Obituaries, 2006

Obituaries index: P-W

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This section records the lives of those who died during 2005 and were:

  • Test cricketers
  • first-class cricketers from Great Britain and Ireland
  • Other personalities of interest from around the world

    Wisden would be pleased to hear of any notable omissions. Please write to: Obituaries, John Wisden & Co Ltd, 13 Old Aylesfield, Golden Pot, Alton, Hampshire GU34 4BY.

    PALMER, CHARLES HENRY, CBE, who died on March 31, 2005, aged 85, was a small (5ft 7in), bespectacled and slightly eccentric amateur cricketer who played for England and later became one of the most durable administrators of his era. Palmer looked, in a phrase attributed to Trevor Bailey, "like a hen-pecked bank clerk in a farce". But he had a classical batting method, strong wrists, and a sense of timing, both in a technical sense and in his ability to conjure moments of serendipity on the field. He began his career, in 1938, at Worcestershire and, as a 20-year-old in 1939, scored three centuries and got talked about. He spent most of the next six years manning an anti-aircraft battery in Sussex. After the war, Palmer became a teacher at Bromsgrove School, playing occasionally, most notably in 1948 when he became the first (and almost only) county batsman to impress the Australians, with a forceful 85. Unlike most amateurs, Palmer was from grammar school and Birmingham University, not public school and Oxbridge. But MCC were anxious to promote amateurs in general, and sent him on the winter tour of South Africa, where he had a wonderful time but never made the Test team. A year later, Palmer was appointed secretary and captain of Leicestershire, then without a serviceable ground, never mind team. Palmer threw himself into the job, starting a football pool and attending chicken-salad dinners all winter to raise money. In the summer, he kept making runs - 2,071 in 1952 including a much-praised century for the Gentlemen at Lord's - and an increasing number of wickets with briskish swing and cut. Late in August 1953, Leicestershire were on top of the Championship for the first time ever and, though they faded to third, Palmer's feats were again being noticed: "A leader without flourish," the Playfair annual called him, "but indeed a leader." At 34, Palmer was chosen for the 1953-54 tour to West Indies - as playermanager, a notion apparently driven by the West Indian board's refusal to pay for a 16th player. He was thrilled, and envisaged a jolly that would match the South African trip. However, racial and political tensions were increasing; Len Hutton, the captain, was more interested in victory than diplomacy; and it was a tour of riots, umpiring controversy and general ill-feeling. There was a sense, articulated most forcefully by E. W. Swanton, that Palmer was out of his depth; Swanton called the tour "a diplomatic and sporting disaster of the first magnitude which, I am sure, could have been averted by the right man." In contrast, Alex Bannister, in Cricket Cauldron, thought Palmer "tackled a terribly difficult job with a quiet effectiveness". While there, he did play his only Test. Palmer's fellow-selectors sent him out of the room and asked him to play in Barbados (Hutton did not think much of the alternative, Ken Suttle) even though he had not picked up a bat in three weeks. Palmer made 22 and 0, and England were well beaten. At home, he continued as an effective run-getter and an intermittently astonishing bowler. In 1955, against mighty Surrey, he brought himself on for an over so his spinners could change ends. "Go easy on me," he said to Peter May, who was looking ominously well-set. "I haven't bowled this year." Palmer found a wet spot, and the ball kept skidding off it on to the stumps. Seven batsmen were bowled and Palmer found himself with figures of 11-11-0-8. It took a few swipes from Jim Laker to save his own figures of eight for two from eclipse, and Palmer finished with eight for seven. But even this caused less surprise than his party trick of bowling donkey-drops. "They were uncanny," recalls Mike Turner. "He ran up normally but then the ball went as high as the roof of a house - I'm not joking - and the length was such that it literally fell on the stumps. Jock Livingston of Northamptonshire saw one coming. And I can see him now, leaning over the stumps looking to slog it. It ran down the face of the bat. Caught at slip." At the end of the 1950s, Palmer slipped away to go into the steel industry. And, after a brief interregnum, Turner took over as secretary, establishing from 1964 a 25-year partnership with Palmer as chairman, during which time Leicestershire became the model of a small but well-run cricket club. Palmer was also president of MCC in 1978-79 and chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board from 1983 to 1985. He chaired a committee that in December 1985 recommended fourday county cricket (which later became the norm) and uncovered pitches (which did not). His genial style of chairmanship was always popular, though it was arguable - as in West Indies - that it was insufficiently forthright to cope with the mounting problems the game faced. Little Palmer's confrontation with the hulking Kerry Packer was the ultimate catchweight contest. Nonetheless, it is to the credit of cricket that such an all-round good egg should succeed at it so well.

