What’s in a Name?Martin Chandler |
Being the son of a famous sporting father is a classic example of a double edged sword. On the one hand there will be doors that remain firmly closed to the rest of us that will always be open, but on the other there is the constant irritation of being introduced to people, not as yourself, but as your father’s son.
Such forebears also seem to hold back the younger generations, something that cricket illustrates as well as anything. When, fourteen years ago, Wisden invited one hundred cricketing luminaries to select their five cricketers of the century 49 men received at least one nomination. Of those 49 none produced offspring who went on to even begin to match their fathers achievements on the cricket field. The man with the heaviest burden of them all, John Bradman, at one stage even went so far as to change his name. Liam Botham didn’t go to quite that extreme, but after showing a few tantalising glimpses of having what it took to match the old man he chose to pursue a Rugby career, sadly then curtailed by injury.
Two of the 49 did however produce sons who briefly graced the highest level of the game. One was the son of George Headley, the man who some continue to believe was the finest batsman West Indies have produced. Ron Headley played twice for West Indies in 1973. That said his selection was somewhat fortuitous. Ron had played for Worcestershire in the County Championship since 1958, and had only previously spent one winter playing in the Caribbean, that being eight years earlier. He was called up to reinforce a side that had lost one of its opening batsmen to injury. Already 34 he did not play for West Indies again.
Like Ron Headley Richard Hutton’s Test career lasted just one summer, that of 1971, by which time Sir Leonard’s elder son was 28. His record suggests that he deserved rather more opportunities than he got.
During Richard’s formative years his father, a truly great batsman and a man of huge personal integrity, was as respected as anyone in the game. He was the first professional cricketer to lead England, the enormity of that burden being something the very different social order of the 21st century makes it impossible to properly comprehend. Despite that he led England as they recaptured the Ashes in 1953 after almost twenty years, and then on to greater triumphs in Australia two years later. Sir Leonard was as popular as Denis Compton and idolised by just as many. Young Richard was, unsurprisingly, a promising young cricketer himself and, with the assistance of a prep school Headmaster who saw the value of a bit of free publicity for the educational establishment that he owned, the press spent the closing summers of Sir Leonard’s career taking an interest in the next generation as well.
In 1956 Sir Leonard received his knighthood, although by then he had been out of active cricket for a season. That year Richard moved on to Repton School, not the sort of place to provide a welcome to nosy pressmen, so he slipped out of the public eye again. To those who were interested his impressive deeds on the cricket field were faithfully recorded in the Public Schools Cricket section of Wisden each year, although there was no specific mention of a match played at the school in May 1959 when the MCC visited. A sixteen year old Richard contributed 61 to Repton’s 213-5 declared, and as the visitors subsided to 122 all out he had the pleasure of dismissing his father, a few years past his prime perhaps, but at 42 years of age still a notable scalp for a schoolboy.
On leaving Repton Richard went up to Cambridge, where he read Economics. By now his parents were living in leafy Surrey and Sir Leonard was making his living out of stockbroking. Potentially Richard might have had a residential qualification for Surrey, which in his view was why he was asked to play for Yorkshire’s second XI a couple of times in August 1961. He opened both the batting and the bowling, the former with a young colt named Geoffrey Boycott. Both made a good impression.
At Cambridge Richard had the pleasure of playing his cricket at Fenner’s. The pitches there were as good as any in the country, and superior to many on which the counties played. But without his father’s influence he might not have had his chance in 1962. The Cambridge skipper that year was the future Glamorgan and (briefly) England captain Tony Lewis. He wrote later Early in the season I made the decision not to select the Freshman of reputation from Repton, Richard Hutton. His bowling action was unusual and rather unattractive, his personality appeared dour and unsmiling, his batting was a lumbering exercise mainly on the front foot.
Lewis duly disregarded Richard for the first two games against the counties, and then found himself being taken out to dinner by Sir Leonard, ostensibly to point him in the direction of a career in stockbroking, but not unnaturally he slipped into the conversation the fact that Richard was a good cricketer. Taking the hint Lewis then picked Richard, and soon changed his mind; he was indeed a good player and a delightful man. His arm action was high and he hit the seam; he could use a new ball with some life; his batting was still rather plunging but he held good slip catches.
