|Brian Close was a courageous player who led Yorkshire to four county title
JCT600 Bradford League president Keith Moss has paid a wonderful tribute to the Yorkshire cricketing legend Brian Close following his death on Sunda, aged 84.
Close first represented his country as an 18-year-old against New Zealand in 1949 and went on to skipper England seven times in his 22-Test career.
In his 37 years in the game, he scored nearly 35,000 runs and guided recently-crowned County Champions Yorkshire to four domestic titles before overseeing an upturn in Somerset's fortunes and helping to mould the early careers of Viv Richards and Ian Botham at Taunton.
He also enjoyed two spells in the JCT600 Bradford League at the start of his career with Yeadon, and at the end of it with Baildon.
Keith Moss, a former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman, worked on county committees with the former Yorkshire and England skipper, said: "Cricket, soccer, golf (left handed and right handed), snooker, boxing, Brian was an outstanding natural sportsman.
"But he came alive when he had the responsibility of captaining a cricket team, and he led by example. He was brave as a batsman as witnessed by being recalled by England at the age of 45 to face the West Indian pace bowlers in 1976.
"Brian would rather take a blow to the body than risk being caught, and it is true that he once turned round and shouted 'catch it' when having taken a full-blooded blow on the head when fielding at short forward leg."
Moss added: "Maybe Brian peaked too soon when he was called up by England to face New Zealand at the age of 18 in 1949 and was picked for the 1950 tour to Australia.
"But I don't agree that he was abrasive. He just believed in his opinions and was a very loyal friend and a very good committeeman.
"He certainly helped Ian Botham to fulfil his potential when he was with Somerset."
Former Yeadon player and Yorkshire colleague of Close's, Bryan Stott, met him for ther first time at Rawdon Cricket Club in 1943. Hedescribed him as a "very loyal friend" who had a "heart of gold."
Stott said: "He was as soft as they come, but also very courageous. He was a big softy as far as dealing with people - he didn't have a bad thought in his head. He was a very nice lad all the time."
Stott, who played for Yorkshire in the 1950s and 1960s, described his friend as a "great thinker" on the cricket field who was a natural at whatever sport he took up.
"He was a super lad to play with, but not always appreciated by some of the powers that be. There was one man in charge at Yorkshire who never really understood Brian and, as a consequence, made some big mistakes."
Fellow England captain Ray Illingworth, a stalwart of Farsley Cricket Club and Yorkshire, said: "What people don't realise about Brian was that he had three distinct careers.
"I knew him as a teenager – I was a year younger than him – when he played in the Aire-Wharfe League and I played in the Bradford League, and Fred Trueman, Brian and myself went on the Yorkshire Boys' tour when we were all about 16.
"Brian thought he could take on the world then as a destructive batsman from the age of 16 to 18, and he probably could, but he was never the same after he came back from the Australia tour in 1950.
"He was much younger than all of the other players, many of whom were on their last tour, and he didn't get on with them, and it wasn't helped when he accidentally hit tour manager Freddie Brown with a golf club in the changing rooms.
"It took him a while to get his confidence back, which was helped when he captained Yorkshire in the early 1960s.
"But he was only interested in playing attacking cricket, and in those days people didn't like to lose to Yorkshire so they prepared flat wickets.
"I used to say to our wicketkeeper Jimmy Binks 'The rudder has gone' when Brian became disinterested so we would give him a wake-up call."
Illingworth added: "Brian was one of those bowlers you could call 'Golden arm'. "He had the knack of taking wickets with full tosses and what have you, and I can remember him dismissing Kent's Brian Luckhurst with a long hop which he hit straight to mid-wicket.
"It was a useful knack to have, and when Brian was 16 he was as fast as Fred Trueman and had a lovely action. But he used to bring his foot down hard and had a bruised heel which meant that he only bowled medium or off-spin after that, and he could turn a ball.
"He was also very brave as a fielder at forward short leg in the days before players were like Michelin men with all their protection.
"It takes them ten minutes to get ready nowadays reward but Closey just wore a box, if anything at all.
"It was a breath of fresh air when Brian left Yorkshire for Somerset, as it was with me when I left Yorkshire for Leicestershire.
"We didn't get on with Yorkshire's committee and we were treated much better by our new counties.
"Brian wouldn't listen to some people but he would listen to me because he realised that what I was saying was for the good of the team, and we never had a cross word in almost 70 years.
"He was a marvellously talented sportsman. He was a two-handicapper at golf playing right handed and a four-handicapper playing left handed and was a great swimmer.
"Brian jumped off the funnel into the swimming pool on the boat on the way to the 1950 tour of Australia. He could turn his hand to any sport, as most of us could in those days."