Ted Jackson: Barrister and inspirational pioneer in the coaching of young cricketers
Monday 23 November 2009
Ted Jackson was a man of remarkable creative energy. Even while working as a successful London barrister he found time to travel hair-raisingly around the City streets on his moped, dressed in crash helmet, gauntlets and cricket whites – because Jackson's passion was the game of cricket. Returning home after a coaching session at his beloved Brondesbury Cricket Club he would turn to his typewriter to produce letters containing his latest theories about the techniques and strategies of the game well into the small hours. Any letter from Ted was instantly recognisable because he invariably recycled envelopes, not from any affectation but because it was the practical thing to do.
If there were eccentricities about Ted Jackson (and he would not have recognised them as such), all who knew him respected his sharp mind and intellectual range. Educated at Charterhouse; Peterhouse College, Cambridge; and London University, he served in the Far East during the Second World War before being called to the Bar in 1951. Much of his professional life was spent in the Office of the Solicitor of the Inland Revenue before he became a law reporter for the Incorporated Council of Law Reports in 1988. In 1983 he was awarded a CBE for his services to the Law.
However, his was a restless intelligence and he was something of a polymath. He was widely read in the classics and literature (and had a particular devotion to George Bernard Shaw), loved music and possessed a formidable cricket library. His letters displayed his quality of mind: his ideas were expressed with a scholarly and dense succinctness, punctuated by Latin aphorisms and references from sources as varied as Ovid, Shakespeare and Henry James that made for rewarding but exhausting reading.
Cricket held a special place for him. He was an indefatigable advocate of classical technique but also saw the game as character-building. In a paper, Why Play Cricket? he wrote: "Like war, like life, [cricket] is 'for real' in the challenges it offers, the courage it can demand, in its apparent injustice and inexorability. One unlucky mistake – just one – and the batsman's contribution to his side's innings may be as conclusively ended as if by death."
He had been a talented enough all-rounder himself to represent Cambridge University and Middlesex Second XI but the subtleties of technique and strategies fascinated him and imparting these skills to the young became his obsession. Whether with the youngsters at Brondesbury Cricket Club (he founded the colts section in 1966 from where the former England captain Mike Gatting learned much of his cricket) or at the Middlesex Academy with the County Under-19s, his charges were riveted by his exuberant love of the game.
The postal services would soon bring them detailed correspondence from Jackson reinforcing his ideas: tactical advice entitled "Cricket From the Neck Up" was testimony to his belief that cricket was a thinking man's game and that children, however young, had the capacity to respond to its strategies. A paper on "Gapping", his term for a batsman's capacity to angle his bat so as to propel the ball into gaps between fielders, remains as relevant today for any schoolboy cricketer as our England one-day team. Any Middlesex Under-19 player under his management guilty of hitting a ball straight to a fielder when a gap was available was assailed by a stentorian "red dot" from Ted on the boundary and he would ensure that this misdemeanour was duly registered in the scorebook.
When his insatiable appetite for technique turned to the importance of the batsman's stance, whether to have feet together or feet apart, he wrote to Don Bradman and Colin Cowdrey, no less, and received replies he incorporated in a finished paper; in fact Bradman's Art of Cricket was at the core of his philosophy. His missives on how cricket should be played were as likely to drop on the doormat of county coaches and England selectors as Brondesbury colts.
Jackson's legacy to cricket in Middlesex and beyond is immense. As Chairman of the County's Youth Sub-Committee in 1972 he introduced the Middlesex Youth Coaching Scheme. The former Middlesex and England batsman Jack Robertson was coaching an Under-11 group and Ted decided that the future of the County's cricket depended on producing home-coached talent in squads from Under-10 upwards.
So was born probably the first such scheme in the country, its success demonstrated by the numerous first class cricketers and several Test players, such as Mark Ramprakash, Owais Shah and Philip Tufnell, it helped to nurture. The academies that have developed in all first class counties owe a debt to Jackson's innovation. His innate modesty would not allow him to see such success as personal; his intentions were for the good of cricket and the youngsters who played it. Having convinced the Middlesex Committee and its coach, Don Bennett, of the desirability of the scheme, he recruited the necessary coaches and, with the lightest of hands on the tiller, watched the system flourish.
He founded the Middlesex Branch of the Association of Cricket Coaches, becoming Chairman in 1982, and served for many years on Middlesex's General and Cricket Committees. The committee room was not his natural habitat but in matters concerning the development of young cricketers he could be a powerful advocate. On the occasions he preferred to reserve his judgements, fellow committee members knew they would soon be in possession through the post of Ted's latest nocturnal responses to the discussion, and copied to all and sundry. Not everyone agreed with his views but few failed to marvel at how he possessed the physical and intellectual energy to complete a demanding full day's work followed by a late-afternoon coaching session, an evening meeting – then spending the early hours at his typewriter.
Jackson was entirely without ego: he barely mentioned his CBE in 1983 for services to the legal profession. What he did for cricket he did because he believed passionately in the values the game stands for. He was as happy coaching a group of inner-city children as he was advising the most talented apprentice county cricketers. He helped found clubs in Haringey and Tower Hamlets because he realised that the absence of playing fields in inner London deprived children of the opportunities cricket offers.
Jackson was a pioneer in so many aspects of cricket in Middlesex (and continued to be so well into his seventies) and, as with many innovators, a few were slow to recognise his genius. With so many ideas buzzing around in his head, he had no time for small talk; there was too much to do. Meetings with him in the chair were often infuriatingly brief – and he then wrote the minutes himself. He had firm ideas about how cricket should be played and preferred the uncompromising approach to the political one. His effervescence and commitment usually won the day.
Even into his seventies he continued to write law reports, to inspire cricketers of all ages and to write articles on aspects of the game. Illness sapped him of much of his energy in his last few years but the devotion of his wife Penelope and his children and grandchildren made for a mellow and loving home life. Even at this time, while sitting in his armchair and stirred to talk about a favourite Shakespeare sonnet, his eyes would again flash to reveal the energised and dynamic Ted loved and admired by generations of cricketers, legal colleagues and friends.
......... David Green
Edward Oliver Jackson, barrister, cricketer and coach: born Calcutta, India 3 December 1922; married firstly Joan Murray Simpson (three daughters), secondly (one adopted son), 1981 Penelope Thwaites (one son, one daughter); died London 5 October 2009.
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