I HAVE no wish to outdo John Clark s excellent obituary of Jim Gambrell (February 13) but to confirm its contents and add my own thoughts. I first met Jim when I was about seven years old. He and my father, Harry, used to play for Tom Clifton s XI. I used
I HAVE no wish to outdo John Clark's excellent obituary of Jim Gambrell (February 13) but to confirm its contents and add my own thoughts.
I first met Jim when I was about seven years old. He and my father, Harry, used to play for Tom Clifton's XI. I used to travel with them in Tom Clifton's car, on Jim's knee. My dad introduced me to Jim as the best bowler you will see.
As a youngster, I watched him and tried to copy him, in particular his wonderful action. I never succeeded. I finally played with him for Hunts, and bowled the other end at times in my early teens (I was in the photograph in the obituary).
I watched in awe as he destroyed opposition batsman, some of whom were of the highest quality. I was lucky to pick up the odd few wickets.
Jim tried to show me how he bowled his most devastating delivery. He held the ball as an off-cutter and, delivered with his unique superb action, the ball would swing late away from a right-hand batsman. Then, when they pitched, some deliveries would cut back and remove a stump or two off the stunned batsman.
These were all delivered at such a blistering pace and consistent length that the batsman was unsure whether to go forward or back - they also came from an incredible height, the result of Jim's vast stature, high delivery stride and enormous strength and fitness.
I played with him and against him many times. No batsman was comfortable against him: no one dominated him. I felt quite humble one day when Jim said to my dad and me: "If you want to play county cricket, go to Northants, Leicester, or Notts - tell them I recommended you." I did go, and the doors were flung open for me. I finally decided not to proceed, but to run my little business and play whenever I could.
Later on in my cricket, I was lucky enough to play with and against greats like Tyson, Truman, Statham and Lillee in London club cricket, still at the top of his trade. I saw Sir Richard Hadlee, Thompson, Hall and Griffiths, Croft, Roberts, Holding, Marshall and all of the greats. Also today's leading bowlers, plus many others, all great bowlers. I still repeat my father's words of 61 years ago. Jim Gambrell was the best bowler I have seen.