Former captain of England, Yorkshire and Somerset and one of cricket’s most admired characters, Brian Close, has died at the age of 84. He passed away at his home near Bradford, England, on Sunday, September 13, 2015.
An all-rounder Close, who is known for his courage and tenacity at the crease and on the field, was inducted into Hartford’s Cricket Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 2, 2010.
He first played for England in 1949 at the age of 18 years and 149 days – making him still England’s youngest debutant. Such was his reputation for bravery that he was famously recalled as a 45-year-old to face down West Indies’ fearsome attack in 1976.
Close also relished fielding in close, particularly at forward short-leg, and was not worried about being hit. “How can the ball hurt you? It’s only on you for a second,” he reportedly said.
Batting left and bowling right-handed, he completed the double in 1949, the youngest player to do so. As a batsman he could defend with great obduracy, but could attack thrillingly, although not always wisely. He bowled medium-pace and offspin, with more consistency than his batting.
Close’s England career encompassed 22 Tests, captaining the side seven times. He also led Yorkshire to four Championship titles, including their hat-trick of victories from 1966-68.
A falling out with Yorkshire led to his sacking and he saw out the remainder of his playing career with Somerset, where he was a strong influence on the young Ian Botham, who called Close “the bravest man I ever played with.” Along with the likes of Viv Richards and Joel Garner he helped lift the club’s fortunes.
His links with Yorkshire remained strong, however, and he served as the club’s president between 2008 and 2010. He was a life member and even in his 80s could be spotted in the stands – usually chatting to Dickie Bird and Geoffrey Boycott – when England played at Headingley.
Bird, speaking at the Ageas Bowl where Yorkshire were taking on Hampshire in the Championship, said that Close had been unwell but his death had come as a shock. Yorkshire’s players took the field wearing black armbands.
Close was awarded a CBE for services to cricket in 1972 but he was not selected by England for another nine years, when his unflinching response to a West Indian bombardment cemented his reputation as one of cricket’s tough guys. The title of his autobiography, I Don’t Bruise Easily, summed up his approach to the game and life.