Compton the corinthian dies at 78

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The Independent Online
In an era where cricketers are becoming more faceless by the season, the passing of Denis Compton at the age of 78, will be mourned by all those who believe sportsman should passionately embrace more than the sport itself. Compton may have been a fine footballer and an even better cricketer, but he embraced life in such a way that neither dominated his life.

Having joined Arsenal as a 17-year-old in 1935 he made his first-class debut for Middlesex a year later, scoring 1,000 runs in the season. The following year he made his debut for England, the first of a 78-cap career that saw him score 5,807 runs at an average slightly over 50.

As a batsman, he was as natural as summer dew, which he often encountered at cricket grounds, still wearing his dinner jacket having not had a wink of sleep. He may have been a professional, but the amateur ethos that burned within, and one passionately shared by his Middlesex and England colleague Bill Edrich, went far beyond the possession of three initials.

Compton, a brilliant improviser of strokes, reckoned that if you had talent you could score runs with the leg of a chair. He never quite went to that extreme, but with a habit of mislaying his bat, many of his deeds were often accomplished with the blade of another. Indeed, his last away century for Middlesex against Essex at Leyton was scored with a borrowed bat, a milestone he rattled up in two and a quarter hours.

According to those he played with, his range of stroke was apparently only exceeded by the optimism of his running between the wickets, when he would often wish his partner luck. It was a habit Trevor Bailey once described as "merely the basis for negotiation", and one which cost many their wicket.

"Denis was an aggressive cricketer, a tough fighter, and a bloody good bloke," said Doug Insole, the current president of Essex and the club's captain during the latter half of Compton's career.

"However, he could be unreliable," Insole continued, "I once sent him a postcard a day for three weeks to remind him that he was playing in a charity match for me." Compton turned up all right, but he was also expected at two other matches that day.

Like many of his era, Compton had difficulty in understanding some of the methods used by cricket's modern generation. He once told Graham Gooch - one of the few current players to have scored more first-class runs than him - to "forget the helmet and get some Brylcreem".

But although his deeds are rooted in a golden past, his sudden death after a hip operation complicated by diabetes will have touched many. For those that were lucky enough to see him play, the memories will surely remain undimmed.

However, we need not get too morose. As someone rightly pointed out when the Tannoy at Chelmsford brought us the bad news, "There'll be a hell of a party up there when he meets up with old Bill Edrich."

Obituary, page 16

Denis Compton 1918-1997

Cricket career (Middlesex & England)

Tests Innings HS Runs Average

78 131 278 5,808 50.06

Wickets Best bowling Ave

25 5-70 56.41

All first class

Games Innings HS Runs Ave

515 839 300 38,942 50.85

Wickets Best bowling Ave

622 7-36 32.27

Football career (Arsenal & England)

Won 14 wartime caps

Played 54 League games, scoring 15 goals

Won FA Cup winners' medal in 1950