Jack Russell (cricketer and artist)
|Full name||Robert Charles Russell|
15 August 1963 |
Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
|Height||5 ft 8.5 in (1.74 m)|
|Bowling style||Right arm off break|
|Test debut (cap 536)||25 August 1988 v Sri Lanka|
|Last Test||24 March 1998 v West Indies|
|ODI debut (cap 96)||22 November 1987 v Pakistan|
|Last ODI||25 October 1998 v South Africa|
|Domestic team information|
|Source: Cricinfo, 20 August 2009|
Robert Charles "Jack" Russell MBE (born 15 August 1963) is a retired English international cricketer, now known for his abilities as an artist, as a cricket wicketkeeping coach and football goalkeeping coach.
Russell was born in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. He gained the support he needed to become a first-class cricketer from his father John at Stroud Cricket Club, and at Archway School. Two days before his fourteenth birthday, he saw a catch on television: McCosker caught Knott bowled Greig, Headingley 1977. Russell himself has commented: "Low down, one handed, across first slip. Brilliant. I thought then that I would like to be able to do that. That's where it started, that was the inspiration [for becoming a wicket keeper]."
The other inspiration cited was the death of his brother, David, of a brain haemorrhage; Russell quickly rededicated himself. Archway School's sports master Ricky Rutter guided Russell towards Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, and as a result Russell stayed at Archway for one year of Sixth Form college. He then headed to Bristol Technical College to study accountancy, leaving before completion to join Gloucestershire full-time in 1981.
County and Test career
It wasn't until his late teens that it was pointed out that he would turn into an international wicket keeper as he was a budding fast bowler that was building up a good reputation at junior level. He was clocked at 75mph at the young age of 14, however the only issue was that the majority of his bowling was waist high. He then moved onto unorthodox off breaks, which were deemed illegal right from the start and so he started to keep wicket for his school.
Jack Russell was involved in a number of controversial Test selections. He was frequently being passed over in favour of Alec Stewart on account of the latter's superior batting ability. Russell however was a great wicket-keeper and could also be an unorthodox but resolute lower-order batsman. In 1990, he was one of Wisden's five Cricketers' of the Year, Wisden stating:
At the beginning of 1989, Jack Russell had played only one Test for England and was not considered a good enough batsman to merit a place in the one-day squad to face the Australians. By the end of the year he was the only Englishman who could justifiably expect a place in anyone's World XI.
It was his batting that got the fans on their feet – not the high scores, but the determination to stay and grit it out against the Australians. So, with mentor Alan Knott, Russell turned up early for the second Test at Lord's and for twenty minutes had the MCC ground staff boys throw plastic balls at him – without Russell batting a stroke, just ducking and diving to miss the short deliveries. That day, he also adopted some suitably pungent language in response to the Aussies' sledging, and after he had scored 64 not out, the Aussies never tried it on him again. In the third Test at Edgbaston, he scored 42, the second highest score of the first innings. But his greatest achievement was to come in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, where in the summer of the South African cricket rebels and near-certain defeat, for six hours he held up Aussie celebrations by scoring his maiden Test century and highest ever score in cricket, 128 not out, to almost save the Test for England. Russell had achieved something only one other Englishman had in the twentieth century, Billy Griffith against West Indies in 1947–48 – but it was largely forgotten in the furore of the South African debacle, and the loss of the series. Russell finished the Ashes series as England's third most successful batsman with 314 runs and an average of 39.25.
The summer of 1989 gave Russell a run in the England side, but his batting never reached such scoring heights again, and the game was moving forward in a new era: a six-hour stand for 29 was not what was required. For reasons of balance and depth in batting, Alec Stewart often got the gloves ahead of Russell due to his superior batting and increasingly reliable keeping. Russell was sometimes called up when England needed a good man behind the stumps, but slowly he faded away until 1998, when he decided to retire after being left out of that year's Ashes tour squad.
