"The West Indies had a formidable attack," Micky says. "Four quicks who bowled their overs at 12 or 13 an hour, with two bouncers every over. They didn't give you many scoring opportunities. The England policy was always to pick two opening bowlers, an all-rounder and two spinners, almost regardless. So we'd face 13 overs an hour, then bowl 18 back at them. We'd struggle to make a total. Then, unless you knocked them over for a low score, they'd get their runs much more quickly, then come straight back at you in the second innings."
It was decided that England would play the series without a spinner, "which didn't go down too well in some quarters", and they would bowl their overs at the same rate as the West Indies. At the start of the tour they tried to negotiate a 15-an-hour agreement with the West Indian manager, Jackie Hendriks, but it was refused. "We can't have that," he said emphatically. There were supposed to be a minimum of 90 overs a day in the series but, with the evening sun low and casting shadows, that was almost never achieved.
England went into the first Test at Sabina Park, Jamaica, as planned, with four pace bowlers: Devon Malcolm, Gladstone Small, Angus Fraser and David Capel. The keeper was Jack Russell, and the six front-line batsmen, preparing to take on the fire of Patrick Patterson, Malcolm Marshall, Ian Bishop and Courtney Walsh, comprised two veterans, Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb, two with little Test experience, Robin Smith and Wayne Larkins, and two debutants, Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain.
The wicket was a true one, and Viv Richards opted to bat first. His openers, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, saw off the new ball and were looking in control with 62 on the board as lunch approached. Then came a moment that in its way defined England's new regime. Greenidge clipped a ball down to fine leg, where the outfield was rough, and the man on the boundary was Malcolm, comfortably the worst fielder in the England side. The ball bobbled when he attempted to pick it up, and Greenidge turned for a second run.
"The day before the Test," Micky says, "I'd had a 20-minute one-to-one fielding session with Devon – and another shorter one on the morning itself. His catching was hopeless. If I knocked a ball up into the sun, his hands would be like that, shaking."
Gladstone Small remembers the occasion. "Micky was sending up these skiers for him, and Devon wasn't getting anywhere near them.
"'For Christ's sake, Devon, what's the problem?'
"'The sun's in my eyes'."
"'Well, get the other side of it then.'
"'How can I? It's a hundred million miles away'."
For all this, Malcolm had a strong arm. The ball from Greenidge bobbled and hit him on the knee, and almost in one movement he grasped it and sent it fizzing into Russell's gloves for a sensational run-out.
Better still, the four England bowlers stuck rigidly to plan, sending down over after consistent over on an off-stump line. The result was that the West Indian batsmen, deprived of their accustomed flow of runs, lost patience and took unnecessary risks. By early evening they were all out for 164. Small, Malcolm and Capel accounted for the top order, and Fraser went through the tail with a spell of five wickets for six runs. Suddenly they had turned the tables on the West Indies, but could the batsmen make the kind of total that would put the match firmly in England's hands? The answer was clear by the close of the second day: England 342 for eight; Larkins 46, Smith 57 and Lamb 132.
"It was a typical Allan Lamb innings," Micky says. "Physical, brave, gutsy. He would never let the bowlers dictate to him. I admired him a lot, the way he played the quicks. He'd worked out this way of playing, always letting the short balls go to the off side of him.
"Smithy was a similar character in many ways, very brave. A great dictator with the bat in his hands. But I used to give him stick. He was too unassuming, too humble. He never stood there with presence. The exact opposite of Viv Richards.
"Wayne Larkins was a fine player, technically outstanding and a magnificent striker of the ball. Goochy was a great admirer of him. Goochy's reasoning was that, if we were going to beat the West Indies, we had to score runs. It was no good batting for three quarters of an hour, scoring six, then falling to one that lifted and took the glove. And, for all his faults, Wayne would always look to play his shots."
By the end of the third day, West Indies were eight wickets down in their second innings, only 29 runs ahead, and a famous victory was drawing close. Then came the rain, all through the rest day, and the field did not recover in time for any play on the fourth day. By seven o'clock on the fifth morning, Micky was on the ground, making sure that the staff were hard at work, and finally the game resumed, England winning by nine wickets. Sixteen years and 29 Tests had passed since they had last beaten the West Indies.
