949, and Alec figured in both of them. There is nothing unusual in a pair of noughts, but to collect them that way must he unique. Still,

In 1938 he decided to become a pro- fessional medium- fast bowler, and he subsequently became the best in the world

I did say he preferred pace to spin. His benefit in 1953 was one of the first to he professionally organised, and the proceeds were wisely used to create a business interest outside cricket. An awful lot of hard work was devoted to it, and within a reasonably short time it had become another success story.

Within a couple of years after his playing days were over he had become a Test selector, a position he retained for 23 years,in 12 of which he acted as chairman, and was further involved in the management of three tours to Australia. This period of time had to be the toughest ever in the history of the game for a selector, the advent of one-day cricket, the furore over Mr Packer's WSC and the banning of official cricket with South Africa causing some very difficult selectorial decisions. Over that time Alec had a whole variety of co-selectors, but he outstayed them all. He remained the one with greater knowledge of the game, the one who had no favourites and was firm yet fair in his judgments.

Unique partnership
Always alongside Alec over his 67 years has been twin Eric, to form a quite unique partnership. It is fair to say that prior to my arrival at The Oval Eric was booked for the job as leading spinner. The disappointment to them both must have been intense when I was given first options, first choice of ends and first opportunity on a helpful pitch leaving Eric on most occasions only to have a watching brief. On the other hand, he would be tossed the ball when we were struggling on good pitches, yet he took over 800 wickets and scored close on 15,000 runs. As far as I am aware, big Alec has never held a grudge against me on that account. I am certain this typifies the man.

I cannot believe he was entirely happy to be submitting his resignation as a selector, but he can look back with pride on his contribution to our game, and we at The Oval can now look forward to his calming influence around London SE11 once again.