Obituary: David Bairstow

David Leslie Bairstow, cricketer: born Horton, West Yorkshire 1 September 1951; twice married (two sons, one daughter); died Marton- cum-Grafton, North Yorkshire 5 January 1998.

David Bairstow was possibly a born victim who spent most of his 46 years fighting to prove otherwise. He had to follow, in his chosen career as wicket-keeper batsman, three great players with England and Yorkshire in Alan Knott, Bob Taylor and Jimmy Binks, and for much of his 10-year service had to accept the comparisons.

As a county captain, a distinction he wore with enormous pride, he took over a Yorkshire dressing-room riven with the shot and shell of the Boycott years. One Championship, even a one-day trophy, would have won the day for him but with a weakened team and at a time when Yorkshire still adhered fiercely to the birth qualification he could never quite muster sufficient strength at a vital time, although he came desperately close with a semi-final in 1984, lost to Warwickshire by three runs.

As a character he was ebullience personified. Once trying to find a phrase to describe his role I defined him as "Yorkshire's fire brigade" and that summed up his game. When "Bluey" (a nickname coined by John Hampshire after his blue eyes and red hair) was at the crease there was always a sense of alarm, of bells ringing, the smell of smoke and danger. He played football - trials with Bradford City - and his life with much the same zest.

He was 17, a stocky schoolboy, when Yorkshire first called him to play against Gloucestershire at his home ground at Park Avenue. To do so he had to take his A level examinations at Hanson Grammar at 6am, thus starting a career that, in cricketing terms, had much more sunshine than gloom. He may well have been Yorkshire's best but the title will be denied him because his career and the advent of covered pitches coincided and he was rarely given the chance to prove how good he could be when taking top-class spinners on a turning surface.

Only David Hunter of his county predecessors has more first-class victims. On only 18 occasions has a Yorkshire wicket-keeper taken six or more victims in a match and Bairstow was present on six; he is one of only six keepers in history to have taken 11 or more victims in a match and he is the only Yorkshire wicket-keeper to have passed 1,600 runs three times.

He could hit and he could defend and his ability was worth far more than the four Test matches granted him. He went to the West Indies in 1981 as the first England choice but lost his place through injury. I had the good fortune to write a book with him in 1984 and whatever dark cloud descended upon him recently I shall treasure a few memories of a rumbustious sense of humour.

Early in his Yorkshire career he was told by the reigning warlord Brian Sellers to get his Seventies-style hair cut. Streetwise, "Bluey" thought Sellers would forget. He didn't and Bairstow was ordered again, this time directed to a specific barber: "I came out looking like a ginger billiard ball" was his rueful comment.

He delighted in run-chases. On one occasion when Yorkshire were so engaged one third-day afternoon things were going so well the wicket-keeper, batting number seven, fell asleep in a deckchair and thus missed a rapid clatter of wickets and new instructions from the captain: "We can't win now. Block it out."

Woken to take his turn, "Bluey" went in swinging the bat, to the consternation of his partner, who thought he was saving the game. "Coom on, run, run, RUN," yelled Bairstow while his partner, astonished, was shouting back, "Nay, wait on, wait on." When he became the county captain his leadership was remembered, as I wrote at the time, "as a series of uphill cavalry charges".

For England he blossomed under Mike Brearley's captaincy, delighting on one occasion in Australia when Brearley, for the last over, posted the wicket-keeper on the boundary in front of the sightscreen, infuriating the crowd, who suspected some cunning Pommie plot, Bairstow grinning hugely at the barrage of curses and insults.

Then there was a famous occasion under floodlights at Sydney where the Australia fast bowlers had been running rampant and Bairstow was joined by Graham Stevenson, another fearsome hitter, for the pair to silence the Hill by hitting the bowling straight for sixes.

He retired 18 years ago and appeared to be succeeding in business ventures and as a radio commentator on cricket. His first marriage, to Gail, whom he nicknamed "Stormy", a word that described their later relationship, ended in divorce but he remarried and when I last saw him, last summer, he was still the breezy, engaging companion I remembered. He had faults, but many virtues, too.

He scored almost 14,000 runs and hit 10 centuries, catching 961 victims and stumping 138.

- Derek Hodgson

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine