Ted Dexter – A CelebrationMartin Chandler |
Author: Packham, R and Sharp, N (Editors)
Publisher: Sussex Cricket Museum
Rating: 4 stars
Having spent a most enjoyable weekend reading Ted Dexter’s new autobiography, 85 Not Out, I found myself getting withdrawal symptoms a week later and in need of a Dexter ‘fix’. I was tempted to take a look at Alan Lee’s unofficial biography, but bearing in mind what I had just read on the subject of that one I decided against it. For much the same reason I wasn’t tempted by Dexter’s 1966 autobiography, so that left me scratching around amongst my collection of Sussex Cricket Museum publications where, to my great delight, I found something I hadn’t read, this splendid collection of short essays about Dexter.
The first question must be what the celebration was? Other than the Museum trustees and their friends treating Dexter to lunch I have to say I can’t readily discern a reason, certainly not in terms of any particular anniversary, but then Sussex cricket lovers of a certain age will wax lyrical over Dexter for hours on end with but the flimsiest of excuses.
The booklet begins with an introduction from Roger Packham, who does a very good job of providing an objective summary of Dexter’s life and cricketing career. Packham passes the baton on to Robin Marlar, Sussex skipper when Dexter joined the county and a trenchant cricket writer for many years after his playing career ended. It would be fair to say that Marlar is a lot more subjective than Packham and, having been instrumental in Dexter signing for the county in the first place, he is entitled to be.
After Marlar come a few memories from Dexter’s former teammate Jim Parks, who in many partnerships played the Bill Edrich role to Dexter’s Compton. After that there are as many as eight pages of photographs before David Frith shares him memories of Dexter. Frith begins with his fears for his personal safety when under threat from the force of a thunderous off drive at the SCG in 1958/59 before coming out with a marvellous line from Dexter himself, which might provide an answer to many questions as well as the one Frith was asking at the time; it’s because I seem to be thinking much faster than I speak.
Frith is followed by joint editor Sharp, whose essay is entitled My Favourite Cricketer. Having telegraphed the tone of his writing Sharp does not however get bogged in hyperbole and hero worship. His is a very personal tribute written with obvious affection and admiration, but without the sort of tunnel vision that can sometimes spoil such writing.
The booklet ends with a couple of paragraphs from David Rayvern Allen which serve only to reinforce the belief I formed after reading 85 Not Out that Dexter was over criticised and under appreciated during his reign as England’s supremo between 1989 and 1993.
Before Rayvern Allen brings up the rear however there are a most enjoyable couple of pages or so from Richard Barrow, who tells the story of his first boyhood sight of Dexter, the famous Championship match against Kent when, told by the selectors to show he was good enough to be selected for the final two Tests against Australia in 1968, Dexter came out of retirement to demonstrate just that. The story of Barrow’s day reminded me very much of my first sight of Clive Lloyd, albeit there was no double century for me that day.
All in all Ted Dexter – A Celebration is a most enjoyable read, and demonstrates just why, to those who saw him bat, ‘Lord Ted’ was and is so revered. Getting hold of a copy might be tricky however, as the signed and numbered limited edition sold out long ago. That said there were 150 copies so, whilst some patience might be required, copies will turn up from time to time.