Mike Brearley

Mike Brearley
Mike Brearley
Personal information
Full name John Michael Brearley
Born 28 April 1942 (1942-04-28) (age 69)
Harrow, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom
Nickname Brears, Scagg
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Batting style Right-handed
Bowling style Right arm medium
International information
National side England
Test debut (cap 465) 3 June 1976 v West Indies
Last Test 27 August 1981 v Australia
ODI debut (cap 38) 2 June 1977 v Australia
Last ODI 22 January 1980 v West Indies
Domestic team information
Years Team
1961–1983 Middlesex
1961–1968 Cambridge University
Career statistics
Competition Test ODI FC LA
Matches 39 25 455 272
Runs scored 1442 510 25186 6135
Batting average 22.88 24.28 37.81 26.44
100s/50s 0/9 0/3 45/134 3/37
Top score 91 78 312* 124*
Balls bowled 0 0 315 48
Wickets 3 4
Bowling average 64.00 15.00
5 wickets in innings
10 wickets in match n/a n/a
Best bowling 1/6 2/3
Catches/stumpings 52/– 12/– 418/12 111/–
Source: Cricinfo, 8 February 2008

John Michael Brearley OBE (born 28 April 1942) is a former cricketer who captained the England cricket team in 31 of his 39 Test matches, winning 17 and losing only 4. He was the President of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 2007–08.


Early life

Brearley was educated at the City of London School (where his father Horace, himself a first-class cricketer, was a master). While at St. John's College, Cambridge, Brearley excelled at cricket (he was then a wicketkeeper/batsman). After making 76 on first-class debut as a wicketkeeper,[1] he played for Cambridge University between 1961 and 1968 (captaining the side from 1964 onwards), first as an undergraduate on the Natural Sciences tripos, and then as a postgraduate. While still at Cambridge he was chosen for the MCC tour to South Africa in 1964–65, and to captain the MCC Under-25 side in Pakistan in 1966–67, when he scored 312 not out against North Zone[2] (his highest first-class score) and 223 against the Pakistan Under-25 side[3] he ended the tour with 793 runs from six matches at an average of 132.

County cricket

From 1961 onwards he played for Middlesex County Cricket Club, often opening the innings with Michael Smith. As captain between 1971 and 1982, he led Middlesex to County Championships in 1976, 1977 (jointly with Kent), 1980 and 1982;[4] and he appeared in Free Foresters' very last first-class fixture, in 1968, keeping wicket and scoring 91.[5]

International cricket

In part because of his pursuit of an academic career, which limited his cricketing activity in 1969 and 1970, Brearley was not selected for England until the age of 34 in 1976. Brearley's record in Test cricket as a batsman was mediocre (he averaged 22.88 in 39 Test innings, without a Test century), but he was an outstanding captain. Having previously kept wicket, he was also a very fine slip catcher, usually at first slip. He took over as captain of England in 1977. His excellent man-management skills (he was once described by Rodney Hogg as having "a degree in people") drew the very best from the players in his team, although he was fortunate to be able to call on the services of Bob Willis, David Gower and Ian Botham at their peak. Brearley was captain during the infamous aluminium bat incident in 1979, when he objected to Dennis Lillee's use of the bat, instead of one made of willow.[6] On the same tour he caused controversy by ordering all his fielders including the wicketkeeper to the boundary with three runs required off the last ball of the match (this was legal by the rules of the time).[7] He had been an innovator regarding cricket equipment himself, wearing a 'skull cap' under his England cap in 1977. It consisted of a plastic protector with two side pieces protecting his temples. It was later popularized by the Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar.

Brearley also captained England to the final of the 1979 Cricket World Cup, scoring 53 in the semi-final against New Zealand [8] and 64 in the final against the West Indies.[9] However, his defensive opening partnership of 129 with Geoff Boycott in the final used up 38 of 60 allotted overs; although it was recognised that a potent pace attack of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner needed to be countered, the speed of the partnership greatly added to the pressure on the rest of the order. Garner bowled a spell of 5 wickets for 4 runs to induce a drastic collapse and hand the West Indies the match and the World Cup by 92 runs.

Having passed the England captaincy to Ian Botham in 1980 (losing his Test place in the process), Brearley returned as captain following Botham's resignation for the famous third Test against Australia at Headingley in 1981,[10] famously going on to win the match and two of the remaining three matches of the series to win the Ashes 3-1. Brearley's extraordinary galvanising of Botham is regarded as one of the greatest feats of sporting psychology of all time: Botham recovered from personal ridicule following his winless captaincy record and his nosedive in form (he had made a pair in the second Test at Lord's) to take a first-innings 6 for 95 and score 50 and his famous 149 not out in the third Test at Headingley, bowl a spell of 5 wickets for 1 run in the fourth Test at Edgbaston, score 118 from 102 balls in the fifth Test at Old Trafford, and take a 10-wicket match haul (6 for 125 and 4 for 128) in the sixth Test at the Oval.

Not all players have sung the praises of his captaincy with the same generosity as Ian Botham. Phil Edmonds, who played under Brearley at both county and country level, developed the practice of walking backwards to his bowling mark to ensure Brearley did not change the field behind his back. In his second autobiography, Fred Titmus, a senior county colleague, poured scorn on Brearley's reputed man-management skills.

Post-cricket career

Brearley is now a psychoanalyst, psychotherapist (registered with the BPC), motivational speaker, and part-time cricket journalist for The Observer. He was awarded the OBE in 1978, and published The Art of Captaincy in 1985. He opposed sporting links with apartheid South Africa, seconding a motion to the MCC in 1968 calling for the cessation of tours until there was actual progress towards non-racial cricket. He seconded the motion from David Sheppard to the MCC, calling for the England tour to South Africa to be cancelled, and was a supporter of John Arlott who campaigned in The Guardian for the same objective.

Brearley took over from Doug Insole as President of MCC on 1 October 2007, and chose Derek Underwood to succeed him at the end of his term.[11]


External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Tony Greig

Ian Botham
English national cricket captain
(Geoffrey Boycott deputised 1979/80)
Succeeded by
Ian Botham

Keith Fletcher
Preceded by
Peter Parfitt
Middlesex county cricket captain
Succeeded by
Mike Gatting
Preceded by
Doug Insole
Presidents of the MCC
Succeeded by
Derek Underwood

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