Tributes to Mike Denness Flood In

Friday 19th April 2013

Cricket has lost another major figure with the death of Mike Denness, a legend of Kent and the only Scotsman to have captained England, after a lengthy but courageous fight against cancer. He was 72.

George Kennedy CBE, Chairman of Kent County Cricket Club leads tributes; “This is an extremely sad day for the Club. We have lost one of our great players, a very successful captain and a good friend. It is particularly sad that this has happened during his year as President – a period when the Club had two Scotsman at the helm. Our thoughts are with Mike’s family and friends at this time.”

Jamie Clifford, Kent Cricket CEO; “Mike will be much missed by the world of cricket. He was involved in every aspect of the game and his playing record speaks for itself. It was a great privilege to spend time with Mike during his year as Kent President. He was a valuable sounding board on all subjects – players and captaincy, pitch preparation and quality, cricket administration and politics. My thoughts, and those of all the Kent staff, are with Doreen and Mike’s family at this very sad time.”

Matthew Fleming, former Kent captain; "Mike Denness was one of the very first people to offer his congratulations when I had the privilege of being appointed as Kent’s captain, and he made it clear to me that he was there to help in any way he could. In subsequent years he and Colin Cowdrey were the two people I turned to the most for reassurance and advice. Mike was a natural source of sound, balanced advice.

"While I never saw him play, to me Mike represented so much that is great about Kent Cricket and its history and its place in the game. There are so many great men of cricket who have represented Kent: Colin Cowdrey, Les Ames, Derek Underwood, Brian Luckhurst, John Shepherd to name just a few, and Mike Denness stands alongside the likes of those men in terms of the true greats of Kent cricket history.

"Mike was part of the fabric of Kent Cricket, despite being a Scotsman, and as someone with Scottish blood too I would have no hesitation in saying that the game of cricket in general has lost a very significant figure."

Mike Gatting, former England captain; "I got to know Mike very well in more recent years through our work together for the Lord’s Taverners, having played against him during my younger days as a player. He was a wonderful batsman but it is as a man that I will best remember him. He was very much a Lord’s Taverners supporter and he was a gentleman. He loved cricket and he played it straight.

"Of course, in his playing career, he was very much part of a magnificent Kent side. They were very strong in his time, and especially under his captaincy when they seemed to have about half the England team of the time playing for them. That’s why, I imagine, he became a leading candidate to captain England but it is his record at Kent which will be remembered. Kent had enormous crowds in those days, who revelled in their success, and it was truly a golden era for the county."

Niall O'Brien, former Kent cricketer; "Please pass on my condolances to the Denness family. Just heard the news. He was always very supportive of me and someone whom I enjoyed speakaing to about the game."

David Fulton, former Kent captain; "I was so sad to hear the terrible news of Mike's passing. He served Kent County Cricket Club as player, captain, chairman of cricket and president, and he was a rock of support for me during my time at Kent both as a player and especially during my captaincy.

"He was a man of compassion and integrity, who was much loved by all of us who worked with him. I hope Kent fans will take some solace from the fact that Kent's most famous opening partnership of Luckhurst and Denness are united once more. My thoughts and prayers are with Doreen and the family."

Chris Cowdrey; "Losing Mike Denness has left me feeling quite numb. I grew up travelling around with my Old Man watching Kent in the late 60’s early 70’s. High up on my list of fond memories would be watching Mike batting with Brian Luckhurst.

"He was still Kent Captain when I joined the staff in 1976, but sadly I only played under him once – in a Mike Denness Benefit Match in Fochabers (somewhere in Scotland!). Still over 30 years later he chuckled with me about that tour, how I would never have made it without that trip to his homeland and how I learned to drink Scotch. Mike will go down in the history of Kent Cricket as one of our true greats. Top player, top Captain and really top bloke. "

John Stephenson, MCC Assistant Secretary and former England batsman; "Personally, I am very sad at this news as Mike was my Second XI coach when I first joined Essex in the early 1980s. I have some very good memories of those early years in the game, and he was a constant source of wise counsel. We have stayed in touch ever since, and he was a lovely man.

