Cricket: Sporting world mourns the death of David Bairstow

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The Independent Online
The Yorkshire sporting community is again mourning the premature loss of a favourite son. The death of David Bairstow, once England wicketkeeper, follows the passing of Billy Bremner, the former Leeds United and Scotland footballer.

Jon Culley reports.

The body of David Bairstow, the former Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper, was discovered at his home in Marton-cum-Grafton, near Boroughbridge, by a family member on Monday evening, but the tragedy was not made public until yesterday, his wife's birthday. He was 46.

"Mr Bairstow was found hanging at his home," a North Yorkshire police spokesman said. An inquest was opened and adjourned in Harrogate yesterday afternoon.

Bairstow, who won four Test caps and appeared in 21 limited-overs internationals in a career spanning 20 years, was hugely popular with the Yorkshire public, largely because he brought to his cricket the kind of qualities they so admired in Billy Bremner, the former Leeds United and Scotland footballer who died of a heart attack on 7 December, aged 54.

A volatile and voluble competitor with an enormous appetite for his sport, Bairstow shared not only Bremner's red hair but his immense fighting spirit and commitment to his team. His contribution to Yorkshire's cause could be measured in almost 14,000 first-class runs as well as 1,099 wicketkeeping victims. In claiming 11 catches against Derbyshire at Scarborough in 1982, he equalled the world record for a single match.

The apparent circumstances of his death stunned even close friends, who remembered Bairstow, popularly known as "Bluey", as a jovial character who loved life as much as cricket. But his father-in-law revealed yesterday that he faced problems in his personal life. Bairstow's widow, Janet, is undergoing chemo-therapy after being diagnosed with cancer. Next week, he was to have appeared before magistrates on a drink-driving charge. He had also suffered illness himself, his father-in-law added.

"David has been very ill but I don't want to say what was wrong with him," he said. "Obviously he was very worried about Janet and the fact that he was due to appear in court was also of great concern to him. Janet herself is numb and does not want to say anything at all."

The couple's children, Jonathan, eight, and 17-year-old Rebecca, went to school as normal yesterday, while Bairstow's 22-year-old son from his first marriage, Andrew, was travelling from his home in Manchester to comfort the family.

Bairstow's career began in extraordinary fashion in 1970 when he made his first-class debut against Gloucestershire on the same day as sitting an A-level examination.

Brian Close, the captain who gave him his chance, said yesterday: "He always had the right attitude. He was a fine cricketer and in 20 years' playing for Yorkshire he proved it. I played with him last September for the Lord's Taverners and he seemed as cheerful as ever."

Bairstow's main attribute was his sheer will to win, as Ray Illingworth emphasised. The former England manager and ex-Yorkshire captain said: "There were better wicketkeepers but put in his temperament, enthusiasm, team spirit and never-say-die attitude and he was the best."

Since retiring in 1990, Bairstow had worked for with a sports merchandise business and in the media, where Fred Trueman, the former Yorkshire and England fast bowler, was among his colleagues.

"He was always positive, jovial, liked a story, liked his golf," Trueman said on BBC Radio Five Live. "I just remember his love of life. I can't believe it."