Altogether Richard played 16 First Class matches for Cambridge that summer. He scored 634 runs and took 34 wickets so a respectable return, but not a spectacular one. It was a major surprise therefore when he was selected to play in the August Roses Match against Lancashire, the only change from a side that had just beaten Kent. The man who made way for Richard was also in his first season, and despite not enjoying a great deal of success Richard kept him out for the rest of the campaign and, perhaps, this is where the antipathy between Richard and Boycott first took shape.
The Yorkshire dressing room was a notoriously hard place for any young cricketer to find himself, and the old pros tended to be particlarly wary of the “fancy cap” amateurs who occasionally appeared, but for once Sir Leonard eased Richard’s way on that one. The most intolerant of them all, Fred Trueman, went out of his way to make the young student welcome, remaining good-humoured even when he put down a catch against the old enemy. Trueman had great respect for Sir Leonard, despite the fact that he might, had he wished, have borne some ill-will against his old captain as a result of his experiences in West Indies in 1953/54, and his subsequent omission from the victorious 1954/55 touring party that retained the Ashes.
Richard’s passage to being accepted as being a member of the hard school that was the Yorkshire dressing room would have been smoothed also by his personality. As noted by Lewis he could give the impression of being dour, but in fact that was borne out of his determination to succeed in the game and an appreciation that being Sir Leonard’s son added to the hurdles he had to overcome in achieving that. Once outside that bubble he could be an entertaining teammate. Two of the Yorkshire regulars when he began, Phil Sharpe and Don Wilson, were very close to the stars of the Black and White Minstrel Show, a variety act that would quite rightly be wholly unacceptable today, but which in that very different age was immensely popular in theatres, and on television as well. Both men were not without musical as well as cricketing talent, and Richard was happy to join in with them as a gang of three.
Banter is an ever present feature of any happy dressing room, and Fred Trueman’s reputation for that was legendary, particularly his descriptions of his own performances. It may be that someone other than Richard might not have “got away with” one of the more well known stories about him, that being the occasion when he had the temerity to interrupt a Trueman monologue with the question Fred, did you ever bowl a straight one?, which promped the response, without so much as a momentary hesitation; Aye lad, it were a full toss t’ Peter Marner, it went through him like a streak o’ piss and flattened all three pegs
In 1962 Richard found the switch to Championship cricket a difficult one, but he had a good game with the bat against Sussex, scoring 26 and 45 not out in a low-scoring encounter, and against Kent he took 2-20 and 4-40, both games ending in victory for Yorkshire. The following season he improved his figures for Cambridge, scoring an unbeaten 163 against what was virtually a full strength Surrey side, and with the ball he took 8-50 against Derbyshire, figures he was destined never to improve on. His performances for Yorkshire became more consistent as well and when at the end of the season, in The Cricketer, Colin Cowdrey contributed an article about his choice of the best eleven from England’s young cricketers he included Richard commenting; his all-round constitution makes him an automatic choice for England at number six, to bolster the middle order. He has inherited the priceless quality which reserves the best for the crisis or big occasion.
After graduating in 1964 Richard joined a firm of accountants with a view to becoming a Chartered Accountant. In 1965 he was able to play a full season for Yorkshire and if the lack of opportunities to bat on the perfect wickets of Fenner’s made his figures with the willow appear disappointing, the same factor resulted in an improved bowling performance, his 63 wickets costing less than 20 – had he bowled in a weaker side that didn’t have as many other top quality bowlers there would doubtless have been many more victims.
As Yorkshire won the 1966 and 1967 Championships they had little help from Richard who was completing his articles, but he was back in 1968 as the county completed a hat trick. His batting had gone markedly backwards, as he averaged less than 10, but he bowled well in a season that marked the end of an era in the Broadacres as Trueman retired, and Ray Illingworth left for Leicestershire as the committee refused his request for the security of a contract. The next two seasons saw Richard’s batting get back on track, and he readily assumed the mantle of strike bowler in Trueman’s place. In 1970 he averaged 28 with the bat and 21 with the ball. It wasn’t enough to get him a place with Illingworth’s 1970/71 party to Australia, but Test selection was just around the corner.
