LONDON: Ray Illingworth’s forthright Yorkshire tones and confrontational style never left anyone in any doubt as to how he felt, but made him a well-known figure in the game, even among those too young to remember a shrewd Test captain who enjoyed a playing career of unusual longevity.
He was one of the leading figures in English cricket for the best part of four decades as player, captain, commentator, administrator and coach.
Illingworth began his first-class career in 1951, two months after his 19th birthday – and remarkably, it continued for a decade after he played the last of his 61 Tests, before retirement finally came in 1983, aged 51.
Soon, he was a sought-after television commentator, yet in his 60s, took on the role of England’s chairman of selectors – even combining it with the job of coach for a controversial spell.
Born in Pudsey on 8 June 1932, the young Raymond Illingworth began playing at his local club in Farsley, where he would reside for nearly all of his life.
National Service in the Royal Air Force slightly delayed his progress, though he played for an RAF team which featuring future England team-mates Jim Parks, Fred Titmus and Fred Trueman, and hit 56 on his Yorkshire debut in 1951.
An all-rounder, Illingworth switched from seam to off-spin in his late teens. In 1957, he completed a seasonal “double”, passing 1,000 runs and 100 wickets (a feat he would match five more times in the next seven years), and England came calling in 1958 when he debuted against New Zealand at Old Trafford.
Bowling proved his stronger suit at international level and he proved his worth as a miserly spinner. He had to wait more than a decade for the first of his two Test centuries but he always sold his wicket dearly. —Agencies