    PANJRI, KAMALKAR RAJARAM, died on April 1, 2005, aged 79. An offspinner, he played four matches for Bombay in the mid-1950s, including the Ranji Trophy final victory over Services at Delhi in 1956-57, when he claimed five for 57 in the second innings. This followed six for 37 (and 60 not out) in the semi- final, against Madras, and he finished with 18 wickets at 13.83.

    PARISH, ROBERT JAMES, OBE, died on May 11, 2005, aged 89. Bob Parish was perhaps the most committed, hard-working and long-serving of all Australian administrators and spent 33 years on the Australian Cricket Board, including two stints as chairman. Unfortunately for him, the second of these, from 1975 to 1980, encompassed the game's great schism. Parish was in the forefront of the battle against Kerry Packer, which he had helped precipitate by refusing to negotiate with him over television rights, and was seen as one of the board's most hawkish anti-Packer figures. However, when surrender became inevitable, he gave in gracefully. Parish was a Melbourne timber merchant who joined the committee at the Prahran club in 1936 and was involved in running the game for the next 56 years. He was noted (unlike many officials) for being an enthusiastic spectator. "He was the epitome of dedication to cricket," said Cricket Australia chairman Bob Merriman. Former ICC president Malcolm Gray said Parish was "the greatest cricket administrator Australia has ever produced".

    POWER, JOHN FRANCIS, died on April 6, 2005, aged 73. "Strawberry" Power (he had red hair) was a useful fast out-swing bowler from Victoria with a pronounced drag, real pace and a taste for bowling bumpers who was close to being picked for the 1956 Ashes tour. Bill Lawry described him as "a wild tearaway fast bowler - he didn't have much respect for anybody". That apparently included Sam Loxton, his club captain at Prahran and a state selector. Power was dropped from the Victorian side for three years until Loxton was away in 1959-60, managing Australia on the subcontinent. Power returned to the Victorian team, more mature both as a man and a bowler. Having mastered swing and cut, he took 35 wickets, the second-most in the country, and again came close to Test selection, before fading away. Once in a district match, he discovered the umpire had forgotten to bring out a bowling marker. "It's all right," said Power. "I'll use my false teeth."

    RAE, ALLAN FITZROY, who died on February 27, 2005, aged 82, was a lefthanded opening batsman whose century for West Indies at Lord's in 1950 helped change the face of cricket. Rae scored a dogged 106 to set the stage for the team's strokemakers and spinners who secured one of the game's most famous victories. He scored heavily in West Indies' two subsequent wins, including another hundred at The Oval. "Rae provided the solidity," said Wisden. "He never allowed himself to take the slightest risk until the innings was shaping satisfactorily, but woe betide the bowler who faltered in length." Born into the game - his father Ernest toured England in 1928 without playing a Test - he had broken into the side in India 18 months earlier. Rae scored two hundreds, and began his famous opening partnership with Jeff Stollmeyer, which yielded an average of 71 in 13 Tests. But he struggled against Australian pace in 1951-52, and retired from Tests at 30 to become a barrister. He remained heavily involved in the game, becoming president of both the Jamaican and West Indies Cricket Boards, neglecting his practice - so it was said - because of his devotion to cricket. Rae saw earlier than most administrators the need to deal with Kerry Packer, but was resolute against the West Indian players who defected to South Africa. In 2000 he returned to Lord's, the scene of his triumph, and recalled how he had refused to change into clean flannels to meet the King for fear of losing concentration. "I'd rather have the King think I was a dirty man than be out because I was rushing to change."

    RAMCHAND, Dr LEELA, died on July 22, 2005, aged 80, by jumping from her seventh-floor apartment in Mumbai. Dr Ramchand was the widow of the former Indian captain, Gulabrai Ramchand, who died in 2003. Several well-known cricketing figures live in the same block; one of them, Ashok Mankad, said that, although retired from medicine, Dr Ramchand never minded being woken if someone was ill. "We called her Aunty. Whenever there was any problem, she was there to address it."

