Mike played for the club from the mid 1980s until 2016. He died after a short illness on 29 September 2017. This is the tribute given by Tim Halstead at the celebration of Mike’s life held at Heart in Headingley on Tuesday 11 October 2017.
Mike the Cricketer
I met Mike in the early 1980s when we both played for the Cambridge Methodist Cricket Club. In case you’re wondering, the club had nothing to do with Cambridge, and very little to do with Methodism for that matter. We played on the fields up Stonegate Road in Meanwood.
When I joined the club I didn’t expect to start a 30+ year friendship with a left-leaning polytechnic economics lecturer – a bearded one at that. My sheltered upbringing hadn’t brought me into contact with anyone like that before. But I didn’t realise at the time that there wasn’t really anyone else like Mike, anywhere.
I was the wicketkeeper. Mike was usually at first slip – and that may surprise those who would have expected such a natural athlete to patrol the outfield at cover point. For over thirty years, most of our conversations were conducted over my right shoulder (and in his case, rather unfortunately, towards my rear).
In cricketing terms, Mike was an all-rounder – an elegant and effective batsman, with a highest score of 85, against Ledsham (a little while ago).
He was also a slow bowler. He might have said that he was a spin bowler. In his dreams at least he would turn the ball prodigiously. All I can say is that, as a wicketkeeper, you get a very good view of the ball and can see it turn – or not. After more than 30 years of close observation, I’ll stick with the description of “slow bowler”.
After a few years he and I went on to join the Romany Cricket Club, for whom Mike played his final game in the summer of last year, in the beautiful setting of Singleton, on the South Downs, on our biennial tour of West Sussex. We made a bit of a fuss of him that day and presented him with a photo of the occasion at our AGM last year. I have to say that, enthusiastic though we both were, neither of us would have laid claim to being great cricketers. It was fitting therefore that I managed to miss a stumping off the very last ball he bowled – which was a wide.
Mike never lost his enthusiasm for cricket, which seemed to me like that of a giddy 12-year-old boy let out of school for the summer. His passion wasn’t just for the game itself. It was for everything that surrounded it – the delightful village ground of Crakehall, the historic setting of Swinton Park or the rural charm of Yapham.
But it was the camaraderie that mattered too to Mike. The Romany Cricket Club has a diverse membership – it’s probably fair to say that many of its members lean politically in a different direction to Mike. He was never judgemental – he would listen patiently and accept that there was another point of view. He was always interesting and interested.
He and I had a little road trip in the mid 1980s, watching cricket. (It’s an acquired taste.) We took in Worcester, Taunton, Maidstone and Trent Bridge. We didn’t run out of things to talk about over four or five full days and evenings – or for the next 30 years, for that matter.
I would sometimes enjoy a little game with new players – look around the dressing room and tell me which member of our team you think is a professor who was awarded the OBE for his services to economic development. It was often a little difficult to convince others that it was the one who had spent the afternoon making juvenile jokes at first slip.
I suppose that’s just one way of saying that Mike wore his erudition lightly, humbly and modestly – and always with good humour.
On a couple of occasions in the last three years, Mike and Janie also kindly hosted out-of-season parties for club members at their home in Headingley. As you might imagine, they were warm and generous hosts.
Perhaps Mike’s favourite ground was the quintessentially rustic home of Lofthouse & Middlesmoor Cricket Club, up the valley, past the reservoirs, beyond Pateley Bridge, an area that Mike knew well. It’s a small ground, on the side of the hill. It was there that we would often get the biggest crowds of the season, though they were almost all sheep.
As a friendly, nomadic cricket team, we would sometimes struggle to get a full side of eleven players. To bring our own scorer would have been an unusual luxury. More often it was left to the batting team to score for both sides.
That would lead to the request that accompanied any change of bowling, “Bowler’s name?” shouted out from beyond the boundary. It was on one afternoon at Lofthouse & Middlesmoor a few years ago that Mike came on to bowl at the top end. There came the inevitable call from the scorers, “Bowler’s name?”.
“Campbell” came the reply from the fielders.
The wind was blowing up the valley, however, so we could hear the question on the field, but the scorers couldn’t hear the reply.
The question came again – “Bowler’s name?”
The same answer, “Campbell”, but only the sheep could hear it.
“What was that – Bramble?”
It took a little clarification from one of the fielders before the scorers got it right. And in so doing they neatly summed up Mike the Cricketer, with a passing nod to Mike the man.
“No, Campbell – as in Alastair, but without the spin”.