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DAVID LLOYD: Ray Illingworth stuck up and protected his players and they loved him for it

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DAVID LLOYD: Ray Illingworth stuck up and protected his players and they loved him for it… he will be remembered as a brilliant captain and was one of the most solid all-rounders English cricket has ever seen

  • Ray Illingworth possessed as good a cricket brain as there has ever been
  • He was almost forensic with his preparation and it would benefit the team
  • The Yorkshireman will also justifiably be remembered as a brilliant captain
  • He stood by his players and he gained a great deal of respect from the team 


Ray Illingworth possessed as good a cricket brain as there has ever been. When it came to the tactical side of the game, he was a clinical thinker.

For players of my generation, he was a wonderful opponent and rightly thought of as a great captain. Someone who went into every detail for the benefit of his team.

He was almost forensic with his preparation: he would look at the length of the boundary, consider the direction and strength of the wind and was a great reader of a pitch, both in terms of how much grass was on it and how much moisture was in it. 

Ray Illingworth will be remembered as a brilliant captain – his England team-mates loved him

Ray Illingworth will be remembered as a brilliant captain – his England team-mates loved him

A superb assessor of conditions. If he didn’t like the dimensions of a ground, he would ask the home side to alter them!

He won’t be remembered as an outstanding player, but he was one of the most solid all-rounders you could imagine.

And he will justifiably be remembered as a brilliant captain. As a Lancashire player, I was petrified of the Yorkshire team that won seven of 10 County titles from 1959 on, the latter three under Illingworth. They would argue like mad between each other but on the field they displayed a wonderful mutual respect and boy, could they play.

Ray did things his way and that meant he would be at loggerheads with officialdom. He would stick steadfastly to what he thought was right. 

Illingworth (batting at the crease) scored 1,836 Test runs at an average of 23.24 for England

Illingworth (batting at the crease) scored 1,836 Test runs at an average of 23.24 for England

That meant he would take people on, like on the 1970-71 Ashes tour when he clashed with tour manager David Clark over the players he wanted on the field. But he stood by his players, to protect them, and he gained a great deal of respect from the team. In return, people played for him.

That series win over Australia in 1970-71 was quite outstanding. How did he do it? He took the Australians on. Fought fire with fire. As if to say ‘we can play your game,’ he unleashed fast bowlers like Snow and encouraged them to be aggressive. He also had a real joust with guys like Ian Chappell, who thought the world of him for it.

I liked being around Ray because he gave off the impression that he was a dour Yorkshireman; he was anything but and could be real fun. Yes, he was deadly serious about cricket, but he would also like a laugh and a joke.

Leicestershire won the double under his leadership in 1975, and during a Championship match against them at Blackpool I was victim of his sharp wit. At that time, there was a limit of 100 overs on first innings, and this feature saw me batting against the clock to register a personal hundred before an enforced declaration.

He stood by his players, protected them, and he gained a great deal of respect from the team

He stood by his players, protected them, and he gained a great deal of respect from the team 

It’s fair to say that it was a painstaking innings and I only made it to three figures in the final permitted over. I was captain of Lancashire, and when it came to us to shake hands on a tame draw, Illy said to me: ‘Congratulations. I’ve got to tell you, that’s the worst hundred I’ve ever seen!’

Later, there was a 12-month crossover between us when I took over as England coach in 1996. Ray had been England supremo, in control of everything, but relinquished the coaching side of things and carried on as chairman of selectors.

Despite the circumstances, he was absolutely fine with me, and that spoke volumes for him. It could have been uneasy, but it wasn’t.

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