Jack Bannister: Former BBC cricket commentator dies

Jack Bannister
Jack Bannister took 1,198 wickets in a career spent entirely with Warwickshire

Former BBC TV cricket commentator and Warwickshire seam bowler Jack Bannister has died at the age of 85.

He took 1,198 first-class wickets during a 368-match county career from 1950 to 1968 before joining the BBC.

Initially a summariser, he became a commentator in 1988 and remained with the corporation until 1999.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said he was "very sad to hear of the death of a great cricketing servant and good friend".

Bannister became a bookmaker following his retirement as a player, a business taken over by his daughter when his media career took off.

As well as being cricket correspondent of the Birmingham Post for over 20 years, covering mostly Warwickshire, as well as Worcestershire and England matches, he commentated for BBC radio and television.

Jack Bannister
Jack Bannister in action in the nets during the 1959 season

He was also instrumental in the formation of the Professional Cricketers' Association, having attended the inaugural meeting.

Wolverhampton-born Bannister went on to serve the PCA as secretary, chairman and president for 20 years. He was also instrumental in setting up a pension scheme for county players.

"There is no denying that every cricketer owes Jack a huge debt of gratitude because he was one of the pioneers responsible for laying the foundations for the organisation we have now," said PCA assistant chief executive Jason Ratcliffe.

"Jack was always a players' man. He worked tirelessly to improve pay and conditions for players during his long association with the PCA. He was a fantastic cricketer with an outstanding record for Warwickshire. After he retired from playing, Jack became an influential figure in the broadcasting box from where he continued to promote the game he loved."

'There was no gossip that Jack didn't know'

Bannister made his first-team debut against Glamorgan at Swansea in August 1950 and was part of the County Championship-winning squad of 1951.

"Jack did so many things," Agnew added on BBC Test Match Special.

"A very good cricketer for a start - quite an aggressive medium-pace seam bowler.

Jack Bannister is congratulated by Warwickshire captain MJK Smith after taking 10-41 against the Combined Services at the M and B ground in 1959
Jack Bannister is congratulated by Warwickshire captain MJK Smith after taking 10-41 against the Combined Services at the M and B ground in 1959

"He was part of the BBC team for many years and helped formed the PCA where he was a very hard-working secretary for many years.

"He had a dry sense of humour and he liked a flutter on the horses. It's a sad day and we send out commiserations to his family."

Agnew's fellow TMS commentator Henry Blofeld added: "The great thing about Jack was he was uncomplicated. You knew exactly what you were going to get. When he was in the press box there was a wry humour. There was no cricket gossip that Jack didn't know.

"He was a great friend of John Woodcock, the great cricket writer, and when they got talking you could almost hear the electrical currents going."

Cricket stars pay tribute

Ian Bell on Twitter
Warwickshire captain Ian Bell
Shane Warne on Twitter
Australia bowling legend Shane Warne
Darren Gough
Former England fast bowler Darren Gough

Analysis

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

"Jack Bannister's influence on cricket reached every level of the game. He was an aggressive seam bowler who took nearly 1,200 wickets for Warwickshire, an incisive journalist and commentator, and perhaps most significantly, the co-founder of the Professional Cricketers' Association.

"He was always balanced and always fair to the cricketers he represented, which in the case of South Africa can't have been straightforward as the country became his second home.

"It was here that he once ate the newspaper after he wrongly predicted that South Africa would not lose a Test series to England.

"Bannister's career with Warwickshire spanned 20 years. He once took 10-41 against the Combined Services, which remains the best figures by a bowler for the club."

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