An interview with Brian Jackson - part 3
How did you find Denis Smith – he was apparently a hard taskmaster as coach?I got on very well w
How did you find Denis Smith – he was apparently a hard taskmaster as coach?
I got on very well with him. He was straight-talking but that was the way of it back then. You didn't need people to hold your hand and say nice things to you all the time. You knew what you had to do and went out to do it.
Like I said, I didn't need any coaching though. Denis knew what I could do and left me to it. I'd work on things with Harold and try different grips, but it just came natural to me.
The side you came into wasn't the strongest. How quickly did you form an opinion on their merits?
The batting was brittle at times and that cost us too many games. But they were a great bunch of lads. Ian Buxton, who passed away far too young, Derek Morgan, Ian Hall and, of course, the incomparable Bob Taylor. Mike Page was a great lad too and a very good cricketer, but we never strung enough good results together to challenge for honours.
Who were the biggest characters in the side?
I don't know if you'd say any of them were 'characters'. They were just good lads and we all got on really well. There were no stars, no prima donnas, but we'd do anything for each other.
That really hit home when Harold was no-balled by Sid Buller at Chesterfield against the South Africans in 1965. I remain convinced that Sid was put up to it to avoid a tricky situation where Harold otherwise had to be picked for England, but the lads rallied round. It was a horrible, awkward, surreal experience and the crowd came on to the ground pretty much en masse as we went off for tea. Yet the lads kept Harold going and we all knew he didn't throw. It was nonsense, the whole thing and I felt Harold handled it all remarkably well in the circumstances.
The county won that game?
We did. I bowled 19-2-32-2 in the first innings and 18-5-25-3 in the second. As a reward for the win we all got a bottle of sherry – South African, of course!
You retired after the 1968 season, with over 450 wickets at less than 19 runs each. You were only 36 and perhaps had more to give?
Maybe, but I felt it was time to go. To be honest, I broke my middle finger on my bowling hand at The Oval in 1966 when I was picking the ball up in the outfield. It bobbled badly and I felt the finger go. I was out for six weeks and it was never quite the same afterwards. The physios of the time did their best, but they didn't have the stuff they have these days and the ball didn't feel the same when it was coming out of my hand after that, though I still took my share of wickets. I also had a few hamstring problems, which didn't help either.
It was my time to go in 1968 and I went back to the leagues and a job with Marstons Brewery for the next 25 years.
How long did you play on for?
My last full season was as late as 1986, when I was 53 and playing for Buxton. I took 38 wickets at 14 and only went for two an over. I'm still proud of the fact that I still hold the league bowling record for Knypersley too. In 1970 I took 66 wickets at just 7.24 runs each.
The previous league record holder was Garfield Sobers, so not bad company to be in!
What were your favourite grounds outside Derbyshire?
As a professional cricketer, your favourites are the ones on which you do well. I always did well at Edgbaston, so I liked it there! I also enjoyed Lords, where I bowled from the Pavilion End and usually did well.
I never did that well at Old Trafford though, for some reason. Coming from Whaley Bridge I'd have liked to, but it never worked out for me there.
Who were the best batsmen you bowled at in your career? Boycott, presumably?
You know, he was difficult to get out but I don't remember him ever taking us to the cleaners. I recall him getting a fifty once, but I also bowled him out once at Chesterfield, which is a nice memory.
Roy Marshall could play, but he was another who didn't always get runs against our attack. Kenny Barrington was a fine player, and of course Colin Cowdrey. Mike Procter, who was a wonderful servant to Gloucestershire, was another very good player. He could bat and bowl so well.
Who would you have as Derbyshire opening bowlers in a fantasy side? Harold put you into his...
That was very kind of him! I'd have to reciprocate because he was such a very fine bowler, as well as being a lovely man. And of course, I couldn't go past Les Jackson as his partner, because they didn't come any better than him. Any side that had to face those two knew they had been in a game.
Do you watch much modern cricket?
I watch quite a lot. I go down to Derby sometimes, as well as Chesterfield. We also go up to Old Trafford and watch a few games in the North Staffordshire League. My son has played the game for a number of years, while my grandson, Joe Jackson, is now playing at Derby University, so he practices at the County Ground
And what do you think of modern seam bowling? Would you like to have played today?
Oh yes! I am confident that I would have got wickets if I was playing now. We didn't play solely on green wickets in my day, there were times you had to bend your back and work hard for them. They might have cost me a few runs more than they did then, but I would still have got people out. A good ball is a good ball, whenever and wherever it is bowled.
I'd have enjoyed one-day cricket too and the challenges it presents. Mind you, I might have had to up my fielding. I used to get told that I suffered from 'vagrancy' in the field – usually when I was chatting to a spectator!
But don't get the idea that we couldn't and didn't field at that time. Derek Morgan could catch swallows, while Mike Page was brilliant at either slip or short-leg. And of course, we had the brilliant Bob Taylor behind the stumps.
What do you think of the current Derbyshire set up?
You know, I'm not a hundred per cent sure how to answer that one. I don't know the full details, but from my own experience, there are a lot who will improve from specialist coaching but some, including myself, who were best served by letting them get on with it and not clouding their minds with too many theories.
But they're doing all right and I wish them well.
What advice would you give to the many promising young seamers in the Derbyshire Academy?
Stick at it. Learn to bowl and get your action right, so that you can put the ball where you want it to go every single time. The only way to do that is to bowl and bowl, then bowl some more. And make sure that you study the batsmen like I used to, just like Les told me. Watch their feet, watch how they make their runs and then come up with something that will counter that.
I am quite heartened by the young seam bowlers coming through at Derbyshire. There's a couple of good young lads, Matt Higginbottom and Jony Marsden, both coming through from the High Peak area. I know them well and I think that they could both be very useful – if they keep working!