Ted Dexter, who died at the age of 86, He was a mid-speed striker, captain and tailor who led Sussex and England – although success eluded him in his later stint as chief selection.
Nicknamed “Lord Ted” from his student days at Radley in Oxfordshire, Dexter was also an outstanding golfer who could have played the sport professionally, pursuing a wide range of interests outside of cricket.
He was the only Milan-born England Test captain, the only player declared unavailable for a winter tour in order to run for Parliament, and the first selector to refer to astrology at a press conference.
But he excelled as a player, with six out of nine hundred in his Test being greater than 140, and in a statement announcing his death, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) called him “one of England’s greatest cricketers of all time”.
From Milan to Sussex, via Malaya and Cambridge
Edward Ralph Dexter, the son of an army major who won the Military Cross of the Somme in World War I, was born on May 15, 1935, and the family moved to Italy to work.
After Radley and a national service assignment in Malaya, he made his Cambridge University debut in April 1956, the first of three consecutive summers of first-class cricket for the team.
He made his debut for Sussex after the end of the summer term in 1957 – and a month after his last match for Cambridge before graduating in 1958, he was selected for the Test team to face New Zealand at Old Trafford.
Chosen for his overall skill, hitting a sixth and first bowling change behind Fred Truman and Brian Statham, Dexter reached 52 in his only innings but was dropped for the next Test and only made a winter tour to Australia as an injury substitute.
Captain of England, political candidate
Having married model Susan Longfield in May 1959, he established himself on the audition side the following winter with some big results against the West Indies pace attack led by Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith.
Returning from the Caribbean, he became the captain of the 1960 Sussex team and captained England for the first time in Pakistan and India in 1961-1962 when several top players refused to tour the Indian subcontinent.
Favoring Colin Cowdery as Tour captain a year later, Dexter had an amazing streak with the bats, scoring 481 points – still the highest tally by an England captain in Australia, but a 1-1 draw in the series meant Australians Richie Benaud kept the Ashes.
Despite a 3-0 win in New Zealand, home defeats to the West Indies and Australia meant the captain passed to MJK Smith.
Dexter had an unusual reason for not being available in the 1964-65 tour of South Africa – he was the Conservative Party candidate for Cardiff South East in the October 1964 general election.
But despite a vote of 22,288 votes, Dexter failed to remove shadow chancellor and future Labor Prime Minister James Callahan, leaving him free to join the tour as Smith’s deputy leader.
Innovative for a day
Limited cricket first arrived in England in 1963 with the Gillette Cup – an over-65 competition in its first year, before being reduced to 60.
Dexter led the Sussexes to victory in the first two seasons with some innovative leadership – notably bowling straight, into defensive fields, to keep the running rate low, and even put nine men on the frontier (years before field restrictions were imposed) near the end of the innings.
In 1965, his career seemed to be over when his car ran out of gas and broke his leg, forcing it to a garage. But not only did he return to play for the Sussexes occasionally in 1966 and 1967, he made an unexpected return to England in two Tests in 1968.
Having continued to play for the Cavaliers International since the mid-1960s, after two years away from county cricket, he played for Sussex in the New Sunday League in 1971 and 1972.
The president who created the rankings
Dexter’s eclectic range of post-game interests, in both business and journalism, included writing a crime novel, and launching a scheme to find new fast players by leaving employment forms in bars.
The most successful attempt was to devise a rating system for test players, which was launched jointly with the accounting firm Deloitte in 1987 – it was later adopted by the International Cricket Council and exists today as The official classification of the International Criminal Court.
Two years later, Dexter succeeded his old England teammate Peter May as head coach, becoming the first man to be paid for the role, but he inherited a waning England team that Australia beat 4-0, while on a “rebellious” tour. To apartheid South Africa also exhausted the options of choice.
Dexter’s tricks included writing a classy song called “Onward Gower’s Cricketers” (to the tune of “Christian Soldiers Forward”). But the omission of David Gower and Jack Russell from the 1992-1993 India Tour were highly controversial choices.
By 1993, with another heavy defeat at the Ashes likely, Dexter commented after the Lord’s Test that “Venus might be wrong with somewhere else”, and the announcement of his resignation during the fifth Test at Edgbaston was greeted with a round of applause from the crowd.
He later served at the Millennium Challenge Center as Chairman and Chair of the Cricket Committee, and became the CBE in 2001. After a period of living in France, he moved to Wolverhampton to be close to his family – and continued to pursue new interests, Join a mentoring program at age 83 to help local schoolchildren improve their reading.