An interview with Brian Jackson - Part 1
Given ECB incentives for county clubs to produce their own young cricketers, their financial support of them ending at the age of 26, it is fairly safe to say that we are unlikely to see the likes of Brian Jackson again.
He was twenty-nine when he made his county debut and thirty during that summer, having learned and honed his skills in the tough school of the leagues. Yet over the following six summers, until he decided that he wasn’t the bowler that he used to be, Brian was an admirable foil for Harold Rhodes and the pair made as good and hostile a partnership as any in the country.
As I told him in the course of the interview, I never saw him bowl, but those who do remember a bowler of aggressive intent, who ran in hard and with the same sense of purpose from the first ball of the day to the last. Coming in from wide of the crease, he had a ‘windmill’ action but one that generated steep bounce.
He was quick too. Not as quick as Harold Rhodes, but as the latter told me, “quick enough to make batsmen hurry their shots, quick enough to bruise them if they weren’t at their sharpest.” Good enough too to take 457 wickets over his six summers in the first-class game too, at an average of less than nineteen runs each…
He wasn’t a batsman – his highest effort in 160 innings was 27 – and he was a functional, rather than dynamic fielder. But with a ball in his hand he was as good a seamer as there was in England during the mid-1960′s.
In 1965 he took 120 wickets at TWELVE runs each as he and Harold Rhodes came first and second in the national bowling averages. His previous two seasons had been steady and he was the county’s most successful bowler in 1964, but in 1965 opening batsmen looked to their game against Derbyshire with a degree of trepidation. Runs would be hard to come by and their techniques would be fully examined by two of the best bowlers in the country.
My interview with Brian flew by. He was every bit as engaging as I hoped he would be; the sort of man whose company you would thoroughly enjoy down at the local – much more than facing him in his pomp from twenty-two yards.
I’d like to thank him for willingly giving his time and for the stories he told me.
Brian Jackson – an outstanding bowler and thoroughly nice man. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.
Brian, how did you come to join the Derbyshire staff?
I was a professional in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire League for Knypersley and Victoria Colliery, between 1959 and 1962. I also played Minor Counties cricket for Cheshire, which was played over two days at that time. We played against Lancashire, Yorkshire and Warwickshire Second Elevens, as well as Durham (then a Minor County) and Staffordshire and I had to take time off work to play- this at a time when you only got a fortnight’s holiday a year!
Cliff Gladwin had just retired and he was playing as professional at Longton against us. He saw me bowl and passed his favourable comments on to the Derbyshire coach, Denis Smith, who came up to Knypersley to see me the following week.
I had already had offers from Warwickshire and Leicestershire and turned them down, but I was working as a cashier in a factory which was closing, so I decided that I should throw in my lot with Derbyshire and give the first-class game a go at the age of 29! I signed on for Douglas Carr, the secretary of the time and joined the county for the start of the 1963 season, although I’d played a few second team games before then.
Did turning pro make any difference financially to you?
Not really. I was working full-time but playing as a professional at the weekend. The two incomes were about what I made at Derbyshire, but you didn’t do it for the money – it was the friendship of the circuit and the fact that you loved playing the game.
Were you always a seamer?
I was and you know, I was never coached by anyone! I guess I was a natural and started playing for RAF Sayid in 1952, when I was doing National Service. We played on wickets of rolled sand with matting stretched over them in the middle east and they were quick with good bounce. I used to bowl quite quickly and enjoyed it.
Back home, I started playing for my local club in the High Peak league and was top of the bowling averages, I think, in 1955. I played for Whaley Bridge on a Saturday and Buxton on Sundays and they were great days, before I moved on to Knypersley as professional in 1959.
I learned a lot at Bollington Cricket Club between 1956 and 1958. They were in the Lancashire and Cheshire League and I was playing there when first selected for Cheshire. They didn’t pay me, but I was picked up, ferried around and generally treated very well in my time there.
How did you find county cricket when you started compared to the leagues where you made your name?
I never had a problem with it! I don’t mean that to sound big-headed but you must remember I had learned my trade in the leagues as a professional. With that came responsibilities and a kind of pressure, but there was no real problem for me. I had a year on the staff with Harold Rhodes and Les Jackson as the first choice opening bowlers, but I never felt that I had anything to prove and I didn’t think that the established county players were better than me. I was confident in my own abilities.
I went straight into the first team in 1963, taking 75 wickets and getting my first eleven cap in August of that season. Not bad, considering I left league cricket one Saturday and was playing for Derbyshire on the Wednesday of that week!
The leagues had some fine players too, so it wasn’t like facing them for the first time. There was Frank Worrell, Garfield Sobers, Sonny Ramadhin…I still remember seeing these big placards outside the ground one day – “Norton CC with Frank Worrell v Knypersley with A.B. Jackson.” It was quite a thrill – I wish I’d kept one or two of them to show the grandchildren!
Interview continues in Part 2 - photograph of Brian signing autographs for fans courtesy of Buxton Cricket Club.