DateLine: 13th February 2006
Despite moments of pure cricketing glory on both the county and world stage, it is an injustice that many members of the public still recall Gladstone Small for his infinitesimal neck rather than his exploits on a cricket field. He had safely retained the Ashes for England when he caught Merv Hughes off Phil Edmonds in the last act of the Fourth Test of the 1986-7 series. He had earlier started the demolition of the Australians with 5-48 in their first innings. Although not especially stocky for a paceman, his build made him seem several inches shorter than his 5’11” height. Only three of his 17 Tests ended in an English victory, although the pride he felt in wearing the three lions could be seen in some battling performances with the bat for England. He played in the final of the 1987-8 World Cup final, and his tight bowling helped England again be runners up four years later, although he didn’t play in the final in the 1992 tournament. Although injuries started to restrict his appearances in the Championship from 1994, he still took wickets for under 30 in Warwickshire’s triumphant seasons that year and in 1995, as well as playing a key role in their Natwest and Sunday League triumphs of 1994. Although he retired from First-class cricket in 1997, he played one-day cricket for Warwickshire for another two seasons. Small wasn’t a world beater in terms of pace, movement or accuracy, but he was never less than a wholehearted tryer, and after 20 seasons of service for the Bear and ragged staff he is nothing less than a legend at Edgbaston. He had largely overcome a no-balling problem which sometimes haunted his early days as a pro by the middle of his career, although in one forgettable match in 1982 he couldn’t even hit the cut strip off a two pace run up. He only moved to England just after his 14th birthday, after being born and raised in Barbados, and he is widely regarded as one of the nicest men to ever take the new ball in a Test match. If his unusual body shape is often unfairly synonymous with the name Gladstone Small, then it just goes to show that one of the many reasons for cricket being the best game in the world is because it allows atypically physically constructed players to still be successful cricketers through their hard work and skill.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)