Brian Close: Former England and Yorkshire captain dies, aged 84
Former England, Yorkshire and Somerset captain Brian Close has died, aged 84.
The Yorkshireman is the youngest player to have won a Test cap for England, making his debut as an 18-year-old against New Zealand in 1949.
Close, who was known for his brave batting, captained his country seven times in 22 Tests, and led Yorkshire to four County Championship titles.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, who was coached by Close at Yorkshire, called him "a true inspiration".
Close, who lived in Baildon, West Yorkshire, died on Sunday. He leaves a widow, a son and a daughter.
England and Yorkshire batsman Joe Root said: "Very sad to hear the passing of Brian Close. A cricket legend whose fearless approach and bravery will always be remembered."
'Courage, bravery, madness'
Vaughan was among the major cricket figures to pay tribute to Close, saying on Twitter that he possessed "courage, bravery and madness" as a batsman.
He posted: "Such a sad day. He was a true inspiration to all of us. Thanks, Brian, for helping me as a kid growing up at Yorkshire.
"I once had a lbw problem. Closey, aged 60, came into the nets and batted without pads. He said: 'It's the only way, young man, you will sort your problem'."
Former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell added on Twitter: "Brian Close was inspirational for us youngsters in the 1970s. Hard as nails. Great character."
Retired Test umpire Dickie Bird, a former Yorkshire team-mate of Close and now the club's president, added: "Brian Close was an all-time great, both of Yorkshire and England.
"He will go down as one of the bravest cricketers of all time."
Facing the West Indies at 45
Left-handed batsman Close, who bowled as an off-spinner, made nearly 35,000 runs during a first-class career that spanned 37 years, ending at the age of 55 in 1986.
He was also a footballer in his youth, playing for Leeds United, Arsenal and Bradford City.
But one of the most iconic images of his career came in 1976, when he was recalled to the England Test side at the age of 45 to face a fearsome West Indies bowling attack.
Close had to stand up to a battering as Michael Holding charged in with bouncing deliveries that travelled at about 90mph.
Asked by the BBC in 2011 if that West Indies team were the best Test side he faced, Close replied: "They were the nastiest bowling side."
Paying tribute to Close's bravery, International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said: "His playing career has become synonymous with bravery.
"His tenacity against the feared West Indies pace attack of the 1970s, especially, still resonates with many cricket followers across the world."
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves also cited Close's "characteristic display of guts and determination" in that episode, adding: "Brian will go down in cricket history as one of the game's greatest ever captains and a player whose fearless and courageous approach was the stuff of legend.
"This is a sad day for cricket."
England captain and record-breaker
|England Test captains - best win rates*|
|*from five or more Tests as captain|
In addition to being his country's youngest Test player, Close also has the best Test win percentage of any England captain to spend more than five matches in the job.
Close won six and drew one of his seven Tests in charge during 1966 and 1967.
He won his first Test as captain at The Oval against West Indies in 1966, catching Garry Sobers first ball from a John Snow delivery.
The side he led included such England greats as Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney and Ray Illingworth.
But he lost the England captaincy in 1967 in controversial circumstances after his Yorkshire side were accused of unsporting time-wasting tactics to avoid losing a County Championship match against Warwickshire.
|BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew|
|"Brian Close was the youngest man to play for England, and quite possibly the bravest.|
|"Old school and uncompromising, Close led a team of talented but outspoken Yorkshiremen to four County Championship titles.|
|"It was a triumph in man-management, and a measure of their respect for their captain, who would happily field unprotected at short leg, just feet from the bat."|
Success at county level
|First-class career for Yorkshire and Somerset|
|Matches||Runs scored||Wickets taken||Catches|
Close played 536 first-class matches for Yorkshire between 1949 and 1970, scoring 22,650 runs - including 33 centuries - and taking 967 wickets.
He spent seven years at their captain, leading them to the County Championship in 1963, 1966, 1967 and 1968.
"His captaincy was at the heart of Yorkshire's dominance of the county game in the 1960s," said Graves.
At the end of 1970, he left Yorkshire to spend seven seasons with Somerset, where he helped to nurture the talents of Ian Botham and Viv Richards.
Somerset chairman Vic Marks, a county team-mate of Close, told BBC Radio 5 live: "He was a man of immense self-belief. And Sir Ian Botham and Sir Viv Richards thought the world of Closey.
"He could give you an immense dressing down, but it would be forgotten in a second."