Denness is no more

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  • Published 20.04.13

Calcutta: Former England captain Mike Denness, who for a while was the most hated man in India, passed away on Friday.

Denness, who was 72, succumbed to a long battle with cancer.

Denness, the only Scot to captain England, led the team in 19 Tests between 1973-75. He played a total of 28 Tests between 1969 and 1975. He also played 12 one-day Internationals and later went onto become an ICC Match Referee.

During his career as a Match Referee, Denness found himself at the centre of one of the biggest controversies of recent times when, in 2001, he sanctioned five Indian players for excessive appealing in a Test match against South Africa, at Port Elizabeth.

The matter became worse when he also accused Sachin Tendulkar of ball-tampering in the same match and levied a one-match ban, suspended for a year. The Board of Control for Cricket in India was furious and such was the uproar that the tour was almost called off.

Both sides refused to play the final Test of the series if he remained as the Match Referee. The match finally went ahead with the ICC withdrawing Test status from it.

Denness officiated in two more Tests and three ODIs, but was dropped from the ICC list in 2003.

Denness was awarded an OBE in this year’s New Years Honours for services to sport.

His reign has England captain was marred by a strained relationship with Geoff Boycott, then one of the team’s star performers.

He was an elegant right-handed batsman, but struggled against high quality pace bowling.

He drew a Test series in the West Indies in 1973-74, but was blown away by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson the following winter. He eventually dropped himself for the fourth Test of that series, in Sydney, after scoring only 65 runs in six innings. John Edrich, who replaced him as captain in that match, had his ribs broken by Lillee. He returned to the side for the fifth Test and scored 188 in the next match in Melbourne. England won that Test, their only victory in the series.

Denness stood down permanently the following summer after losing the opening Ashes Test in Birmingham. He was replaced by Tony Greig, who died earlier this year.

Denness played county cricket for Kent and Essex, scoring more than 25,000 runs in his first-class career and captaining Kent to six domestic trophies between 1972 and 1976.

Agencies quoted Kent chairman George Kennedy as saying: “This is an extremely sad day for the club. We have lost one of our great players, a very successful captain and a good friend. It is particularly sad that this has happened during his year as the president. Our thoughts are with Mike’s family and friends at this time.”