A swashbuckling all-rounder, he was a rare breed – a genuine match-winner with both bat and ball, equally at home on the Test and one-day stage. He is arguably the most inspirational figure produced by English cricket in the post-war years.
He has also been a tireless worker for charity, raising money with high profile walks around the world and is a big supporter of Laureus Sport for Good.
‘Beefy’, as he is popularly known, adopted the British bulldog approach to the sport. An aggressive fast-medium bowler who had the ability to swing the ball through the air, he 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, Ian took 383 wickets at an average of 28.40, he scored 5,200 runs at a healthy average of 33.54 and he held onto 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 age and injuries relentlessly took their toll.
One of the undisputed world-class players in the England side of the 1980s, he was capable of turning a match singlehandedly. 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 when England seemed to be struggling and about to lose the series, and his ferocious 118 in the second innings at Old Trafford has been described as one of the best Test innings of all time.
Beefy also played 116 one-day internationals for his country, scoring 2,113 runs and taking 145 wickets. Although reaching the end of his international career by the early 1990s, he was an integral member of the England side which lost the final of the 1992 World Cup to Pakistan.
At English county level, he played some inspirational cricket for Somerset between 1974 and 1986. He then had spells with Worcestershire, from 1987 to 1991, and for Durham, from 1992 to 1993. He retired from the first-class game in 1993 and quickly achieved widespread respect as a shrewd cricket summariser on Sky Television.
In addition to his work as a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, he 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, he visited the devastated Galle area of Sri Lanka and played a key role in the establishment of a Laureus Sport for Good project in Seenigama to aid the rebuilding of the shattered community.
In 2013 he staged ‘Beefy’s Big Sri Lanka Walk’ across the country, following the ending of the country’s Tamil civil war. He walked 160 miles in eight days from a new Laureus-supported project in Mankulum in the north of the island to Seenigama in the south. He described it as his most challenging walk ever.
Funds raised went to help the two projects, both operated by the Sri Lankan Foundation of Goodness with the support of Laureus. The Mankulum project helps children from the two communities to play sport together and to learn to live in harmony.