The Village Cricketer was delighted when the great Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham was awarded a knighthood by the Queen. Beefy, who has raised more than £10m for leukaemia charities (and in doing so helped to increase the survival rate of sufferers), is a true sporting hero who still stood out in an era when the best sporting stars married their talents with immense personality.
On the field there was no-one better than Beefy, he played 102 Tests for England in a career that lasted from 1974 to 1993, took 383 wickets (which remains an English record) and scored 5,200 runs. He was the fastest person (in terms of matches) to reach the landmarks of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, 2000 / 200 and 3000 / 300. He was the first person to achieve 300 wickets and 5000 runs, plus he was the first person to get over 10 wickets and 100 runs in a test match. He scored a century and took 5 wickets in an innings on 5 occasions, a feat no-one else has achieved more than twice. A former Wisden Cricketer of the year, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sport Personality of the Year Awards in 2004 and was appointed an OBE in 1992.
Being controversial only added to his appeal. Whereas today a sportsman’s lifestyle is geared 110% towards enhancing onfield performance, Botham’s exploits are the stuff of legend. In 1986 he was briefly banned from cricket for smoking cannabis, an extramarital affair prompted a public apology to his wife, he was arrested in Australia for assault (later to be bailed by Dennis Lillee and a six-pack of beer), he held lavish parties, ate rather too well (prompting accusations of being overweight, for shame), said he’d like to send his mother-in-law to Lahore, was a legendary drinker, sledged the fielders…. you could go on for days. Oh, and he is now the face of British Beef!
The Keele Reefer Association, whose tour to Devon is proudly sponsored by The Village Cricketer, will dedicate its match against Ottery St Mary on July 31 to the (playing) life and times of the great Sir Beefy, the most flamboyant and influential all-rounder ever to take the field. We salute you Sir!
For more on Beefy’s knighthood, a thoughtful piece is available from the Political Umpire.