Ian Terence Botham, also known fondly as Beefy and Guy the Gorilla (probably due to his large build), is one of Britain’s most famous cricket players. Botham is best known for holding a number of impressive records, such as having taken the highest number of wickets out of all England bowlers. Not only was Botham a fantastic bowler but he was in fact genuinely considered to be an all-rounder, great at both batting and bowling, having achieved 14 centuries as well as his 383 wickets. Botham was a former England Test Cricketer and also a team captain.
He has been a famous sports personality, in particular because of the number of newspaper headlines he dominated during his peak - indeed, fans will remember that he was as interesting and vibrant (though sometimes controversial!) off the pitch as he was on it. Even now at 52 years of age, he does not wish to be separated from his passion of cricket and is currently working as a cricket commentator.
Botham’s cricketing career
When Botham was a young boy, cricket soon became his passion. He was still at Junior school when he started played enthusiastically for the Somerset Under-15s team. His cricketing interests made him lose interest in his work, wanting to concentrate solely on his cricket, and so he left school at an early stage. He recalls that his careers master once said to him: "Fine, everyone wants to play sport, but what are you really going to do?" but Botham was determined to succeed in sport and worked hard till he became renowned for his skills.
Botham began his career by playing first-class cricket at home for Somerset County Cricket Club in 1974. He later went on to play for Durham and Worcestershire as well, after he resigned from the Somerset team. He also went to Australia in 1986 for a year to play for Queensland, but was sacked there due to being arrested for the assault of another passenger on a flight. During his time playing first-class, he scored 19,399 runs at 33.97, took 1,172 wickets at 27.22 and held 354 catches.
Botham gave his first shot at Test-cricket, the longest form of cricket, in 1977 in the Third Test against Australia. His success meant that he had secured his career for the next fifteen years as a Test cricketer, playing in over a hundred matches, and also became one of England’s most famous Test players. It was during this time that he achieved 5,200 career runs at an average of 33.54, taking 383 wickets at an average of 28.40 and holding 120 catches. Amongst his various successes during that period was also becoming England's captain for 12 Tests in 1980 and 1981. Unfortunately, he did not prove to be a good captain and very few people remember anything he achieved while he had the position, making no wins and frequent losses. However, some speculate that this was not Botham’s fault but simply the fact that his team was up against the West Indies which were a spectacularly good team.
Botham’s technique was never extraordinary as he preferred to perfect classic strategies for playing cricket. For example, he was a big-hitting batsman and also a swing bowler which is a popular subtype of fast bowling.
1981 Ashes Tour
Above all Ian Botham is most remembered for his role in what is known as the the most famous few weeks in English cricket history, the 1981 Ashes, where England had an incredible victory due to him. This can be seen as the peak of Botham’s career. Spectators were astonished at his three performances, two of which consisted of him batting and one where he bowled. Botham always insisted that he won matches because of inspiration, not preparation and that that was ultimately what saw him through the Ashes. During the Ashes, Botham managed to score 2 centuries. He set an incredible record of six sixes in a single Ashes Test Match at Old Trafford, a record which remained unbroken till Andrew Flintoff’s successes in 2005. Also, on the 4th day of the Headingly test, whilst England was predicted to lose by the Bookies at an odds of 500-1, Botham single-handedly made the come back with his 149 not-out. According to Wisden, this was the 4th finest of all time. Because of his success during the Ashes, Botham had become England's hero once more despite having had a failed position as captain and a very high-profile resignation. His famous play resulted in the 1981 Ashes becoming known as Botham’s Ashes.
After the Ashes, Botham continued to play strongly on an international scale but many noted that his abilities deteriorated over time, partly due to his growing weight which meant that his outswing was becoming less effective.
Here are some of the records Botham achieved during his cricket career:
- Fastest in Test cricket to achieve the doubles of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, 2,000 runs and 200 wickets, and 3,000 runs and 300 wickets.
- Holds the highest number of test wickets ever taken by an Englishman (383)
- On 5 occasions, Botham scored a century and took 5 wickets in an innings in the same Test match, a record others have managed to do only twice.
- The first player to score a century and take ten wickets in a Test match
Other Interesting Facts
1. Botham has been in a number of controversial situations. For example, in 1986 he was suspended for smoking cannabis, and fell out with a number of players including Imran Khan who accused him of racism and cheating during a game. He also had at least one affair outside his marriage resulting in a public apology to his wife.
2. Botham was always very talented at football as well as cricket but had to make the decision early on in his life as to which he’d continue.
3. Botham has done a lot of work for charity, such as raising much money for Leukaemia research (an estimated £10 million!) Because of such efforts, together with his spectacular cricketing achievements he was even knighted by the Queen in 2007 at Buckingham Palace.
Other honours include being:
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award (2004)
- Appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for cricket and charity work (1992)
- Awarded Pipe Smoker of the Year (1988)
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year (1981)
- Wisden cricketer of the year (1978)
He has now released many publications such as Botham, his official autobiography which was published in 2000. He has also written a similar one entitled Head On - Ian Botham: The Autobiography late last year, as well as his My Life Illustrated at the start of last year.