“Unhe Lord Ted kaha jata tha (He was called as Lord Ted)”, said Chandu Borde fondly recalling Ted Dexter. The former England Captain passed away after a recent illness at the age of 86 on August 25. Incidentally, England had famously won the Ashes Test on the same day two years back at Leeds by one wicket.
Speaking of Ashes, it was his innings of 52 against Australia in the second Test at Melbourne in 1962-63 that Dexter considered as his best. He is also remembered for his 75-ball 70 against a West Indies attack featuring Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith in the 1963 Lord’s Test. For the record, he scored 4502 runs in 62 Tests at an average of 47.89 which includes nine centuries. He also took 66 Test wickets with his medium-pace bowling.
“That attempted runout came from absolutely nowhere and that’s my memory of Ted Dexter”
But apart from his aggressive batting and useful bowling, he was also a good fielder. “Once laughed at as a fielder, and prone, to practicing golf shots in the outfield, Dexter has become a fine cover-point and last season revealed surprising talent as a short square-leg, where his reactions were phenomenal”, wrote Wisden about him in 1961.
Former Indian wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer who made his Test debut in the 1961-62 series against England which was led by Dexter too remembered the Englishman as an agile fielder.
“I will never forget his fielding. Polly Umrigar hit a shot in the mid-wicket region, and I was the non-striker. I sort of took off for a quick single and Ted Dexter pounced on the ball, picked it up with one hand and had a go at my end. I just managed to scramble back in the crease. That attempted runout came from absolutely nowhere and that’s my memory of Ted Dexter”, elaborated Engineer.
Wore multiple hats
Both Borde and Engineer, who were part of the Indian team in that 1961-62 series considered Dexter to be a gentleman and a straightforward cricketer. The English skipper had a good outing in India, scoring 409 runs in the five Tests. As per Borde, he played with a straight bat and was a good striker of the ball. But Borde’s leg-break did trouble him a bit.
“Meri bowling mein 3 baar out hue woh (He got out to my bowling three times)”, said Borde. His last meeting with Ted was during the 2002 NatWest Trophy finals at Lord’s which India had won. Ted recognized Borde and the two had exchanged pleasantries then. Although England lost that series in India by a margin of 0-2, Dexter had reasonable success as captain. England won nine of the 30 Tests played under his leadership.
Post his playing days, Ted wore many hats. He worked in broadcasting, wrote a crime novel (titled Testkill in collaboration with Clifford Makins) and even stood as the Conservative candidate in the 1964 general election. He also held posts of England’s chairman of selectors and the President of MCC. One of his most notable contributions to the game of cricket after his retirement was devising the ranking system for Test players which forms the basis of today’s ICC ratings.
“He used to come to Lord’s with his helmet on”
Among his other interests, was a keen love for motorcycles. “He was supremely fit and used to ride a motorcycle well past his youth. He used to come to Lord’s with his helmet on”, stated Engineer.
Now as he takes his final ride to the heavens, the great cricketer and competitor will be sorely missed by his family, friends, and the cricket community at large. As a mark of respect, the English cricketers wore black bands in the ongoing third Test of the Pataudi Trophy.
Bidding him goodbye, one would just say, Travel safe Lord Ted!