In the lead up to Christmas exactly 70 years ago, Brian Close was, in his own words, ‘living the life of Riley’ while at the same time looking back over the most momentous 12 months of his life so far.
At the beginning of 1949, it appeared as if soccer rather than cricket would become the main sport of the future Yorkshire and England captain because he had already signed professional terms with Leeds United and was playing for the Reserves.
But then, almost out of the blue, came his Yorkshire debut soon after the start of the new season, and when the summer was over he had completed the first-class double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets and made his Test debut against New Zealand at Old Trafford to become and remain England’s youngest player at 18 years and 149 days.
He was able to enjoy a full season of cricket only because Bradford Central MP, Maurice Webb, had helped to get his National Service call-up deferred until October when he became Signalman Close DB, 20 Troop, 4 Squadron, Catterick Camp.
The whole of this life-changing year is outlined in great detail by Close in letters to his best friend and former schoolmate at Aireborough Grammar School, John Anderson, who lived at Horsforth.
And it is in one of these letters to John from Catterick Camp in mid-December that Brian reveals how good he feels about life. Although carrying a sports injury, the Army has given him permission to train with Leeds United and have treatment back home.
“I’m having a smashing time at home,” he writes. “Up early in the morning at 8.45, wander down to Leeds for 10.30 for treatment, dinner every day in Leeds, back to the ground in the afternoon and home for tea. It reminds me of the Army!”
Brian’s fascinating letters to John span the time from his early days with the Yorkshire Cricket Federation right through to his detailed accounts of his part on MCC’s controversial tour of Pakistan in 1955-56 when umpire Idris Bergh was doused in cold water by some of the England players, so sparking an international incident which almost brought a premature end to the tour.
The whole of Brian’s letters from home and abroad form part of cricket writer David Warner’s book ‘Just A Few Lines…the unseen letters and memorabilia of Brian Close’ which is due to be published next April by Great Northern Books at £20.
Copies can be ordered by clicking here or calling 01274 735056.
Order before February 1, 2020, to receive a signed copy with the name of your choice printed in the list of subscribers at the back of the book.
Postage and packing is free in the UK, and £1 per book from all pre-publication orders will go to The Yorkshire Cricket Foundation.