Russell turned himself into part of the hub of Gloucestershire's one-day success, and together with captain Mark Alleyne won a couple of ODI caps. In 2002 he set a world record when conceding no byes in Northamptonshire's mammoth 746–9 declared. After an inconsistent season due to persistent back problems, he retired from county cricket in 2004, just short of the age of 41.
Russell was never seen as much of a team player, a perception reinforced by his being a loner off the field, his painting, and his protective attitude to his family life. None of his Gloucestershire team mates were ever invited to his home, and he claimed if they ever asked he would be more than willing if they agreed to be blindfolded; the builders who constructed the extension to it were subjected to the same treatment.
His fitness regime included running every day, and while driving between games Russell would be clad in a sleeping bag with the bottom cut out, so as not to get a chill in his back and legs. He also had a block fitted beneath the accelerator, so as to avoid over-stretching the Achilles tendon.
As can happen to many cricketers, if their era coincides with others who are as good, they are susceptible to whatever selection policies prevail. Jack Russell vied for many years with Alec Stewart for one place. Stewart, a superb player of quick bowling, often struggled against spin. This debate of whether Stewart (inferior to Russell with the gloves but a far superior batsman – especially against quicks) versus Russells's better glove work but lack of results against quick bowling raged from around 1990–1997. When England finally realised that Stewart's best position was opening and not keeping in 1998, Russell was 35. On that tour of the West Indies in 1998 Stewart opened the batting with some success but Russell endured a poor (for him) match in Guyana crucially dropping Dinanath Ramnarine. With Stewart being made captain immediately after this tour – the writing was on the wall for Russell as Stewart batted at 3, kept wicket and captained the side from 1998–1999. The selectors signalled the end of Russell's international career in 1998–1999 when they selected Warren Hegg as Stewart's deputy.
Some of his more notable oddities included a diet to supplement his extreme fitness regime, which consisted largely of tea, biscuits and baked beans. Like his mentor Alan Knott, a heavy tea drinker, Russell would often get through 20 cups a day. He used to dip the tea bag in once, add plenty of milk, then hang it on a nail ready for subsequent use. In the final Test of the 1989 Ashes series (against Australia) at the Oval, Derek Randall counted that he used the same bag for all five days, which roughly equates to 100 cups. For lunch, Russell would eat two Weetabix, soaked for exactly eight minutes in milk, and a mashed banana. For dinner, steak and chips or chicken without skin was a favourite meal – Russell once spent every night of a Test at a Chinese restaurant in Perth, ordering cashew chicken: without the cashews.
He also insisted on always wearing the same battered old flowerpot sunhat during his time out in the field, a constant companion from his debut in 1981 to his last game in 2004. Russell lined up the ball with the specially cut back rim, but it ended up rather worn out. Only his wife Aileen was allowed to repair it, while Russell carried an emergency repair kit of cotton thread and rubber. Its state of age and hence apparent disrepair caused more than one argument with the authorities. Russell refused to wear the official coloured one day sun hat in South Africa, with a compromise was only reached when Russell agreed to wear his old flowerpot hat inside the new sun hat. On a second occasion in the West Indies, he agreed to wash it, and placed it to dry in an oven. Forgotten and resultantly over baked, the hat caught fire and was only just rescued from total incineration – the top collapsed like puff pastry on removal. The fire damage could still be seen on the hat years later.
Another eccentricity was his trademark black wicket keeping gloves. These were falling to pieces, but when he was advised to get new ones, he simply claimed that the old ones gave him a better feel for the ball. Allegedly the gloves were originally owned by Russell and then given away to a fan. When his previous gloves finally fell to bits. Russell managed to track down where the other gloves were. The fan had left them in a garage, and was only too pleased to donate them back to the eccentric wicket-keeper.
When Russell was on tour in India, sharing a room with Craig White, he would wash his underwear, white y-fronts, and leave them to dry on the bed-side lamp, where they would fester and steam all night.
