David Green, one of county cricket’s great entertainers, whether on the field for Lancashire and Gloucestershire or in the press boxes on the county circuit after his retirement, has died at the age of 76. He had been suffering from respiratory problems and had spent the past fortnight in hospital near his Devon home.
When Wisden made Green – “Bodger” to his chums, and there were many – one of their Five Cricketers of the Year in 1969 their judgment could hardly have been more apt. “David Green is undoubtedly the sort of player the game demands – aggressive, talented and entertaining,” was their verdict.
Green was true to an era when drinking after a day’s play was considered almost de rigueur: a man who could down a pint faster with the same sort of indecent haste that he could hit a half-century. Perhaps his conviction that professional cricket was about camaraderie as well as victory meant that he did not entirely achieve his potential, but the game – and many who followed it – was richer for his presence. He was a raconteur par excellence, a man capable of filling a day with laughter. As one journalist struck by his presence remarked: “I wish I had seen him play; I am very glad I heard him talk.”
After his retirement, he would often jovially relate that there was nothing finer than a run-a-ball fifty and the completion of the Telegraph crossword before lunch on the first day of a Championship match. It was a rebellious act, too, because this was largely an era of dour, defensive cricket on bowler-friendly pitches.
He had an acerbic, intelligent wit – his career at Lancashire ended prematurely when he called the chairman a “prat” – “I could have called him much worse,” Green would later reflect – but there was a fairness and gentleness about him, too, that was always reflected in the way he wrote about and discussed cricket. He cared deeply about the standards of the game.
Although Green was born in the Caernarvonshire village of Llanengan in 1939, he was raised in Timperley in Cheshire and learned his cricket in Lancashire. He was regarded as a teenage prodigy at Manchester Grammar School and won his cricket Blue at Oxford University, where he studied history, for three seasons from 1959, making his Lancashire debut in the first of those and passing 1000 runs for the first of seven times.
Famously, as Lancashire’s vice-captain, he topped 2000 first-class runs in 1965 without hitting a century but in 1967 his season was limited by a leg injury, and he was released at the end of the summer. He was snapped up by Gloucestershire and repaid them immediately by scoring 2137 runs at 40.32 including a career-best 233, an achievement that earned him his accolade from Wisden. It was his most driven of seasons: Lancashire had been well and truly put in their place. He regarded batting with his opening partner, Arthur Milton, as “an education”.
When limited-overs cricket was introduced to English cricket in the late ’60s, it might have been designed for him.
He was also a talented rugby union player, turning out for Sale and Cheshire, and later for Bristol. After retiring he worked as a journalist, almost exclusively for the Telegraph. His writing style was antithetical to his cricket. Given his county cricket wordage for the day, often less than he would hope, he would draw lines down his page, each box representing a single word. He would have caused hilarity for much of the day but his copy was shrewd and analytical.
His first book, A Handful of Confetti, published in 2013 and covering both his cricket and rugby lives, was part-autobiographical, part-anecdotal, part-cricket analysis and always irreverent. David Green was not easily compartmentalised.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.