    ROBINSON, JACQUELINE, who died on October 9, 2005, aged 39, had been a reserve for the West Indian team in the Women's World Cup earlier in the year. A Jamaican, she played in one Test match, scoring 57 to help stave off an innings defeat by Pakistan at Karachi in March 2004, and 16 one-day internationals.

    SALMON, ROSS OSBORNE SPENCER, DSC, who died on April 14, 2004, aged 81, was the Test match statistician for BBC TV from the mid-1960s until the early 1970s. If this implies dry meticulousness, it would be misleading. Salmon was an adventurer who led a life of astounding variety. He was a decorated wartime Navy pilot who flew secret missions deep into enemy territory (wearing a top hat and white gloves, apparently); he managed a ranch in Colombia until he broke 14 bones in a jungle air crash; and became a children's TV star of the 1950s, as the Jungle Cowboy, in which guise he rode across Britain, turning up in school playgrounds complete with Stetson. He also set up his own ranch, the Lazy S, on the edge of Dartmoor but, after they were snowed in for three months during the winter of 1962-63, he took his family into Plymouth and concentrated on freelance journalism and broadcasting. Salmon took on the TV cricket job after a succession of previous incumbents had died young. It was not an obvious role for him: once his figures flew out of a train window. ("Can I have a pound of stats?" he asked Bill Frindall on arrival. "Weight or value?" came the reply.) He was a silent, unseen, presence for Test match viewers, but viewers in the South- West were familiar with his easy style, and colleagues were impressed by his ability to arrive breathless at the last minute, and still get things right. Salmon also started the International Crusaders, a charity team, and he had the knack of persuading stars like Garry Sobers and Fred Trueman to play for nothing.

    SANDERS, LEYLAND ARTHUR, died on January 3, 2005, aged 77. Ley Sanders was a Queensland wicketkeeper-batsman of the early 1950s whose career was blocked by the presence of Don Tallon and Wally Grout. Giving up the gloves, he was unable to make enough runs to hold his place, though he played some valuable defensive innings in his ten first-class matches.

    SHIELD, IAN NOEL RIDLEY, died on February 22, 2005, aged 90. A fastmedium bowler who played four Championship matches for Hampshire in 1939, he was a stalwart of the Hampshire Hogs club, taking 495 wickets in a 20-year career for them, including all ten for 25 against the Royal Hampshire Regiment in 1949.

    SHIPSTON, FRANK WILLIAM, died on July 6, 2005, three weeks before his 99th birthday, when he was believed to be the world's oldest first-class cricketer. Shipston joined the Nottinghamshire staff in 1925, and played 49 matches for them before leaving in 1933 to join the police. Overall, Shipston averaged less than 19, but did score two centuries, both in 1932. He had a stint as a first-class umpire in 1956 before returning to Trent Bridge, where he coached for the next decade.

    SMITH, JOHN HARRISON, who died of cancer on July 5, 2005, aged 59, was a tireless worker for youth cricket in London. He ran Capital Kids Cricket, the charity aimed at getting youngsters to play, and was heavily involved in the London Schools Cricket Association, as well as coaching all over London and Essex. With Don Wilson, he co-founded the Ampleforth Festival. The Times said: "It is likely that nobody did more for schools' cricket in London."