"As far as MCC is concerned, Mike Denness was a life member and a greatly valued member of the club. He also sat on the MCC cricket committee for a number of years and served the club well in many ways. He was a great friend of the club, but over and above that he was a great servant to English (and Scottish) cricket as a fine batsman and as an England captain. He was a playing hero of many of us who were growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s."

Alan Fordham, ECB Head of Operations; "I have worked at ECB almost since its inception, and Mike Denness has been an ever-present for me as a consistent source of help and sound knowledge. We became good friends, and Mike’s commitment to the work on pitch preparation, through ECB, was unrelenting.

He was the first chairman of the Board’s pitches advisory group, when ECB was formed, he was a member of the first group of pitch liaison officers in 2000 and fulfilled what has sadly proved to be his final appointment in that role last year.

Mike built great relationships with the county groundsmen, and he was very knowledgeable himself about pitch preparation. He was a fantastically fair and objective person with very well-balanced judgement. I am sure the ICC would say the same about Mike in his role as an international match referee. Above all else, he cared deeply about cricket."

Asif Iqbal, Former Kent Captain and Pakistan all-rouder; “When I came from Pakistan to join Kent, Mike was one of the very few cricketers who made me feel so very comfortable and very much at home. He gave me advice, talked to me endlessly about the game and helped me to adapt to the English conditions.

"I’d go so far as to say that Mike, together with Colin Cowdrey, were the two men who were most instrumental in making a batsman out of me.

"We had different batting styles, but I respected Mike hugely. I never thought he was a naturally talented player, but he did work very hard on his game and his reward for that was to captain England, which is the highest accolade any player can enjoy. That was a tribute to his dedication and hard work.

"We had a very successful team at Kent under Mike, and with him as our skipper we enjoyed some of our best ever results. The great thing about Mike as a leader was that he wasn’t overly concerned about his own performances. All he wanted was to get the best out of those around him and was always there to lend a hand.

"Even after our retirements Mike remained the same dapper, jovial man who loved to chat about the game, and that’s how I will remember him.”

John Shepherd, the Kent all-rounder, and former President,who arguably enjoyed his best years under the leadership of Mike Denness, was much saddened by his death. Shepherd, who nominated Denness to succeed him as Kent president, said: “I’m in shock if I’m honest. We knew he was unwell, but I was never ready for this news.

“He was a great bloke, which, together with his standing within the game as a captain of England, were just two of many reasons why I nominated him for president and I was so pleased he was able to see his year through despite his illness.

“When I first came over to England to qualify for Kent I lived for six months with Mike and Molly, his first wife, and he is also my son’s godfather. We go all the way back and he has always been so generous with his time when it came to helping me and my family. Quite simply, he was a lovely man.

“We all played at a time when we didn’t play the game for a lot of money, but we all had similar values in that we loved the game and tried to play it in the right manner and Mike was a bloody good player.

“He was an astute captain and was the first skipper to ever drop me from the side. We were playing Middlesex at Lord’s, my favourite ground, and I’d been struggling with an injury and Mike came up to me in the morning and said ‘I’m standing you down today’.

“But something happened to make him change his mind, so he ended up by picking me in the side and I took five wickets. Mike would probably tell you it was his way of firing me up – if it was, it worked!

“I remember talking to Wes Hall during the 1966 West Indies’ tour of England about Mike, and Wes was telling me he couldn’t understand why Mike wasn’t in the England team. He rated him highly, as did we all.”

Vanburn Holder, Former West Indies fast bowler and first-class umpire; “He was a very good player but above all a great bloke. He was sociable and always had time for a chat. He was one of the most elegant players of the day and a good man. He played in a very good Kent side, yet was still one of the batsmen who stood out.

