The world of British Sport has spawned a lifetime of colourful characters who have each left an indelible mark on the public psyche. Sir Ian Botham made his test cricket debut for the national team when he faced Australia in a four day international in Nottingham in December 1977. Then playing for Somerset, Ian drove from the West Country to London on a Wednesday morning in preparation for the biggest moment of his career. Stepping out on an international cricket ground for the first time is a momentous occasion and one that Ian can remember vividly. Surrounded by figures who would in time become like family including Bob Willis, Alan Knot and Mike Hendrick, the young Ian was ready to make an impact on the international cricket stage.
Press play, below, to listen to the full interview
Quickly becoming a staple of the National side, Botham found himself within a hugely successful team winning an unprecedented nine of their twenty eight international test series. During the eighties English cricket enjoyed a renaissance and the team were heralded as national heroes. Figures such as Alan Lamb, David Gower and Botham himself helped the public easily identify with the sport and in turn raise its profile. Frequently referred to as ‘the golden generation,’ this group of players helped to put national cricket firmly back on the sporting map. Successful against the all conquering West Indies, this group of players had the power to beat the unbeatable and the public loved it!
Botham’s notorious relationship with the medium bowler Alan Lamb proved significant both inside and outside of the sporting arena. During rest periods in the sporting calendar the pair could be seen touring Britain with their live show retailing tales from their extensive careers. Famously nicknamed Beefy Botham, it didn’t take long for advertisers to realise the perfect combination to promote British beef. In the era of BSE and the foot and mouth outbreak, Beefy and Lamby became the perfect advocates for British farming and helped to regain the standards of British meat once again…even if it was slightly random!
A severe shoulder injury resulted in Botham’s retirement from both national and International cricket in 1993. At the age of 37, he made the decision that he didn’t want to just be a player who merely occasionally played for a club side and sank into the background. He knew that time was up on his remarkable career and instead of “clogging up” county cricket, Ian decided to do something else. That something came in the form of BSkyB; a satellite service who had just won the rights to show full coverage of international cricket. For over twenty years Ian has been commentating and presiding over all of Sky’s major cricketing events alongside fellow professionals including; David Gower, David Lloyd and Nasser Hussain and provides perfect insight to games such as The Ashes. The unofficial voice of summer!
Beyond cricket Ian has been a tireless fundraiser for a whole host of charities yet perhaps he is most synonymous with the famous walking challenges for numerous good causes. This concept came to him when he broke a bone in his foot in 1977. In order to get to the physio department, Ian was forced to cut through the children’s ward and was taken aback at how many young children were suffering from Leukaemia. Such powerful and emotional images cut deep with Ian, making him instantly feel compelled to help in any way he could. By the mid eighties, a series of charity walks had been established to raise money for this terrible illness and today Ian has raised millions of pounds for worthwhile charities over seventeen mammoth walks…quite an achievement!
Today Ian remains as in demand as ever with his commitments to Sky and constant fundraising. He recently reunited with his old sparring partner Bill Beaumont for a series of charity editions of the hugely popular A Question Of Sport. At the age of 62, Sir Ian shows no signs of slowing down and remains excited about the many challenges that lay ahead. It was fantastic to speak with Sir Ian Botham and wish him all the very best for the rest of his career.