Although not studying art at school, he had an interest in art, expressed at an early age through diorama railway modelling. During a rainy early season county cricket game at Worcestershire, while sitting waiting for the rain to stop, he walked into town and bought a sketch-pad and some pencils.
|“||If Rembrandt can do it, then why can't I...?'. That first day I strolled along the Severn at the back of the ground, but I was so shy that whenever someone came along, I'd hide the sketch-pad.||”|
When England toured Pakistan in 1987, Russell had two days cricket in a six-week tour, so kept his mind sane through sketching and photography. On return to the UK he displayed 40 sketches in a gallery in Bristol, which sold out in two days.
Russell now has his own gallery in Chipping Sodbury, and exhibits in London, displaying a portfolio of sights and scenes of his home area in Gloucestershire, architecture, classic military battlefields and wildlife. Russell also undertakes commissions, and has painted comedian Eric Sykes (a fellow wicket keeper), Sir Norman Wisdom, Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Clapton, Henry Allingham and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He states that his style shows influences of impressionism and pointillism.
After retirement from cricket
From his retirement, Russell has been a full-time artist. In 2009, to celebrate the first high-definition television transmission of the Ashes series, Russell was commissioned by BSkyB to hand-paint five Sky+ HD digiboxes.
In 2007, Russell was appointed goal-keeping coach for football team Forest Green Rovers who play in the Conference National. After his mentorship from Alan Knott throughout his own career, Russell later provided one-to-one coaching for wicketkeeper Geraint Jones. He also provided coaching and mentorship at Gloucestershire in 2008.
- Russell, Jack & Hayter, Peter – Jack Russell – Unleashed Pub. HarperCollinsWillow, 20 May 1997. ISBN 0-00-218768-X
- New Horizons – The Art of Jack Russell
- Bateman, Colin (1993). If The Cap Fits. Tony Williams Publications. p. 143. ISBN 1-869833-21-X.
- Jack Russell (2008). The Jack Russell Gallery. Retrieved on 21 June 2008.
- Russell, Jack & Hayter, Peter – Jack Russell – Unleashed Pub. HarperCollinsWillow, 20 May 1997. ISBN 0-00-218768-X
- Cricinfo.com.Jack Russell: Praise for 'one of the greatest' (28 October 1998). Retrieved on 29 April 2009.
- Cricinfo.com.Wisden-1990-Jack Russell. Retrieved on 29 April 2009.
- Rupert Wilson. Prior Warning: How Long Can England's Selectors Continue to Ignore Poor Keeping?. Bleacher Report. Retrieved on 29 April 2009.
- Jon Culley.CRICKET: Russell bows out of the Test arena. The Independent. Retrieved on 29 April 2009.
- Cricinfo.com.Jack Russell forced to retire. Retrieved on 29 April 2009.
- Cricket Archive
- Mike Atherton (27 June 2004). "Relief as Jack hangs up his hat". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- BBC Sport (2004). Master of his art. Retrieved on 21 June 2008.
- Angus Fraser (23 June 2004). "Russell, the great eccentric, draws stumps". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- "The Sun Online – The Best for News, Sport and Showbiz – The Sun". The Sun (London).
- Robert Philip (19 December 2007). "Jack Russell's new life is a picture of fulfilment". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- Jack Russell Website
- "Gloucestershire legend Jack tackles Sky TV commission". Wilts Glos Standard. 24 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- Oliver, Pete (2007). Rovers draw on Russell expertise. BBC Sport. Retrieved on 21 June 2008.
- Hopps, David (2008). Gloucestershire turn to Jack Russell as they await return of top dog Bracewell. Guardian Sport. Retrieved on 21 June 2008.
- Kidd, Patrick (2008). Eccentricity on Gloucestershire's menu as Jack Russell returns. The Times. Retrieved on 21 June 2008
- The Jack Russell Gallery contains notes on his domestic and Test cricket records
- Wisden Almanack – Cricketer of the Year 1990
- Player profile: Jack Russell (cricketer and artist) from ESPNcricinfo
- Statistical summary from CricketArchive