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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambledon Club

Guest Speaker: Vic Marks

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Vic Marks was born in Middle Chinnock, Somerset, on 25 June 1955. He represented England in Under-19 matches and after school, went up to Oxford University playing there from 1975-1978, and making his debut for his native county in 1975. He went on to play six Test matches but was an important member of the ODI squad for a number of years. Vic was also Chairman of Cricket at the county for many years and he is now an Honorary Life Member. He has worked regularly as a broadcaster on Test Match Special and writes on cricket for the Guardian and the Observer.


Our Chaplain, The Reverend David Brown, said Grace.

Apologies received: John Fingleton, Grayston Burgess, Peter Ryder, John Gallimore, Christopher Moger, Terry Johnson, Peter & Jane Parsons, Andrew Bruce, Barrington Lawes, Chris de Mellow, Roy Clarke, Nick Bailey, Andrew Callender, Keith Ebdon, Mike Gordon, Nick & Gilly Twine, Roger Gibbons, Robert Brooke, Mike Coeshott, Bobbie & Peter Tomkins, Michael Woof, Stephen Green, Dudley Green, Terry Crump

The President: Douglas welcomed members, guests and speaker, Vic Marks. Members were advised that the Apologies were on the notice board and reminded guests to place their £5 in the mugs for the prize draw.

Steward: Dick reminded members that the cost of lunch, without wine, is £25.

Treasurer: Stephen pointed out the necessity for subs to be paid via a standing order, along with a mention of cash subs still outstanding, which those members should pay before leaving.

Prize Draw: This was won by Keith Mayson. After deductions including the speaker’s expenses, £250 was raised for Hambledon Youth Cricket.

The Toasts: The President asked members to be upstanding for the traditional Toasts: The Queen’s Mother; The King; Hambledon Club; Cricket; The immortal Memory of Madge; The President: Dave Allen asked members to toast the President.

The Speaker: Douglas introduced Vic, having discovered his belief that Vic was the leading first-class wicket-taker in the 1980s was erroneous; but nonetheless able to confirm that Vic holds the record for catches in one innings in a B&H match (five) – a fact that he discovered on the flight deck of a journey to Corfu!

Vic thanked him for the “unpredictable” introduction and in typical self-deprecating style pointed out that during the 1980s, he did hold one first-class record, having conceded more runs than any other bowler “on the planet”. He had recently visited Matthew Engel, one of his predecessors at the Guardian and a former editor of Wisden, who had once suggested that the definition of an English winter was that “someone, somewhere is hitting Vic Marks for six”. Vic was pleased to be visiting Hambledon and the Bat & Ball for the first time and observed that he had come at a time when there were various controversies that he might address – but he chose quite deliberately not to – to some approval. Instead, he offered his selection of a favourite XI which mixed some great players with some close friends and provided an opportunity for some delightful stories. Prior to naming his side, he acknowledged the presence of Alan Rayment (Hampshire 1949-1958), who he had met over lunch and was impressed that decades before Ramprakash, Vaughan and Darren Gough, Alan had shared his life between cricket and ballroom dancing. Vic’s number one choice from the home territory was Marcus Trescothick, a man who loves playing at Taunton and is now a great ambassador for Somerset and English cricket. Marcus is now in his forties and Vic likened his current longevity to the time as a youngster when you would go to Taunton “to see whether Bill Alley was still alive”. Trescothick’s opening partner was Arthur Milton, one of a number of west country choices. Vic only played against him once, in a second XI game but was connected to him as coach of the Oxford University side when Vic was captain. He described his mentor as a talented, wise and unassuming man although he rarely donned any coaching uniform. On one occasion, Vic, captaining the students and unsure what to do in the event of winning the toss, took Arthur out to the middle seeking his advice. Arthur told him not to worry as “it won’t make any damned difference” – but he loved “his boys”. Number three was a straightforward choice for a Somerset selector; IVA (Viv) Richards who was simply the “best batsman” Vic ever played with or against. Vic suggested that “by and large” the way cricketers play reveals something about them, but perhaps not in Viv’s case. Viv’s on-field ‘swagger’ suggested arrogance, and “he was not short of confidence” but off the field, he was generally a quiet, almost shy man. By contrast, his number four and captain, Brian Close, Vic’s first county captain, was “totally mad”. Close played for England across four decades, but in only 22 Test Matches; nonetheless, he always hoped, until in 1976, for the first year, he did not bother to enter England’s Test Matches in his diary – and sure enough he was recalled to face the West Indies’ pace barrage. “22 caps for England, each one half a size bigger than the previous one”.

Vic told a very funny story about Close’s competitiveness and volatility, in this case on the golf course where Close, a brilliant all-round sportsman, played off single figures. On this occasion, he was having one of those nightmare days and even tried shifting from left to right-handed but having hooked one on the 17th he picked up his bag of clubs and threw them in the adjacent lake. His partners, familiar with Close’s temperament, carried on and “coming down the 18th” they saw Close swimming in the lake. They called out “Closey, what’s the matter?” to which came the reply “Bloody car keys”.

Vic threw a quiz question at us – to name the man with whom he played his first and final first-class match. We didn’t get it, but the answer was his number five, Chris Tavaré, a batsman Vic loved for his ability to destroy attacks, despite his Test Match reputation as a “the biggest blocker of all time”.

