Ian Botham

There is no point talking about what made Botham, he was a born winner. He was also instinctive, classless, and a patriot. He clearly was well trained as he had an excellent technique, but that was just a foundation. He is not intelligent and he knows it. He has something more important than that, emotional intelligence, he knows people. He is not about statistics, he couldn’t give a toss. He was about man on man cricket combat. They were all his mates, very few were real enemies. He was about winning, never giving up, and super confidence. The nature of his victories, were extraordinary. For the vanquished Australians, it must have been liked being mugged by a cross between Alexander the Great and a farm labourer. The only way the old enemy seemed to beat him was to stop being his mate. He could do it all, bat, take wickets with prodigious swing, seam, pace and general bullying. Stood 2 yards forward at slip, with his hands on his knees and took ridiculous catches. His greatest gift was stealing victories in a flash. He often did it with a hangover. I will comment on him firstly through his relationships with the players.

Viv Richards. Best mate, the same as, bullied people into submission. Usually came off second best.

The West Indies. He couldn’t take them all on and knew it, that’s why he wore a helmet. Finally defeated them at the Oval in 1991, dodgy slog pull to fine leg to draw the series. I was at fine leg.

Denis Lillee. Frequently defeated the best fast bowler ever, hooked him for three 6’s in an over without a helmet.

Mike Brearley. Greatest ever Captain, possibly because he knew how to make Botham work.

Geoff Boycott. Chalk and Cheese, but he used to get him going. Ran him out in a run chase in Christchurch deliberately, Fiery got his revenge 18 months later at the Oval in 1979, and nearly cost us the Test Match. Botham came on and with wickets, catches and runouts prevented the biggest ever successful run chase. I was there and had to wait another 3 years to see him bat.

Ian Chappell. The enemy, Botham bent the rules, Chappelli did not have any. Would have lost the moral argument if he knew what that was.

Other Australians. Rarely bested him. They could not give it the usual, “We’re better than you”, so they had to confess he was just like an Aussie. Yeh right.

Imran Khan. Too arrogant.

Javed Miandad. Less morals than Chappelli, but Botham must have admired the fact that he fought his way out of the street.

Sunil Gavaskar. Great mate, broke his leg at the Oval, and laughed as he was carried off. I was there and took a crap photo.

There are many different combatants, and he treated them all as individuals. I won’t mention Yashpul Sharma, Richard Hadlee, Ewan Chatfield, batting against Viv and many others.

Attitude to training. “Whose round is it?”

The Establishment and the Media. Spoilt the party.

This is how he spoilt other people’s parties.

Five wickets at first attempt. First wicket bowled Greg Chappell with a long hop.

Indian Centenary match at Bombay. Scored a century and took 13 wickets. Did not let the Indians celebrate anything but him.

Ashes 1981. Most boring series ever, until he basically robbed the Aussies three times in public.

Melbourne 1982. Best test match ever, Aussies needed 4 runs to win for the last wicket and he bowled a crap ball, Tavare dropped it, fortunately Dusty Miller was in the right place.

Natwest semi-final at Lords in 1983. Somerset captain, played a captains innings, one four, 99 not out, blocked last over from Emburey to secure victory. The restraint was excruciating, his best ever innings.

Aussies 1985. Drove McDermott for six first ball. Well said.

New Zealand 1986. His banning ruined the summer, got his three hundredth wicket first ball back. Who writes his scripts?

Down under 1986. Smashed them all over Brisbane and bowled them out at Melbourne with a dodgy back.

Swansong World Cup 1992. Five wickets and a fifty, Aussies mugged in their own backyard.

This all a load of old bollacks really. What I have just written about is the myth. It is my highly personal view, it is not reality, it is opinion. But that is history, and it is difficult to write about if you were involved. He entertained us and inspired us. Now he commentates and he is good at it. He has the opportunity to have a normalish life with his family and friends, I hope they get some privacy.

I suppose being a superhero means that people think they know you and they don’t. People expect you to keep performing miracles and you can’t. People recognise you everywhere and seem to think they own you. Some are jealous, because they aren’t as good and could not take the responsibility.

He did his bit. We should not rely on him to save us again. We should learn from his example and do it for ourselves. You can be inspired by the myth, it is a version of the truth. But leave the man alone, you don’t know him.

Conway-Laird (2017)

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