Obituary, 2007

Alec Coxon

ESPNcricinfo staff

"He was a fiery bugger, all right, but he had a massive heart"

© The Cricketer International


COXON, ALEXANDER, died on January 22, 2006, aged 90. Alec Coxon, a wiry seam bowler from the school of hard knocks, came to prominence when Yorkshire rebuilt their team in 1946 - the war, and before that a stern League apprenticeship, meant that he was 29 when he made his debut (in a 1945 Roses benefit match for Hedley Verity's family). But when his chance came, he grabbed it. Opening the bowling with Bill Bowes and, briefly, Fred Trueman, he generated fair pace, consistent seam movement and non-stop hostility. He had a particularly fine offcutter, often aimed at the batsman's groin.

Coxon was a batsman of some substance too, all of which led him to the England team at Lord's in 1948. He performed respectably - dismissing Sid Barnes in his second over and (he was convinced) getting Bradman lbw for nought. On that, however, the umpire was not convinced. Coxon's problem was that the hostility did not cease when he stopped bowling: he held very high rank in cricket's awkward squad, and was perpetually loyal to its traditions. At Lord's, he had an argument - or, as legend has it, a fight - with Denis Compton in the dressing-room; he was never picked again. And two years later, although he took 131 wickets and, in Wisden's words, "maintained a good pace with unflagging energy", he was sacked by Yorkshire.

He moved to Durham to play in the Minor Counties and the leagues. Even his minor county career ended badly: an inexperienced groundstaff boy asked where he wanted the sawdust, and he pointed to a length, leading to a mucked-up pitch and an unamused committee. But Coxon found his destiny, opening an indoor school in an old rifle-range near Sunderland, and turning out a generation of superb club cricketers. "Coxon's Angels" someone called them years later. "He was brilliant with children, they worshipped him, but not so good at forming relationships with adults," said former Sunderland opening batsman Frank Greenshields. "Alec fell out with more committees than the world has ever known." "He was a fiery bugger, all right," said the former Yorkshire bowler Bob Platt, "but he had a massive heart." His warmth was limited in its range. Journalists who rang Coxon asking for a reminiscence would get a fierce "What's it to do with you?" even in his old age, and he habitually turned down autograph hunters. But he remained a legend in Durham and, bizarrely, Jamaica, where the reggae record producer Clement Dodd was nicknamed "Sir Coxsone" after him.

© John Wisden & Co.