Micky's last Test playing for England
On the plane down to Bombay, four of them – John Edrich, Phil Sharpe, John Mortimore and Micky – started to complain of feeling ill, with upset stomachs and with flu. Then Ken Barrington's finger was examined closely in Bombay and declared to be worse than originally thought. So, when it came to a count-up, there were only 10 men fit to take the field for the Test the following day, and they included the slow left-armer Don Wilson, who was complaining of a bad back.
At the end-of-the-afternoon press conference, the manager David Clark took Henry Blofeld aside. The 54-year-old Clark, a batsman with a modest record, had captained Kent as an amateur, last playing in 1951, while Blofeld had got no further than Cambridge University and Norfolk. "You and I are the only two to have played first-class cricket," Clark explained, "and you're a great many years younger than me. So, if it comes to it, you'll be the man." He then added a little advice: "Try to get to bed before midnight."
Colin Cowdrey and Peter Parfitt had been sent for and would arrive in time for the following Test. But Blofeld, milking the moment, wanted to make one thing clear. "If I make a fifty," he said, "I'm damned if I'll stand down for Cowdrey."
Micky was sharing a room with Barrington. "I got given some pills and a glass of orange juice. I remember waking in the night, feeling rough. I thought I wouldn't disturb Kenny by putting the light on. So in the dark I put the tablet in my mouth and, when I went to take a sip of orange juice, I felt this cockroach crawling across my lips."
The next morning Micky was a little better, making his feelings plain when he heard the news of Blofeld's selection. "You're kidding, aren't you? Even if I'm only a quarter fit, I've got to be better than him." They were fighting words but, as things worked out, they did not prove to be true.
On another hot day, England fielded first. Shortly before tea, with Fred Titmus bowling, the batsman nicked the ball on to his pad and it went straight up the wicket. Micky was at forward short leg. "It bounced well in front of me so there was no chance of catching it, but I dived forward, landed on my chest and with the impact I threw up all over the wicket. I had to be escorted off."
Deprived of Edrich, Sharpe, Barrington and now Micky, England found themselves playing the rest of a five-day Test match on a slow Indian pitch with a 10-man side that included four quick bowlers, two wicketkeepers, two spinners (one of whom had a bad back) and only two specialist batsmen. Somehow they managed to escape with a draw.
"I should never have gone to Ahmedabad. I copped it twice in 10 days, and I was very weak. I lost pounds and pounds, and I wasn't carrying any weight in the first place. I had to stay for a few days with a nice couple in Bombay before I was fit to fly home. And it took me a while to recover when I did get home."
When Micky was escorted off the field, he was taken to the local hospital, where he was put on the same ward as Mortimore, Edrich and Sharpe. Shortly afterwards they were joined by Barrington who, with his broken finger, was passing the time, waiting to go home. "He'd heard the food in the hospital was better than in the hotel, so he turned up, saying he'd got a sore throat, and they kept him in. They put him in the bed opposite me."
Barrington was in good spirits, thinking he had wangled himself a good deal. Then suddenly a group of nurses arrived and pulled the curtains around his bed. "We could all hear him. 'No, no, no,' he was saying. 'It's just my throat. My throat.' It turned out they were administering an enema. And he'd only come in for the food."
Micky and Alec
One of the most promising of the Surrey youngsters in Micky's time as manager at The Oval was his own son, Alec. "This is the form," he explained to Alec. "I want you to play for Surrey. But, because of me, that gives you another problem. Some people will say that you're only there because of who your father is."
Alec was clear: "You know I've always wanted to play for Surrey, and that's what I'm going to do." So they fell into a way of life in which at home he called Micky 'Dad', at work 'manager'. "I remember him coming home one evening," his mother Sheila says, "and he was talking about something that had happened that day. 'Don't tell the manager,' he said. Then straight away he asked, 'Is Dad going to be in for dinner?'"
"Micky handled it so well," Surrey's Pat Pocock says. "A stranger could have come into that dressing room and spent a week with us. If he hadn't heard the names, you could have asked him at the end of the week, 'Which one is the son of the manager?' And he wouldn't have known."
The only exception to this, Pocock reckons, was a game at The Oval at the end of 1983 when Michael Holding, playing for Derbyshire, bowled a short ball that bounced less than expected and broke Alec's jaw. "Micky came running out, and he looked much more concerned than if it had been Clint or Butch or one of the others. That's the only time I've known him give any inkling of the blood relationship."
'Micky Stewart and the Changing Face of Cricket' by Stephen Chalke is available post free for £18 from Fairfield Books (tel: 01225 335813) fairfieldbooks.co.uk, and is also on sale at WaterstonesReuse content