Cricket interview

Clive Radley, Former Middlesex and England batsman

This month we speak to a batsman whose first-class career spanned 23 years (representing just one county - Middlesex), who scored over 26,000 first class runs, and had a Test batting average of 48.10. Any ideas?

It is of course Clive Radley.

A late starter in Test cricket, Clive’s average is up there with some of the greats of the game, however the fact it came from just 8 Test matches is more to do with poor selection and of course a horrible injury when Clive was hit on the head by a bouncer (there was no helmet) which brought a premature end to what had become a promising start to international cricket. But we’ll come on to Clive’s international career later on.

Let’s begin with Middlesex and how the start of his long career with the county began. “I came from Norfolk where there wasn’t much first-class cricket,” remarked Clive. “I was playing cricket at school when I got selected for Norfolk in the minor counties. Bill Edrich a former player for Middlesex and England had retired and came back to live in the area and signed for Norfolk and became their captain. He recommended me to Middlesex, where he was still on the committee – I guess I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”

On the strength of that recommendation, in 1961 Clive was offered a three-year contract. “To get offered a three-year contact to play at Lords, you jump at it. But, it would never be heard of these days. Now you would have trials; play second eleven games; they must have thought he was a pretty good judge!”

The first year of the contract saw Clive play for Middlesex’s ‘club and ground’ side, which was an XI that played local club sides and some county second XI’s. “I did well in that first year and in my second year I progressed to being a regular in the second XI.”

Clive broke into the first XI in his third year and from there didn’t look back. It was rapid progress for the talented batsman. And his position in the first XI was cemented following an outstanding hundred against the touring South Africans in 1965. “I didn’t look back after that. It was the last South African team to tour England before apartheid. They were captained by Peter van der Merwe and had players like the two Pollocks, Eddie Barlow and Dennis Lindsay. They were a top side. They had just come off a Test match win at Trent Bridge and came to play us at Lords. I scored 138 and that was the start for me. Fred Titmus and I put on 230 odd for the 6th wicket, which was a club record until recently.”

“To get a good hundred that early in my career did make a few headlines. If I’m honest I always had a pretty ugly technique – but it was effective!”

In his early days in the Middlesex first XI, Clive would often find himself batting as low as number 7. “A couple of the old pros, Titmus and Murray batted at 5 and 6 and didn’t like to be separated so I just slipped in at number 7. I knew I’d have to wait my turn to bat higher up, so I just had to wait for my opportunity to arise and make sure I took it when it did come. I batted at number 7 for a while. In fact, in my first Gillette Cup game I batted at number 9, which was probably the lowest I batted!”

In Clive’s early years as a first-class cricketer, the game was going through a lot of change. Limited overs cricket was introduced for the first time. I asked Clive how the players in that era adapted to the short format of the game being introduced. “The Gillette Cup was first launched in 1963 and it was launched as a straight knock-out competition; so, if you got knocked out in the first round, that was it until the following season. You could play just one game a season. Cricket was all based around the 3-day County Championship. You’d Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then Saturday, Monday and Tuesday with Sunday’s off.. Regular 40 over cricket came in, in 1969 and it meant you had to work out a new way to play, a way to score quickly. The shapes of bats have changed massively in recent years, but in those days, there were no huge edges, all of the bats were lightweight, so you had to take a few more risks with your batting in order to score quicker. But similar to T20 cricket now, limited overs cricket changed the County Championship. In those days you were setting a team a target of 250 after lunch, depending on the wickets, now some teams knock that off in the last session! It has made the game better to watch.”

“A lot of the older players weren’t too enthused about limited overs cricket. We’d have team meetings and the older guys would say we’d need an anchor to bat all the way through, so somebody was employed to do that role. Look at the game now, you go all out from both ends.”

Clive enjoyed a 27-year career at Middlesex and his list of honours is remarkable: 4 County Championships (plus one Championship that was shared) and 6 one day trophies – a truly decorated career. What was the catalyst for such success? What made Middlesex so successful?

“We always had a good side, but when Mike Brearley came in as captain we really started winning. We typically had 5 internationals in our team at any one time. We also had a very good overseas player in Wayne Daniel. Wayne was a 100 percenter and because of the strength of the West Indian bowling attack at the time, we were fortunate that we didn’t lose him to international commitments and we’d get a full season from him, year after year and he was a trier. He just gave 100 percent for 10 years. We also had a couple of very good spinners in Titmus and Emburey and after that Edmonds and Emburey. It was a strong side.”

But what made players want to play for Brearley, where did his magic as a captain come from?