“I always liked to think that I had skill as a bowler, but Mike always used to make me think about what I was doing. You always had to dig him out, he never gave it away easy and in many ways he would bring the best out in me most times.

“We spent a lot of time together after our playing days when we were both hosting parties of cricket supporters touring the West Indies following England around, and Mike will be sadly missed. He was a fine player, and a gentleman.”

Graham Johnson, a former team-mate of Denness and his successor as the club’s chairman of cricket said: “It is impossible to talk about Kent’s successful side of the 1970s without mentioning Mike in the same breath.

“It was a family club back then and Mike was largely responsible for that. Our children all grew up together in and around the ground, the families all socialised together and, because Mike lived so near to the St Lawrence ground, he’d often host barbeques at his house for the entire team. It was a fun time to be playing for the county.

“All of that helped to create strong bonds between us all which followed us onto the field if you like. There was an atmosphere about the place and an aura about us as a side.

“We forged friendships that tied us together as cricketers and as mates for life, and Mike played a huge part in it. It was the very essence of what enjoying sport and playing for each other is really all about.

“As our captain he couldn’t be ‘one of the boys’ all of the time and, when he needed to think about things, he would find his own space or go on the quiet side – he was just like Kipper (Colin Cowdrey) in that regard – but overall he was a good man manager and knew how to bring out the best in us.”

As for his skills as a batsman, Johnson says there was much more to Denness’s silky driving skills than met the eye.

“In those days it was pre-helmets, pre-chest guards and guys might shove a towel down their trousers as makeshift thigh pad before going out to face the likes of Thomson and Lillee, as Mike did of course,” said Johnson.

“Anyone who said they woke up relishing the thought of playing some of those quicks back then would be lying, but on his day Mike could play it with time and no little grace.

“He was a very graceful batsman and to some people that doesn’t come naturally. Mike was one of those people who would put in the hard yards at practice nets, so, that when he did go out there in the middle, it did look easy and elegant.

"I will remember him as a fun leader of the best side Kent had for quite a while, but also as an incredibly brave man. The courage Mike, Doreen and their family has shown over the past year has been quite immense.

“He took over the presidency just three or four weeks after having brain surgery to remove a tumour. Not many people in this world have the inner strength to do that and it tells you, not only a lot about Mike Denness as a man, but also how proud he was to be associated with this Club.”

Rob Key (via Twitter); "Very sad that Mike Denness has passed away. His is a legacy at Kent that so far has not and may never be surpassed. A lovely man."

Alan Knott, former Kent and England wicketkeeper; “What an example as a captain Mike was. When batting, he was quick on his feet, coming down the wicket to the spinners and an amazinglyspeedy runner between the wickets.

“As a fielder Mike was a true 'Flying Scotsman' chasing after high skyers to take brilliant running catches. He was always great entertainment for the public and his fellow players.

“In all those big one-day games in the 1970s, when the pressure was really on, Mike never panicked once. He was the real 'Mr Cool' of Kent cricket.”

ECB Chief Executive David Collier said; “Mike was a man who gave so much to our game in so many different ways as a player, captain, match referee and administrator. I had the honour of working with Mike in my first role in cricket administration at Essex and Mike was a wonderful source of advice and knowledge. He will be sorely missed by all – especially by everyone at Kent.

“All at ECB were delighted to see him receive national recognition for his service to cricket in the recent New Year’s Honours list and we send our condolences today to Doreen, immediate family and all his many friends within the First Class game.”

Mahendra Ratnaweera MBE; “Thank you for your moving tribute to Mike Denness. I as a kid way back in Feb 1973 sought his autograph here in Colombo. He was vice captain to Tony Lewis but since Lewis skipped the Sri Lanka leg of the tour it was Denness who captained.

“Later in 74-75 I remember listening to his 188 v Aust in Melbourne on radio.”

Paddy Briggs: “Anyone like me who first followed Kent in the late 1960s and 1970s will know the crucial role that Mike played in the County’s extraordinary success over those years.

