David Sheppard – England ‘Rev

David Sheppard

I’m posting the Telegraph’s, and Ted Dexter’s, tribute to David Sheppard who passed away a few days ago. I’m not qualified to comment on his life, since he was before my time – but my late Father mentioned him once or twice. And this article does a terrific job in creating a very generous picture of the man. Lots more in the blogosphere on his death here

Ted Dexter led the tributes to his former England and Sussex team-mate the Rt Rev David Sheppard, Bishop of Liverpool and Woolwich, who died on Saturday.

David Sheppard: ‘A tough guy who was a good player of quick bowling’

“He was a good friend and a mighty fine fellow,” Dexter said from his home in France. “He was also a pretty tough guy who was a very good player of quick bowling.

“One of my key moments in cricket came at Melbourne on the 1962-63 tour, when we started the last innings needing 234 to win. On the final day we agreed a fifth-day pitch was not ideal for big shots, rather one for placing the ball and picking up the ones and twos. We ran them ragged and in no time the bowlers were screaming at the fielders and the fielders were screaming at the captain, and we knew we’d got them.

“I don’t think I ever enjoyed a partnership more, and it took us a long way towards winning the game by seven wickets. David’s hundred was a very fine effort and demonstrated his powers of concentration and determination.”

Sheppard, often known by team-mates as “Rev”, was a gifted opening batsman, who averaged 37.8 in his 22 Tests before retiring to pursue his ecclesiastical career. If he had a weakness, it was in the field. He dropped catches at slip in Australia and, according to Dexter, was removed to the outfield. “He was out on the boundary when this steepler went up and stayed in the air long enough for everyone to see who was under it. With the crowd jeering, he took the catch and gleefully threw it miles in the air only to find out that it was a no-ball”.

Fred Trueman, who was credited with the comment that “it was a pity the reverend only put his hands together on a Sunday”, admits to the comment, but added: “It was all said in good part and he took it the same way.

“He was a very nice, charming man who loved cricket and enjoyed a yarn as much as the next man. He never tried to push religion down anyone’s throat and I admired him tremendously. On that tour of 1962-63 he would preach the sermon every Sunday whichever town or city we were in.

“He was so popular that huge crowds attended to hear him, so many in fact that I said, ‘by the time we get to New Zealand they will be all ticket affairs’. He was magnificent as a friend and an opponent with a wonderful and genuinely generous spirit”.

Brian Close described him as a genuine sort of man, and that opinion was endorsed by Sir Alec Bedser, England’s senior bowler when Sheppard made his debut in 1950. “He probably wasn’t quite ready on his first tour of Australia, but he made the most of his ability and became a very good player.”

Alan Oakman, another former team-mate with Sussex and England, recalled the Manchester Test of 1956 when Jim Laker took 19 wickets. “Everyone seems to have forgotten that David made a hundred in that match. He also did me a favour when he told the captain that he didn’t feel comfortable at bat-pad and suggested I took over – I held five catches.”

Robin Marlar, who made his debut for Sussex alongside Sheppard in 1951 and went on to captain the county, said: “He was the best of them all, and very few people gave him sufficient credit for being that rare example of a mix of talent and application.”

The flags were at half-mast at Lord’s yesterday and Tom Graveney, the president of MCC, said: “He was one hell of a player and if he had stayed in the game would have been one of the truly outstanding players.

“Even after a six-year gap he came back to make a hundred in the Gentlemen v Players game of 1962 and batted wonderfully well on the tour of Australia which followed. Not many people realise that he was a very big, broad-shouldered man and exceptionally strong. Allied to that he was a terrific competitor.”