Former England cricket captain 'Lord Ted' Dexter dies

London (AFP) –


Former England captain Ted Dexter, "one of England's greatest ever cricketers", has died aged 86, the Marylebone Cricket Club announced on Thursday.

Dexter skippered England in 30 of his 62 Tests with the MCC commenting he had played "the game with the same sense of adventure and fun that captures much of the story of his remarkable life".

The statement added Dexter -- known as 'Lord Ted' -- passed away peacefully in a hospice in Wolverhampton, central England, on Wednesday while surrounded by his family.

"Ted was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and one of England's greatest ever cricketers," said the MCC statement.

An attacking batsman, Dexter scored 4,502 runs at an average of 47.89 for England, including nine hundreds, and took 66 wickets at 34.9.

The Sussex star was renowned for the power with which he hit the ball and one of his most eye-catching innings was against the West Indies at Lord's in 1963 when he came in at 2-1 and smashed 70 off 75 deliveries.

Against the fearsome duo of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffiths, Dexter faced them down to crunch and punch his way to an innings team-mate Fred Titmus later deemed "one of the finest displays of controlled aggression I have ever witnessed...electrifying".

His captaincy aroused differing opinions with England legend Fred Trueman far from convinced of his qualities as a leader.

"I liked the man a lot and he could bat beautifully, but he was no captain of England -- he had more theories than (Charles) Darwin," said Trueman referring to the Ashes defeat in 1962-63.

After retiring, Dexter helped devise a ranking system for Test players and also became England's chairman of selectors.

The ranking system was subsequently adopted by the International Cricket Council and formed the basis of today's ratings.

Dexter, however, had a difficult time as selector while presiding over a weakened England team from 1989-1993.

For a man who earned a noble nickname his birthplace did not quite chime with it as he was born in Milan, Italy.

His father Ralph, a retired Major and Battle of the Somme survivor, was a businessman in Italy but returned his family to England while Dexter was still a child.

- 'Road to near ruin' -

An excellent all-round athlete, his sporting prowess was honed at renowned British private school Radley College -- it was there that he was first referred to as 'Lord Edward' by the head of cricket -- and blossomed at Cambridge University where he captained both cricket and golf teams.

"I was to distinguish myself by failing to attend one lecture all the time I was there," he said.

Blessed with a corinthian and cavalier spirit on and off the pitch the latter no more so than when he withdrew from the 1964/65 tour of South Africa to be the Conservative Party candidate challenging Labour heavyweight Jim Callaghan.

Needless to say Dexter was routed by a man who would go on a decade later to become Prime Minister.

However, England offered him solace in defeat and he ended up travelling to South Africa and soothed his wounded pride with a magnificent 172 in the Christmas Test in Johannesburg.

Aside from being a keen and very good golfer -- he toyed with the idea of turning professional -- he was also a horse racing enthusiast.

He regularly brought portable radios and televisions to dressing rooms to check in at the track.

"I started on the road to near ruin," he commented later on his gambling.

His career was brought to an abrupt halt when he broke his leg when he was in the process of pushing his Jaguar which had run out of petrol off the road -- needless to say after a trip to the racecourse.

Showing his traditional grit and determination he returned to the Test side three years later but his best days were behind him.