LIGHT'S OUT: New book to reflect on Graveney's ill-treatment by Gloucestershire

Former Test cricketer Jack Russell whose painting was presented to Tom Graveney

Former Test cricketer Jack Russell whose painting was presented to Tom Graveney

First published in Sport
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Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: John Light by

MY PRESIDENTIAL hat for Gloucestershire CCC will be proudly worn in the next few days.

First there is the Gloucestershire Exiles dinner in the committee dining room at Lord’s, with Angus Fraser as guest speaker. That is followed (February 10) by the launch at Lord’s of a new book on Tom Graveney.

The county club will be represented by former captain Tony Brown, David Allen, who was capped 39 times for England, and myself.

The book, by former cricketer Andy Murtagh, covers all aspects of Tom’s life and career and a new look on Tom’s departure from Gloucestershire is promised.

This travesty happened 54 years ago. The basic facts are these. Test player Graveney was sacked as county captain and replaced by Etonian Tom Pugh.

Pugh’s father made a substantial cash donation to the county. Those two facts may not be unrelated.

All the players expected and wanted Arthur Milton to replace Tom, but to the amazement of everyone Pugh was appointed instead. There were few, if any attempts to build bridges and Tom left the club.

Gloucestershire declined to withdraw the offer of a contract and under the feudal rules at the time he had to play for a whole season in the Birmingham league before he could appear for his new county Worcestershire.

He was lost to county cricket and the England team for 12 months, a time when he was in his prime.

This understandably rankled with Tom. It was a deep wound. He had been hurt. Fans of a certain age still feel for him, none more so than Roger Cullimore, affectionately known in this column as the Gravel Grandee.

Four years ago Roger had an idea. Worcestershire would be playing at Cheltenham and Tom, still in love with Worcestershire, was sure to pop in. Roger organised the presentation to Tom of a Jack Russell painting. Fans who remembered Tom’s service to Gloucestershire were invited to contribute.

The presentation was duly made and exclusive conversations with the Graveney family revealed how much it meant to the now-elderly and frail man. The Grandee’s sensitivity and understanding of the situation showed Tom how much some of us cared. He rejoiced.

Tom, of course, had an Indian summer to his cricketing life. He was invited to become president of the MCC, the first professional cricketer to hold that prestigious office. He performed his duties with the same easy grace with which he batted. A belated knighthood would not come amiss to a true gentleman of English cricket. If those who decide these things read this column – get to it. The honours list would then have some meaning.

Soccer starvation has set in at the Light house with Forest Green Rovers and Cirencester Town becoming victims of the winter monsoon, but the Nailsworth club have been active in adding to the squad.

Even on deadline day Luke Oliver from Bradford and Morgan Fox from Charlton Athletic joined. They will strengthen a sometimes brittle defence.

Matches will now come thick and fast and it could yet be a thrilling end to the season. I refuse to mention the ‘p’ word having been wrong before. What I will say, however, is that a talented, but hesitant, naive team has been transformed into a streetwise, entertaining side, giving good value.

So does question master Phil James. His quizzes are cheerful, popular and challenging, not at all like his bowling which can best be described as flighted filth.

February 28 in the market hall at Northleach is when teams next assemble to be put through their intellectual paces by Phil. No one fails to enjoy the evening. Bring a team or just yourself. My team is no longer a threat as my children are earning their living at a distance. Yes, it was John junior playing Flambeau in Father Brown on the BBC recently.

I close with grateful thanks to the reader who rang Mrs Light and told her it was Farokh Engineer who was bowled by Frank Mansell for a duck, not me.

Mrs Light tells me he spoke about the power of my strokeplay and as a result she is now in a state of shock and disbelief. She was too amazed to ask the caller’s name. If he reads this a pint awaits him. As a reader of this column he will know where.

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