The 1971 season began with a century, only his third ever, at Oxford. He got wickets as well, including a five-fer against Sussex, and the fact that he was in the selectors thoughts was confirmed by his being asked to play for MCC against the touring Pakistanis, and in a rain affected match he took four wickets. A week later he turned up at Old Trafford for the Whitsun Roses Match with Yorkshire. Rain prevented an interesting match reaching a positive conclusion but Richard demonstrated he was bang in form with a match haul of 11-62. Lancashire paceman Ken Shuttleworth could manage just 2-46.
“Shutt” was a decent fast medium bowler who had taken a five-fer in the first Ashes Test the previous winter, and he got the nod for the first Test against the Pakistanis. He failed to take a wicket as the tourists charmed the nation in totalling 608-7 in their first innings, at one stage looking like they might force a victory. Their next game was against Yorkshire and the highest score of Richard’s career, 189 from number six, made his selection for the second Test at Shutt’s expense a formality, although thanks to the weather taking more than 17 hours out of the match it was hardly a memorable debut. But there were a couple of wickets for Richard and, promoted to open England’s second innings, he recorded an unbeaten half century with the bat. Sir Len had scored 0 and 1 on his first Test appearance, so at least Richard had achieved something his father hadn’t.
The third and final Test of the series, eventually won by England by 25 runs, was another forgettable match, as Pakistan took more than 209 overs to grind out a first innings total of 350. In an important seventh wicket partnership of 49 with Boycott there was a brisk 28 for Richard in England’s first innings, and in the grind of Pakistan’s response his 3-72 in 41 overs would remain his best Test figures.
India famously won their series in the second half of the summer, and Richard faced them in all three Tests. The Lord’s Test was drawn on a wicket that did not suit Richard’s seam bowling, and he contributed just a single wicket in each Indian innings at Old Trafford, although given his feats there earlier in the season for Yorkshire had rain not washed out the final day with India on 65-1 in pursuit of a distant 420 he might have played a leading role in an England victory. That just left the Oval and India’s historic win. There was not a single wicket for Richard the bowler, albeit on a spinners’ wicket he only bowled a dozen overs in the match, none of them in the Indians’ successful run chase. But in England’s first innings he did record his highest Test score of 81 as he helped the last four wickets add 180 with a fine counter-attacking innings.
By the end of the summer the 29 year old Richard had scored 1,009 First Class runs at 31.53 and taken 80 wickets at 20.35. In his five Tests his averages were 36.50 and 28.55, and it seemed that he was on the verge of a considerable career. But all was not well in Yorkshire. If letting Illingworth go in 1968 was Yorkshire’s worst decision sacking skipper Brian Close at the end of the 1970 season wasn’t much better, and while their subsequent appointment of Boycott as captain might have been a popular move with a goodly number of the county’s supporters, the senior players, Richard included, were most certainly not impressed.
Test success understandably distracted Richard from the problems at home in 1971 and at the end of the season his status as an England all-rounder was marked by an invitation to join the Rest of the Word XI that was put together to tour Australia that winter in place of the recently exiled South Africans. The Rest were not quite as strong as the side that had played a series of matches in England in 1970 which, at the time, had Test status, but the team led by Garry Sobers was still a powerful combination. It was not a happy trip for Richard, who was found wanting with both bat and ball.
After his disappointment in Australia Richard no doubt realised that he was not quite international class, and to make matters worse another England qualified all-rounder who was four years his junior had a much more impressive trip. When Tony Greig then made a match winning contribution to the first Test of the 1972 Ashes series Richard must have feared what proved to be the case, that his England career was over and all that cricket offered him was the opportunity to be at loggerheads with Boycott.
In 1973 Richard played in just half a dozen Championship fixtures as he looked to develop a career outside the game, and he showed no sort of form when he did play. The following season, his last as it turned out, he did declare himself available for the whole campaign. There was a fifth and last First Class century against Close’s Somerset, without which his batting average would have been less than 14, and a final six wicket haul against Essex. His bowling wasn’t too bad, but 24 wickets at 25.83 in 18 matches showed how little Boycott used him. He left the county at the end of the season, as did Wilson and Sharpe, his long time allies.