    SOLKAR, EKNATH DHONDU, died on June 26, 2005. He was 57, and suffered from diabetes. Statistically, Solkar remains Test cricket's most successful fielder, with 53 catches in just 27 matches - of those who played at least ten, the nextbest is Bob Simpson's 110 in 62 Tests, or 1.77 per match to Solkar's 1.96. The top catchers are usually firmly camped in the slip cordon, but most of Solkar's came at forward short leg, where he lurked uncomfortably up close and personal to the batsman. Bishan Bedi, one of the great Indian spinners of the time whose menace was greatly enhanced by this, confirmed: "His close-in catching was really intimidating. We would not have been the same bowlers without him." Tony Greig, an opponent in the 1972-73 series in India, said: "Ekki was the best forward short leg I have ever seen." His catching was often preceded by some very idiosyncratic sledging. "I'll get you, bloody," he advised Geoff Boycott, and he told Garry Sobers to mind his own business. Solkar rose from humble roots. His father was the groundsman at the Hindu Gymkhana in Bombay, and he grew up in a oneroom hut on the ground shared with his parents and five siblings (one of whom, Anant, also played first-class cricket). He impressed the Bombay players with his bowling in the nets, and turned himself into a handy all-rounder, allying adhesive batting to his enthusiastic left-arm seamers - for Indian Schools, who he captained despite his lowly birth; for Bombay, taking six for 38 on his Ranji Trophy debut in 1966-67; for Sussex in one match in 1969; and then for India. Some affectionately called him "the poor man's Sobers", but he outdid even him in India's victory in the West Indies in 1970-71, with six catches and a crucial 55 in the only definite result, India's win at Port-of-Spain. Later in 1971, he played an equally vital role in India's first Test and series victory in England, with 44 and three wickets in a famous triumph at The Oval. There were also three catches, one - in England's second-innings collapse to dispose of Alan Knott, who had made 90 first time around - as fine as any, when Solkar was stationed even closer than usual.

    STARR, CECIL LEONARD BERRY, died on January 25, 2005, aged 97. Cec Starr was a batsman who played seven games for South Australia, spread over 19 years, in the midst of a long career in Adelaide grade cricket. He made 72 against Western Australia in 1929-30. Starr was a state selector, with only a short break, from 1948 to 1966, mostly alongside Sir Donald Bradman and Phil Ridings.

    STAYERS, SVEN CONRAD, died on January 6, 2005. He was 67. "Charlie" Stayers was a tall, loose-limbed fast bowler from British Guiana who was also a batsman useful enough to make a century against Barbados in 1958-59. He was in the West Indian 12 for the First Test against England the following season, but did not play, possibly because of worries about his bowling action - he had been called for throwing in a domestic game in 1958-59. Stayers did play in four Tests against India in 1961-62, taking nine wickets at 40, but failed to make the 1963 tour of England. He was also part of an unusual initiative in 1962-63, when the Indian board arranged for four fast bowlers from the Caribbean to play in domestic cricket to attune the local batsmen to high pace. Stayers played for Bombay, and in what turned out to be his last first-class match, the Ranji Trophy final at Jaipur, took six for 36 (the best figures of his career) in the innings victory over Rajasthan. He did not return to the West Indies, but signed as professional for Enfield in the Lancashire League instead. He remained in England to study, and later had a nomadic career in health management in Africa, North America - and London, where he died.

    STRYDOM, STEFANUS, died on October 28, 2005, aged 67. Steve Strydom played 28 matches for Orange Free State in the decade from 1959-60. He extended his one century, against Transvaal B at Vereeniging in 1965-66, to 234. His brothers Cornelius, Petrus and William, and his son, Joubert, also played for Orange Free State. Strydom later became a rugby referee, officiating in four international matches between 1979 and 1986.

    SUTTLE, KENNETH GEORGE, died on March 25, 2005, aged 76, while on holiday in Mauritius. Ken Suttle was a left-handed bat who was, in Robin Marlar's words, "the spirit of Sussex on the cricket field" for nearly two decades and, between 1954 and 1969, set a record that will almost certainly never even be remotely threatened: 423 consecutive County Championship appearances. Innate fitness helped him sustain that run, but he was also always available for Sussex because the England selectors remained uninterested. Suttle did get close to a cap on his only England tour, to the West Indies in 1953-54, when his 96 and 62 against a strong Barbados side put him in line for a place in the Bridgetown Test, but Len Hutton, the captain, preferred Charles Palmer, the amateur manager. Fred Trueman was incensed on behalf of his fellow pro: "I thought it was grossly unfair," he wrote. Suttle was a quick-footed, unorthodox player who loved to cut and pull, and a fidget at the crease: "an endless bat-kicker and a real heel-kicker," according to Marlar. He made his debut in 1949, and played on for Sussex until 1971, passing 1,000 runs in 17 successive seasons from 1953 to 1969. He finished with 30,225 runs at 31.09 in 612 first-class matches, with 49 centuries - one of them a double, 204 not out against Kent at Tunbridge Wells in 1962. He also took 266 wickets with his flat slow left-armers, 384 catches, and three stumpings as a stand-in wicketkeeper. After leaving Sussex he played for Suffolk for two seasons, ran an equipment shop, then turned to coaching at Christ's Hospital. He made three first-team appearances on the left wing for Brighton in 1949. Les Lenham, a long-time friend and team-mate, recalled: "Ken was an amazing cricketer and the consummate professional."

