England warrior dies
Former batsman Brian Close passes away at 84
Former England, Yorkshire and Somerset captain Brian Close has died, aged 84.
The Yorkshireman is the youngest player to have won a Test cap for England, making his debut as an 18-year-old against New Zealand in 1949.
Close, who was known for his brave batting, captained his country seven times in 22 Tests, and led Yorkshire to four County Championship titles.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, who was coached by Close at Yorkshire, called him “a true inspiration”.
Close, who lived in Baildon, West Yorkshire, died on Sunday. He leaves a widow, a son and a daughter.
England and Yorkshire batsman Joe Root said: “Very sad to hear the passing of Brian Close. A cricket legend whose fearless approach and bravery will always be remembered.”
Vaughan was among the major cricket figures to pay tribute to Close, saying on Twitter that he possessed “courage, bravery and madness” as a batsman.
He posted: “Such a sad day. He was a true inspiration to all of us. Thanks, Brian, for helping me as a kid growing up at Yorkshire.
“I once had a lbw problem. Closey, aged 60, came into the nets and batted without pads. He said: ‘It’s the only way, young man, you will sort your problem’.”
Former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell added on Twitter: “Brian Close was inspirational for us youngsters in the 1970s. Hard as nails. Great character.”
Retired Test umpire Dickie Bird, a former Yorkshire team-mate of Close and now the club’s president, added: “Brian Close was an all-time great, both of Yorkshire and England.
“He will go down as one of the bravest cricketers of all time.”
Left-handed batsman Close, who bowled as an off-spinner, made nearly 35,000 runs during a first-class career that spanned 37 years, ending at the age of 55 in 1986.
He was also a footballer in his youth, playing for Leeds United, Arsenal and Bradford City.
But one of the most iconic images of his career came in 1976, when he was recalled to the England Test side at the age of 45 to face a fearsome West Indies bowling attack.
Close had to stand up to a battering as Michael Holding charged in with bouncing deliveries that travelled at about 90mph.
Asked by the BBC in 2011 if that West Indies team were the best Test side he faced, Close replied: “They were the nastiest bowling side.”
Paying tribute to Close’s bravery, International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said: “His playing career has become synonymous with bravery.
“His tenacity against the feared West Indies pace attack of the 1970s, especially, still resonates with many cricket followers across the world.”
Holding described Close as one of the toughest persons he had ever met who never backed down from anyone. Holding, who became close with Close and his family, said the two shared a passion for horse racing and the sport was often the subject of their many conversations.
He noted Close’s wife, Vivienne, had told him during the recent New Zealand tour of England that Close was not faring too well and he should visit him. Holding recalled that he was happy that he had been to seen him.
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves also cited Close’s “characteristic display of guts and determination” in that episode, adding: “Brian will go down in cricket history as one of the game’s greatest ever captains and a player whose fearless and courageous approach was the stuff of legend.
“This is a sad day for cricket.”