“You all felt you were included under Mike. He wasn’t a massive up and at them kind of a captain in a team talk situation. But tactically he would work different people out and was just outstanding. He’d also never be afraid to ask his players for advice. Yes, he’d have the final decision, but he made you feel that you were contributing to decisions. In my opinion, he is the best captain of all time. That said I’m not sure he always used his resources too well at Middlesex. My 8 wickets from throughout my career came at exactly 20, I was a top-drawer bowler and he wouldn’t bloody bowl me! He’d only bring me on if he was looking for a declaration! Who knows if he’d used his resources better he could have been an even stronger captain!”

Clive scored 53 first class and List A hundreds and 196 half centuries in his magnificent career, but what was his most memorable from all of these walks to the wicket?

“We had a one day final at Lords against Essex where we only scored 180 odd runs, but I scored 87 of them and was given match of the match. To be honest it wasn’t my innings that made the game so memorable, but just the game itself. The ball was doing a bit and Brears was out first ball. We struggled to get 187 and when they went out to bat the sun came out and the pitch got flatter. Gooch was batting with them at 120 odd for 1 and the Middlesex supporters were beginning to head home. We then got a wicket and our only chance of winning was to put everyone around the bat. Remarkably they collapsed like a pack of cards and we ended up winning by 6 or 7 runs. Through the years there were lots of close encounters but this is the one game that always stood out for me. It’s funny, for me it was never the hundreds that stood out, but more the matches. For example, I remember batting at Bradford, when I got the one injury I suffered in my whole career. I dropped a catch and dislocated my finger; Brearley told me to go home as it was unlikely I’d take any further part in the game. He just told me to keep an eye on the game, and if it did look like getting close then come back up. By Tuesday the game was close. I couldn’t drive because my arm was in a sling, so I got the train up and the game reached a state where we needed 4 to win, when the 9th wicket fell. I went out to bat with my arm in a sling and because it was my left hand that hurt I batted with just my right hand. It worked in the shower when people were chucking a ball at me, but out in the middle, I couldn’t get my hand down in time. Anyway, I was kicking the ball away, but I was getting closer and closer to an LBW so I decided to take the sling off and just bat normally. The bloke bowled me a short one which I cut for 3 which made the scores level and kept me on strike for the next over. Next ball I got stumped by Bairstow and we drew the game! It was the first and only time I got a standing ovation from a Yorkshire crowd for batting so bravely!”

Clive’s outstanding form for Middlesex was often overlooked by the national selectors, I asked Clive how frustrating was that? “It was frustrating. I felt I was pretty consistent over the years, but I knew I wasn’t a flair player. I didn’t really come into the reckoning until 1977, when in my benefit year I had a very good season. I thought that year was my final chance, if I wasn’t going to get picked after that year then I’d never get picked.”

At the end of that season Clive did finally receive a letter from the selectors. Sadly, it wasn’t selection, but it was a notification asking if he could keep himself fit for the winter tour to Pakistan and New Zealand, if injuries were to arise. Clive was finally in the selectors thoughts.

“A letter dropped on the doormat from Alec Bedser, the chairman of selectors, asking me if I would be prepared to stay fit for the winter for the princely sum of £50 in case a batsman went bust during the series. I honestly thought that was as close as I’d ever get as batsmen rarely get injured on tour – it’s always the bowlers. Anyway, I said yes and I headed to Australia to do some coaching for Kerry Packer. I left my phone number with the selectors in case of any eventualities; at 2am the phone rang and it was Donald Carr at Lords informing me that Mike Brearley had broken his arm in Karachi. I was to be on a flight at 8am so I thought I’d better getting packing! Mr Mrs woke up and asked what I was doing, I’d forgotten about her! I told her I had to go to Karachi! I was booked on a Thai International flight. I made the flight and we stopped off at Bangkok to refuel. When we took off from Bangkok, the captain announced that we had to go back because the wheels wouldn’t go up. So, we turned back. 24 hours in Bangkok meant I missed the Test match, they selected Mike Gatting instead. I was angry with Thai International and I thought they had cocked my chance up of ever playing for England. Thankfully Gatt only scored 4 and 0, which meant when I flew on to New Zealand for that leg of the tour there might still be a chance of getting picked. We lost the first Test in Wellington and I got picked for the second Test in Christchurch. I nearly didn’t play though! Geoffrey Boycott had taken over from Brearley as captain and it wasn’t until 15 minutes before the start of the game, that he made the decision to pick me. I found out when he came back from doing the toss!”

Clive scored 15 on his Test debut, but in the second Test at Auckland, he made history. His 158 was the slowest Test century ever scored!

In total Clive faced 524 balls during his 648-minute stay at the crease! “It was a bloody boring innings! It was a flat low wicket and there was a rugby match being played the following week so they kept the grass a bit longer – you couldn’t hit the ball off the square! I just kept receiving messages in the middle from Boycs telling us just to keep batting and batting. So, we did. I returned to New Zealand 15 years later, when I was coaching and as I was walking around the ground to the commentary box, some guy in the crowd shouted: ‘there goes that bastard who bored me to death’!”

