Jack Bannister, who has died aged 85, was a true Man of Cricket – player, writer, radio and TV broadcaster and also mainstay of the Professional Cricketers’ Association.
As a player, Bannister was a wholehearted fast-medium bowler for Warwickshire from 1950 to 1969. In an era of outstanding English pace bowlers, he was never close to international honours.
At county level, however, he took an impressive total of 1198 first-class wickets at an average of only 21.91. He still holds the Warwickshire record for the best analysis in first-class cricket, with figures of 10-41 against Combined Services in 1959, though his 9-35 against Yorkshire in 1955 was almost certainly a more worthy performance.
Less well-known than his bowling statistics is the fact that, because of back problems, he was forced to re-model his action in mid-career. That he came back so successfully is a tribute to his commitment and determination.
Jack Bannister was for many years cricket correspondent for the Birmingham Post. He also wrote an admired history of Warwickshire County Cricket Club.
Alongside his writing, he set up and ran a successful bookmaking chain, eventually passing the business on to his daughter. As a betting man himself, he for many years exchanged horse racing tips with his great friend Richie Benaud.
As for betting on other sports, he was known to repeat the advice of William Hill who told Bannister as a youngster ‘Never bet on anything that talks.’
As a broadcaster and commentator, Bannister operated successfully in both radio and television with the BBC and then worked for talkSPORT. He established a reputation as a knowledgeable and well-informed observer of the game, sometimes outspoken but always fair.
Present-day cricketers are massively indebted to Jack Bannister. He was involved in the inaugural meeting of the Professional Cricketer’ Association (PCA) and was later secretary, chairman and president.
Proper contracts of employment with decent terms, minimum wage levels, pension schemes – all of these came into being on his watch.
There have been many tributes to Jack Bannister from across the world of cricket. David Lloyd, Mike Atherton, Darren Gough, Shane Warne, Henry Blofeld and new Warwickshire captain Ian Bell have all expressed their sadness.
Jason Ratcliffe, a fellow ex-Warwickshire man, spoke on behalf of the PCA of Jack’s contributions to the welfare of players.
His old county, where he had been made a life member, issued a statement: “Everyone at Warwickshire County Cricket Club is deeply saddened to hear of this morning’s news. Thoughts are with Jack’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
Many tributes mentioned Jack Bannister’s wry sense of humour. So it is possible to imagine that he would have indulged in a quiet chuckle had he known that one national newspaper would mark his passing with a fulsome tribute, accompanied by a photograph of athlete Sir Roger Bannister!
Whilst Jack may never have run a four-minute mile, he undoubtedly lived a full and rich life in and around the world of cricket.