The circumstances in which Richard departed are not entirely clear. In January 1975 The Cricketer announced that he had resigned from the club and had no intention of returning to England from the oil company in South Africa that he was then working for. According to Boycott he was sacked, and given an unspecified ex gratia payment by the club. Wilson wrote later that his contract had simply not been renewed. Wisden, whose Yorkshire correspondent was Bill Bowes, said nothing at all. What is certain is that he was indeed in South Africa where, in 1975/76, he was called up to play for Transvaal twice. Like the wickets in Australia those in South Africa seem not to have suited him, and two undistinguished performances with the bat (he did not bowl at all) brought down the curtain on his First Class career.
In 1975 Richard had married Charmaine Brocklehurst, who was the daughter of former Somerset skipper and owner of The Cricketer, Ben Brocklehurst. He had started doing some writing for the magazine in 1967, and in 1981, having returned to England, he joined the editorial board and eventually became editor. He was no Cardus or Arlott, but was a solid writer who, as befitted a qualified accountant, penned some interesting pieces on the finances of the game.
By the time that Richard became editor of the magazine there was, to say the least, a strong rivalry with Wisden Cricket Monthly which was founded in 1979 and edited by one of his predecessors at The Cricketer, David Frith. It did not take long for Richard to become embroiled in controversy with his rival. In the summer of 1991 Frith wrote an editorial setting out in no uncertain terms his negative views of West Indian fast bowling tactics. Frith had never made a secret of his distaste for the pace bombardment that was the stock in trade of the successful Caribbean sides of the time, but on this occasion the Daily Mirror picked up on what he said, and Frith’s and WCM’s profiles were given a boost as a result.
Richard expressed the view, via his own editorial, that Frith’s attack was motivated by vengeance and racism, and that there was a cynical connivance between Frith and the newspaper, then owned by Robert Maxwell, to boost the circulation of both. At one time Wisden had been in the ownership of a company in which Maxwell had an interest, which no doubt added fuel to Richard’s suspicion, but his allegations were baseless, and The Cricketer had to back down. An apology was printed and Richard sent a personal letter to Frith. A few months later the two men played in a charity match together and Frith took a catch in the gully from Richard’s bowling. Richard turned at the end of his follow through to congratulate the catcher, until he realised who it was, whereupon he simply walked back to his mark.
Former editor Christopher Martin-Jenkins considered Richard to be dry, acerbic and highly competent, but also felt his bluntness and slightly cynical approach to life to be a handicap. Brocklehurst was a not dissimilar character and eventually the two fell out. Richard’s last editorial, in August 1998, was deeply critical of the encumbent Labour governments educational policy, and he mocked the Home Secretary of the day by writing of a game of Blind Man’s Blunkett.
Three years later Richard attracted some adverse publicity again, amidst a row that began over the design of the Hutton Memorial Gates at Headingley. Richard was not alone amongst former Yorkshire players in expressing his disappointment about the inclusion of women wearing saris in the crowd watching Sir Leonard bat, which he described as “tokenism”.
Was the criticism justified? The answer must be that it was not. Only one South Asian team, India in 1952, ever played against an England team at Headingley that contained Sir Leonard, and the iconic image of Yorkshire’s finest cricketer will always be that of his handshake with Bradman after he overtook the great Australian’s Test record score in 1938. Certainly Frith, another who cannot bear historical inaccuracy, has sympathy with Richard’s position on that one.
I am sure that Richard Hutton is, as he should be, proud of his cricketing achievements, and that his failure to emulate his father’s lofty status will trouble him not one jot. He is probably more bothered about still being the second most successful cricketer in the family, as at one stage he must have had high hopes that his own son, Ben, might surpass his five England caps. Sir Leonard’s grandson’s career followed a very similar path to that of Andrew Strauss, and after a fine season in 2004 the romantics amongst us dreamed of parallel Test careers for Ben and his new teammate Nick Compton. Sadly for those hopes the captaincy of the county then passed to Ben and his form ebbed away until, like Richard, he bowed out of the game early in order to pursue a career in the city.