“He combined a major talent with the bat with exceptional leadership skills and a gritty determination to succeed. At his best he was one of the most attractive batsmen in the world and his England career, in which he scored 1667 runs at an average of only just under 40, was highly commendable.

“He was a man of principle and I when I interviewed him at length as I was writing my biography of John Shepherd he told me some extraordinary and (in many cases) unrepeatable stories about the Kent world of the 1970s! Suffice to say he didn't always suffer fools gladly, he was not a defender of privilege and he believed in rewards going to those who earned them. He was a lovely, courteous, modest man who knew a great deal about cricket and quite a bit more about life. He will be much missed.”

George Pixley, Sports Editor BBC Radio Medway 1971-1981;“Mike Denness was the ideal person under whom to learn the tricky trade of cricket reporter and correspondent. As a very green, extremely wet behind the ears newly appointed Sports Editor at the recently launched BBC Radio Medway, my introduction to the workings beyond the boundary of County Cricket began with ‘Kipper’. However, the rigour really began when Mike became captain shortly after and I was interviewing him on a weekly basis.

“I say rigour because although he was very kind, understanding and helpful, he was not enamoured with rubbish questions. Mike expected you to be fully conversant and considered with the nuances and background, though he never undermined me when I asked something which would have been better thought through. If you touched on a troublesome question, he would give you that sidelong look he had, then respond elegantly, sometimes with humour, while managing to tip-toe around any controversy.

“It was because of Mike Denness I appreciated the real importance of proper preparation before switching on the tape recorder. A lesson imprinted in my soul not just with cricket, but across the spectrum of sport and news. There was no point in asking him the modern favoured question of “how do you feel?” You would get a courteous answer but not an insight. Mike was an important figure in my coming to grips with the discipline of radio journalism and that basic grounding of the early 70s stood me in good stead over a long career.

“Thank you Mike Denness and thank you also for the undimmed memory of that arrogant clip off the pads – high back lift and follow through – to the square boundary, the style of which I have yet to see surpassed.”

Anthony Budd; “As a schoolboy, Colin Cowdrey was my hero. Come 72/73 Brian Luckhurst’s flamboyance was equal to any Aussie, but Mike was the cool calm skipper of the greatest one day county ever.

“When that helicopter flew across St Lawrence in 73, and Mike held aloft the John Player League Trophy, this was the next stage of that great side. Lucky, Shep, Asif, Alan Ealham, Knotty and Derek soon to be followed by Bobby Woolmer/ Tav et al; not to mention Norman Graham, Jarvo.

“Anyway, Mike was a great man of Kent. Chris Cowdrey, Mark Benson filled his boots with aplomb and dignity captaining great if unlucky Kent sides as far as trophies go. Denness and Luckhurst, was there a better opening partnership then or now? RIP Mike, your legend is secure.”

Derek Barnard; “I first met Mike Denness in 1969, just after he had played his first test match for England. He took time out of a very busy schedule to attend The Old Rogillians Cricket Club Dinner at Gillingham Technical High School and he gave an excellent address.

“He went on to captain England on nineteen different occasions. I will never ever forget the magnificent running between the wickets of Mike and Brian Luckhurst. I last saw Mike at the Supporters Club Tunbridge Wells Festival Dinner in June last year and had the pleasure of interviewing him for about half an hour. As usual he was honest with his answers but also entertaining.

“My thoughts are with Doreen and the family. In the last few months the cricket world has lost two fine gentlemen, Mike and Christopher Martin-Jenkins.”

Paul Cousins; “Very sad to hear of the death of Mike Denness. Great servant of cricket in general and Kent in particular, and as a player and referee a man of high moral standards. Curious that he and his opening partner Brian Luckhurst both died whilst serving as Kent President.”

Gordon Brown; “This is indeed sad news. I have followed Kent for 40 years and saw him play and captain in those great Kent teams of the Seventies.”

If you would like to add your own tribute, please email it to Kent Cricket using the address;