    TAYLOR, MARGARET JEAN, died on July 22, 2004, aged 87. Peggy Taylor played in New Zealand's first women's Test match, a heavy defeat in her home town of Christchurch in February 1935, scoring three runs and taking the wicket of the England captain Betty Archdale.

    THOMAS, ERNALD CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL, died on August 29, 2005, aged 81. After many years playing for Beckenham in Kent - he was captain when the 15-year-old Derek Underwood joined them - Mike Thomas was a popular honorary secretary of the Primary Club, the cricket-based charity for the visually impaired, from 1985 to 1996.

    THOMPSON, HARRY WILLIAM, who died of cancer on November 7, 2005, aged 45, was a successful and innovative television producer and comedy writer. Among other shows, he helped devise the satirical TV current-affairs quiz Have I Got News For You, and its sporting counterpart They Think It's All Over. While at Oxford University he co-founded the Captain Scott XI, a cricket club whose wanderings took them far and wide - including, appropriately enough, a match in Antarctica. He played over 640 games for the club, not missing a single fixture until his health deteriorated. He completed a book about the side, Penguins Stopped Play, shortly before his death. Marcus Berkmann, another of the co-founders, said: "He was the most determined and competitive cricketer I have ever known. Over 25 years he turned himself from the bunniest of rabbits into an obdurate opening batsman and a nagging opening bowler. All his friends will miss his indeterminate waft outside off stump for no run, and his cries of torment whenever anyone misfielded."

    TOLCHARD, RAYMOND CHARLES, died on July 31, 2004. He was 50, and had been suffering from motor neurone disease. Ray Tolchard made 80 appearances for Devon between 1975 and 1984, scoring a painstaking century in the challenge match against Durham in 1978, as Devon won the Minor Counties Championship for the first time. He later had two seasons on the first-class umpires' list. His brothers Roger and Jeff played for Leicestershire (Roger won four England caps), and his son Sam became a precocious bowls international. Roger Twose, the Warwickshire and New Zealand batsman, is his nephew.

    TROWSE, DEAN FREDERICK, who died on September 24, 2005, aged 73, was a batsman who played 22 matches for South Australia in the early 1950s. His only century came against New South Wales in 1952-53, when South Australia won the Sheffield Shield for the first time in 14 years.

    VAN MOER, OSWALD, died of cancer on November 30, 2005, aged 58. Ossie van Moer had been an important figure in Belgian cricket for almost 30 years. One of the first Belgians to qualify as a Level One coach, he was instrumental in the re-forming of the Belgian Cricket Federation, and was elected president in 2004, overseeing Belgium's successful promotion from affiliate to associatemember status of the ICC.

    WALKER, ALAN KEITH, who died on June 18, 2005, aged 79, was a whippy left-arm bowler who could be "very, very fast when the mood took him", according to his New South Wales team-mate Richie Benaud. Some had reservations about the legitimacy of his action, which featured an unusual approach to the crease with left wrist cocked behind head. Walker toured South Africa in 1949-50, taking 25 wickets at 20.24 outside the Tests, but found himself behind Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Bill Johnston in the pecking order. He had made his Shield debut the previous season following some startling performances in Sydney grade cricket, including seven for eight and seven for six in one match for Manly against Cumberland. Walker never did make it into the Test side, and tried his luck in the Lancashire League after missing out on selection for the 1953 Ashes tour. After three years with Rawtenstall he was signed up by Nottinghamshire, taking 55 wickets in 1956. The following season started strangely, as he took seven for 56 against Middlesex at Lord's before going down with mumps and missing the rest of the game - and the next month's cricket too. In 1958 he was hampered by a shoulder injury suffered while playing rugby league for Leigh, and returned to Australia. He had taken a hat-trick in only his fifth match, against Queensland at Sydney in 1948-49, and bettered that in his first county season, with four in four balls at Leicester in 1956, when he dismissed the last man in the first innings and started the second with a hat-trick. Walker was also an outstanding rugby union player, who led the try-scoring with 19 on the Wallabies' 1947-48 tour of Britain and France, when he scored a memorable 70-yard try against England at Twickenham.

