English cricket has been full of colourful characters over the years. The likes of Ian Botham, Phil Tufnell and Chris Lewis are all well known for their off-field antics. However, they mostly pale into insignificance compared to some of the antics of a mid-90s Wisden Cricketer of the Year. A maverick on the pitch and far more than a maverick off it, it could only be…
It’s not been that long since we looked at the Unlikely Lad status of Mark Ealham, where we described him as years ahead of his time, a T20 player long before the fiddly business of actually inventing the game had taken place. Dermot Reeve very definitely belongs in the same bucket. A truly inventive batsman, with the ability to conjure up shots that didn’t exist back then and probably don’t now, Reeve was also an unusual medium pace bowler with a wide mixture of slower deliveries. Add in a superb cricketing mind and you had the perfect recipe for a captain.
And captaining was where Reeve excelled, leading Warwickshire during their golden period of the mid 90’s when some chap called Lara scored runs by the bucketload and, er, Tim Munton took loads of wickets. Trophies were hoovered up at a frightening rate (note – this is what they call ‘foreshadowing’) and all was well. And yet at international level, it never worked out in quite the same way.
Reeve wasn’t the only bits and pieces allrounder to be given a brief opportunity in the England Test side of the 90’s before being discarded, making three appearances during 1992’s tour of New Zealand. He didn’t disgrace himself, making a half century on debut (as England racked up 580) before picking up a wicket in ten economical overs as the tourists won by an innings. England won the second game comfortably, with Reeve making 22 and 25, before a drawn third game that is best remembered for being Botham’s hundredth Test and for David’s Lawrence’s horrific knee injury. Neither Reeve nor Lawrence would play Test cricket again.
Reeve established himself in the one day side during the series that followed (which England won 3-0) and kept his position for the World Cup in Australia, taking three wickets as England beat India in their opening match. It was a fine tournament, one that Matt has already looked back on with some fondness, and one that England reached the final of. The semi-final win over South Africa is famous for the 22 runs from one ball farce, but it also included Reeve taking 17 from five balls off Alan Donald, at that point perhaps the most fearsome bowler in world cricket, having run from his seat on the boundary fence to the middle.
Reeve was an on/off part of England’s ODI side all the way through to the distinctly less successful 1996 World Cup but never really displayed the talent that was so prevalent in the County game, finishing with a top score of just 35 and 20 wickets at 41.00. And yet the Dermot Reeve story doesn’t finish there. Indeed, it’s barely started.
Following his retirement in 1996 Reeve began to work for Channel 4, who acquired the rights to broadcast England’s home Test series from 1999 onwards. It might be the gin talking, but for us this was a golden period of cricket on TV. After years of stuffy coverage from the BBC, in which a bunch of coffin dodgers presided over the same old shit, Channel 4 were a breath of fresh air. The likes of The Analyst and the experiments with different cameras and angles clearly led towards the modern Hawkeye and Hot Spot view of the game, bringing cricket coverage kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Reeve, along with the effervescent Mark Nicholas, was part of one of the great commentary teams, helped by the massive improvements in the home side’s performances over that period, culminating in the 2005 Ashes.
While those Ashes were a massive success for Channel 4, the same can’t be said for Reeve, who confessed to hoovering cocaine up his nose at a frightening rate (see – we told you about the foreshadowing). This included a time when he commentated on England while heavily under the influence. Luckily for him, he was paired with Mark Nicholas, and was thus still considered to be the calm, sensible one.
Reeve left Channel 4 and fled down under to move into a whole new business, selling signed Bradman merchandise of dubious origin on eBay. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t win him many friends, even when his sales came with a certificate of authenticity, produced by Reeve himself, under his new guise as an expert on
the Don’s signature.
This was followed up by a spell coaching in New Zealand, during which he accused Ravi Bopara of ball tampering, before Reeve landed every cricket coach’s dream job, working with the Pune Warriors in the IPL. They were almost certainly still crap back then though. We’d look it up but we can’t even bring ourselves to look at this season’s competition, let alone an old one.
We’d pretty much forgotten about Dermot Reeve until he popped up to do some (presumably drug free) commentary during this year’s IPL, during one of the games that Editor Steve forced us to watch. This moment of serendipity brought back memories of the Steve Smith of his day throwing his bat away from the crease (greatly reducing his chances of being caught, greatly increasing silly point’s insurance premium), smashing Andy Caddick around Taunton in a one day game while concussed and generally mavericking it up. Sadly though, we may be somewhat alone in remembering Dermot Reeve the cricketer.