One of the greatest all-rounders ever to play the game, Ian Botham is arguably the most inspirational figure produced by English cricket in the post-war years. ‘Beefy’, as he was popularly known, adopted the British bulldog approach to the sport and he was a genuine match-winner with both bat and ball at Test and one-day international level.
An aggressive fast-medium bowler who had the ability to swing the ball through the air, Botham was capable of scoring runs quickly against any attack. He could drive and hook the ball with tremendous power and his expertly safe pair of hands as he stood at slip completed his aura as the ultimate all-rounder.
During a 15-year Test career of 102 matches, Botham took 383 wickets at an average of 28.40, he scored 5,200 runs at an average of 33.54 and he took 120 catches. He could sometimes be rather unpredictable, but he was always a dangerous player and was generally admired and respected by his opponents. However, his all-round talents began to wane after the 1985-86 Test series against the West Indies as injuries relentlessly took their toll.
One of the undisputed world-class players in the England side of the 1980s, Botham was capable of turning a match single-handedly. His greatest individual achievements came during England's triumphant 1981 Ashes campaign against Australia when he set up two unlikely victories. In the Headingley Test, he made a match-winning 149 not out and his ferocious 118 in the second innings at Old Trafford has been described as one of the best Test innings of all time.
Botham also played 116 one-day internationals for his country, scoring 2,113 runs and taking 145 wickets. Although in the twilight of his international career by the early nineties, he was an integral member of the England side, which lost the final of the 1992 World Cup to Pakistan.
At English county level, Botham played some inspirational cricket for Somerset between 1974 and 1986. He then had spells with Worcestershire, from 1987 to 1991 and Durham, from 1992 to 1993. He retired from the first-class game in 1993 and quickly achieved widespread respect as a shrewd cricket summariser for television and as a newspaper columnist.
In addition to his work as a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, Botham has been a tireless worker for charity, including walking the 874-miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for leukaemia research. Following the 2004 Tsunami Disaster, Botham visited the devastated Galle area of Sri Lanka and played a key role in the establishment of a Laureus Sport for Good project there to aid the rebuilding of the shattered community.