LAWRENCE BOOTH: Farewell, Ted Dexter, the last of the great amateur cricketers as the former England star, parliamentary candidate and cricket innovator dies aged 86
- Former England cricketer Ted Dexter died at the age of 86 on Thursday
- Dexter – known as ‘Lord Ted’ – earned a Test average of 48 over 62 Test matches
- He captained England and his innovative methods were often hit and miss
- Dexter also devised the Deloitte ratings system now utilised by the ICC
Ted Dexter, the debonair former England captain who has died at the age of 86, was a man apart — whether he was standing for parliament, coming within a putt of qualifying for the Open Championship, flying his family to Australia, or devising the ratings system now used by the ICC.
But cricket was central to his life, and there were few more stirring sights in the game than Dexter — ‘Lord Ted’ as he was known from his schooldays — on the charge.
For all his nine Test centuries, including a career-best 205 against Pakistan at Karachi in 1962, no innings was more celebrated than his counter-attacking 75-ball 70 against a powerful West Indies in 1963. Lord’s had rarely seen anything like it.
English cricket legend Ted Dexter has sadly passed away at the age of 86 this week
Dexter, known as ‘Lord Ted’, had a superb Test career, averaging nearly 48 runs for England
He finished with 4,502 runs from 62 Tests at an average of nearly 48 — very good figures in any era. But it was his style rather than his substance that allowed him to buck the trend of the 1960s, when Test cricket threatened to grind to a halt.
As early as 1961, only three years after he first played for England, Wisden made him one of their Five Cricketers of the Year and eulogised: ‘No English cricketer bred since the war has so captured the imagination of those inside, outside and far from, the boundary.’
Born in Milan, where his father, Ralph, ran an underwriting agency, he eventually settled in London after leaving Cambridge, but was persuaded to look south by Sussex captain Robin Marlar.
Dexter enjoyed a late foray into golf but his life centered on cricket for England and Sussex
‘It was perfect for me,’ Dexter told The Cricketer. ‘I was newly married and we had a little flat in Pimlico. Every morning I’d walk down to Victoria station, and I had my own special corner seat in first class on the Brighton Belle.’
Every inch the last of the great amateurs, he would complete the crossword and arrive at Hove by 10.15am for an 11.30am start.
And the love was mutual. Dexter captained Sussex to victory in county cricket’s first two Gillette Cups, in 1963 and 1964, and was partly responsible for the club’s reputation as a crack fielding unit. In all, 26 of his 51 first-class hundreds came for Sussex, as well as 218 of his 419 wickets, collected by his athletic outswing.
He captained England in 30 of his Tests but won only nine, including just one out of 10 against Australia, and was not everyone’s idea of a Test leader. ‘I liked the man a lot and he could bat beautifully,’ said fast bowler Fred Trueman. ‘But he was no captain of England. He had more theories than Darwin.’
Dexter captained England but his innovative methods were hit and miss among the players
Dexter masterminded the Deloitte ratings system, leaving behind a legacy off the pitch too
Graham Gooch, one of his successors, told Test Match Special on Thursday about the time Dexter suggested he practise batting while standing in the bath, to limit his movements to forward and back.
The theories were the product of a fertile but restless mind, and he was always in search of a fresh challenge. In 1964, his Test career still four years from completion, he stood as the Conservative candidate for Cardiff South East, despite the seat being a shoo-in for Labour.
Fourteen years later, now trying his hand in European amateur golf, he would have qualified for the Open but for a missed putt on the 18th. In 1989, Dexter became chairman of selectors and instantly presided over a chaotic 4-0 home Ashes defeat.
The former cricketer threw himself into the sport and leaves behind a lasting legacy
It was a turbulent time, not always helped by Dexter’s more leftfield pronouncements. Losses were ascribed, variously, to the position of Venus, Kolkata smog and facial hair.
But some of his ideas did hit the mark. In 1987, he and a pair of statisticians devised the Deloitte Ratings, which 16 years later were adopted by the ICC. Dexter said: ‘The rankings idea was my biggest contribution to cricket.’
On Thursday, Joe Root remembered how Dexter emailed him during a slump. ‘I really appreciated that,’ said the England captain.
‘He didn’t have to do it.’ Not doing it, however, was never the Dexter way.
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