Clive followed that hundred up with another century in his next Test match the following summer in the first match of the series against Pakistan at Edgbaston – a century that was a lot quicker!

“I played in all of the Test matches that summer and did ok.” He certainly did do ok, with back to back half centuries in the second series of the summer against New Zealand, Clive had cemented his place at number 3 and was selected for the winter Ashes tour to Australia. It was a dream come true.

Sadly, for Clive, he never added to his Test caps following a horrific injury in a warm up game in Adelaide. “I got hit on the head by Rodney Hogg and players didn’t wear helmets in Test cricket in those days. I thought it was meant to be a flat wicket but this kid had just come on the scene and was pretty quick and I ended up with a nasty bump! Adelaide Hospital did a good job, stitched me up and I was back in the dressing room. Both (Ian Botham) of course asked me what all the fuzz was about! When we flew up to New South Wales, Brears asked me to go and have a net with Botham and Willis with a new ball and have them bowling bouncers at me to see if I had lost my confidence. I had one of the first batting helmets that they were using in the World Series in my kit bag – a big white crash hat that looked like a motorbike helmet! I wore that into the nets when some guy came up to me and said why didn’t I try one of these new helmets. He gave me one and said he made them in his backyard. It was a helmet with flaps on the side and didn’t look as bad as the motorbike helmets. I wore it and then took it back to the dressing room and the likes of Gower and Randall were saying it didn’t look so bad. By the end of that series, all the players on both sides were wearing them. That’s when helmets started. They took off like wild fire after that.”

Clive’s confidence had taken a knock though and he never played for England again after that blow to the head. “With the likes of Jeff Thompson around my confidence did take a knock and you know what, injury was the reason I got into the England side and injury was the reason I had to stop. But I played 8 times for my country. If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t have got into the England side if it wasn’t for World Series and England losing a few players. So, I have to be happy with 8 caps and a Test match average of 48.”

But Clive’s confidence wasn’t totally shot as he still played another 10 years for his county. “I’m not sure if the blow did affect my batting, but helmets did make you play a bit differently. I certainly felt safer.”

Clive went on to play until he was 43 and was a one club player having represented only Middlesex. “In those days, no one ever really moved to other counties. I don’t know if that was because of loyalty or because of wanting a benefit. With the financial rewards in the game today, benefits don’t mean as much, but they certainly did back then. But for me, Lords wasn’t a bad place to be playing your cricket and secondly, we were successful – that makes a big difference. It’s far better playing for a winning side.”

I had to ask Clive when he looked back throughout his long career who were the most difficult bowlers (and batters) he faced? “Derek Underwood was always difficult on a wet pitch, but Sylvester Clarke was lethal. Batting wise Barry Richards was a class act as was Graham Pollock. I remember when Barry Richards scored 77 against us and Emburey and Edmonds on a turner; in his book, he said that was the best knock he played. It’s very sad he never got the opportunity to play many Test matches.”

When Clive finished playing he did a 2-year stint coaching Middlesex’s 2nd XI before taking over as head coach of the MCC. “Timing again was everything for me. I did a couple of years at Middlesex and they were looking for me to take over from Don Bennett, but then I could see Gatt was coming towards the end of his career and so I felt they would be lining something up for him. As it happened, at that time the MCC head coach role became available. I was asked to apply and I got the job. You know what? It was the best thing that could have happened to me. I felt it was a prestigious role and I enjoyed developing youngsters. We’d have 18 to 22 young cricketers typically on the staff who were trying to get a deal with a county. A lot of good players went through that MCC system. For me it was a fairly secure job, compared to the pressures of a county coach, where a few bad results would put you under pressure.”

Clive remained in that role until he was 65, when he then took another role, in the MCC Universities programme. “Coaching was always the next best thing to playing. I got a great satisfaction when players went on to have good careers. 25 percent of professionals came through that system.”

Clive did so much for the sport of cricket; so much so, that his efforts were rightly rewarded with a trip to Buckingham Palace after he was awarded an MBE in 2008. “What a lovely day that was. Brilliant. The Queen though I think thought I was the groundsman! She said to me that I must know every blade of grass on that Lords outfield; I didn’t know how to respond. The only words that came out were ‘yes, and I’m going back to cut it!’. She honestly must have thought I was the groundsman! She did laugh though!”

This wasn’t the last honour to come Clive’s way. In 2013, he was named President of his beloved Middlesex. “What another great honour. It was a little bit different sitting in committee rooms rather than dressing rooms, but you always got looked after at away games!”

Clive may now well be trimming the grass in his garden and picking up leaves, but he has left cricket with a real legacy. Cricketers and cricket fans throughout the country should be forever grateful for what he has done for the game we love so much.

Clive – thank you.

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