    WALSH, IVAN ALEXANDER, who died on May 12, 2005, aged 80, was a fastmedium bowler who played three matches for Otago in the late 1940s. He took five for 76 on his debut, against Wellington at Dunedin in 1948-49, when his victims included the future Test captains Geoff Rabone and John Reid.

    WARD, CHARLES FREDERICK, CBE, died on December 27, 2005, five days after Marjorie, his wife of 58 years. He was 88. "Jim'' Ward, a keen club leg- spinner, was Nottinghamshire's president in 1993-94 after being chairman for four years in the 1980s. He was taken prisoner at Tobruk during World War II, escaped and was recaptured, and continued his accountancy training while held captive in Germany.

    The Second Baron WARDINGTON died on July 6, 2005, aged 81. The Hon. Christopher Henry Beaumont "Bic" Pease, as he was known before succeeding to the title, opened the batting for Eton in 1941 and 1942, when he scored a match-winning 43 not out against Harrow. He later became one of Britain's leading bibliophiles, amassing the country's largest private collection of atlases at Wardington Manor, Oxfordshire.

    WATKINS, WILLIAM MARTIN, DFC, died on March 15, 2005, aged 82. A batsman from the Swansea club, Billy Watkins was called up as a late replacement for Glamorgan's Championship match against Hampshire at St Helen's in 1950, but scored only three. He also played rugby union for Swansea, and had rugby league trials for Wigan. He flew more than 30 wartime bombing raids over Germany.

    WATT, HOWARD HUGH, died on August 17, 2005, aged 94. "Sparkle" Watt was a fast bowler who took 44 wickets in 12 appearances for Western Province and North-Eastern Transvaal either side of the war. His six for 84 for Western Province against Griqualand West in 1934-35 put him in line to tour England in 1935, but only two fast bowlers were eventually chosen, though he was named in a 15-man squad to play Australia at Durban in 1935-36. Watt did represent South Africa at rugby, and was the last surviving pre-war Springbok. He spent some time in the United States, and dismissed Don Bradman cheaply twice while playing for Illinois against Arthur Mailey's privately raised Australian team in 1932. Watt later presented the ball to the Newlands museum.

    WHITE, BENITA HELEN, who died on December 21, 2004, aged 67, coached generations of youngsters in the Chesterfield area. Her charges included Chris Adams, who praised her as "his greatest influence" in Wisden 2004, and Ian Blackwell. "She was an inspiring woman," said John Salisbury, chair of the Derbyshire Cricket Board. "She just believed in people."

    WILES, Rev. Professor MAURICE FRANK, who died on June 3, 2005, aged 81, topped the batting averages at Tonbridge School in 1941, and came second in the bowling with his leg-breaks. He was the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford and a Canon of Christ Church from 1970 to 1991. Wiles was regarded as one of the leading liberal theologians in the Church of England, and, even as a canon professor, one of the Oxford area's wiliest purveyors of leg-spin.

    WORNHAM, JEFFREY RICHARD TRISTAN, was killed tackling a fire on February 2, 2005, aged 28. Jeff Wornham and a fellow fireman were trying to rescue a woman trapped by a blaze in a tower block in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. All three died. Cricket was Wornham's enduring love. As a boy, he spent much of the summer dressed in whites on the off chance that he might find a game he could join. A teacher, faced with a moderate academic record, explained Wornham's school year: spring term to prepare for cricket, summer term to play it and autumn term to relive the matches. He also played for Reed CC, helping them to the Hertfordshire Colts Championship in 1990, and rejoining the club after college. He made useful runs with his correct, left-handed batting and kept wicket after a snowboarding accident hampered his bowling. "Soul Limbo" - the signature tune for the BBC's cricket coverage - was played at his funeral, and his ashes scattered over the Lord's outfield. On the evening of the fire, he was knocking in his new bat, bought earlier that day.

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