Vic suggested this was partly due to a certain lack of confidence; not something that afflicted his all-rounder at number six, Sir Ian Botham – Chairman of Durham, a knight of the realm and an “unbelievable” player who “surprised me all the way through”.

Vic’s choice of wicket-keeper was the one position where he shared his options. There was the innovative Alan Knott “one of the best”, and Rod Marsh, a “civilised, bright, generous human being” for whom Vic once wrote a ghosted column, spending much of that time trying to “calm down” Rod’s lively opinions. He considered his Somerset colleague Trevor Gard as another option, plus his TMS colleague Henry Blofeld; Vic never saw Henry play but believes he was an exciting batsman-keeper – in 1965, he top-scored with 60 at Southampton in an early Gillette Cup match for a Norfolk side captained by Bill Edrich. In the end, though, Vic opted for the man who left Somerset a few years ago, Jos Buttler, an “incredibly gifted trailblazer”. Vic is convinced he should be playing Test cricket but wonders “will they pick him?"

At number eight was a man from Vic’s early years at Somerset Tom Cartwright, a brilliant old-fashioned seam bowler”, the antithesis of his Somerset team-mate Brian Close and perhaps ‘Warwickshire’s Shackleton’. Tom hated conceding runs and would not gamble as Close did, but Vic told a lovely story of the pair together at Somerset on a day when the great Garfield Sobers came in to bat for Nottinghamshire. Close, Somerset’s captain and close fielder, walked slowly all the way to the end of Tom’s run-up to whisper to the bowler, “Tom lad, this lad’s a left-hander”, before returning to his place in the field!

At number nine, leading Vic’s attack and pleasing our Hampshire contingent, came Malcolm Marshall, a man who loved cricket, loved experimenting and could do just about anything. For some reason, when bowling to Vic, everything seemed a bit faster and shorter; almost deliberately hostile. Eventually, after three of four seasons, Vic decided to ask Robin Smith why it seemed he was a particular target and discovered “he doesn’t like the way you walk”. There was a tale too of Vic and Malcolm playing in a benefit game in Torquay, where a young and promising Chris Read took a particularly fine catch off Malcolm’s bowling and the bowler’s reaction was “fantastic”, giving sixteen-year-old Chris Read a real boost.

At number ten, Vic had a mystery spinner and perhaps the first of the modern generation, Abdul Qadir. Vic made his Test debut against him – “It was chaos” Vic reported and indeed he had rarely felt “so despondent” about playing cricket. On tour then they would devour the ‘papers coming from England and he read a comment from Pat Gibson who suggested that whatever Vic had ‘read’ at Oxford University, “it was not wrist spin”. Vic’s number 11 – although with Botham and Marshall unlikely to get the new ball – was Jonathan Agnew, his TMS colleague. Vic praised him as a very good broadcaster and, in particular, a “brilliant interviewer” who enables his interviewees to relax. He cited one TMS ‘View from the Boundary’ lunchtime interview, which took him on to the subject of twelfth men. On this occasion, Jonathan’s guest was Rod Eddington, an ‘Aussie’ and the Chief Executive of British Airways and Vic arranged it as they were university friends and team-mates in the university sides of 1975 & 1976 although at Lord’s for their great match, Vic relegated him to twelfth man. He suggested to Agnew, that he might not choose to “focus” on that moment, but it was an incredibly hot day, so Vic removed his jacket, which slid to the floor. Roger helpfully picked it up and hung it behind them and “quick as a flash” Agnew observed, “Still doing those twelfth man duties then Roger”.

Vic concluded that “It’s a damn good team but also one I’d like to have been around”. He repeated his pleasure at coming to the Bat & Ball and apologised for not anticipating the relative formality of the club’s members and therefore not wearing a tie – at which point Stephen Saunders rose to his feet and presented him with The Hambledon Club version. There was warm applause for a very, well-received talk.

Douglas thanked Vic for his ‘chosen’ team, and added, to members’ amusement, that there could not possibly be anyone else in the room whose sister was taught piano by Jonathan Agnew’s Aunt, or their father who had played regular bridge with Jonathan Agnew’s grandmother who had notably reached the grand age of 110!

Committee Elections: Douglas continued with the traditional general elections, and invited approval en bloc due for the present committee: Stephen Saunders (Treasurer); Dick Orders (Steward); Lou Allen (Secretary), there is never any opposition, and also proposed that our long-standing Chaplain, Reverend David Brown, should be officially elected to that position on the committee. These motions were carried by all present.

Douglas then revealed his successor, Brian Ford, and added that it was very heartening to know that there were three tremendously good ideas for the presidency, but after consultations, it resulted in a situation of ‘pass the parcel’ with very amicable results! Brian addressed the membership and said it would be very difficult to follow in Douglas’ footsteps. He also invited members to offer their thoughts, via the secretary, should they feel any club matters could be improved on, but felt that such is our organisation, this would be very difficult to improve.

Our new President: Brian proceeded to add praise to Douglas’ presidency and said we “deserve no better than the president we have had”. He added that he intended to hold the post for three years after which another president should be proposed to take his place. Douglas was then presented with parting mementoes from the membership.

Next Speaker: Brian informed members that Isabelle Duncan would be our next speaker and thanked Douglas for already ‘warming her up’ in the nicest possible way!

The meeting ended with much appreciation from Douglas for the generous presents, also giving thanks to the management for a good lunch.

Date of next meeting: Saturday, 21st October 2017

AOB: None

Newsletter 37: 25 March 2017

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