Selvey’s innings comes to poignant end at Lord’s

STEVEN DOWNES pays tribute to the work of The Guardian‘s cricket correspondent, who filed his last match report for the paper yesterday

I have long been an admirer of the work of Mike Selvey. Probably since the day he won his first Test cap, and we boys at his old school were given the day off to watch the carnage at Old Trafford on the telly.

Mike Selvey: last knock for The Guardian
Mike Selvey: last knock for The Guardian

Selvey, the former Surrey, Middlesex, Glamorgan and England player and for 31 years the cricket correspondent of The Guardian, stepped down from that latest role yesterday, shortly after filing his live copy and match report from Lord’s where the club with which he was associated for longest had just won the County Championships in a thrilling, if slightly contrived, end to the season.

Selvey goes more than a tad reluctantly. It seems that the newspaper of Cardus, Arlott and Engel (Matthew, not that other one) has persuaded the 68-year-old to retire as part of another round of cost-cutting.

Guardian no longer want 50 years intimate knowledge of cricket, cricketers and how game is played for future coverage,” Selvey announced via his Twitter account in July, adding the hash tag #abitshitreally, which is not something Cardus, Arlott or Engel felt they ever had to do.

Yesterday, The Guardian had reporters at three grounds around the country to cover the unusually climactic final day of the season, though this does not reflect the space usually given to the county game by the paper – and many national titles – when the role of the cricket correspondent has evolved into the job of the England cricket correspondent.

Selvey has had to deal with professional rejection before. In 2008, he was dropped from the panel of summarisers by Test Match Special, when the BBC said it wanted “more recent Test cricketers”. People like… well, Geoff Boycott.

Yesterday, Selvey presaged the day’s work with this message to his followers on social media: “After 31 years today is last working for Guardian. Loved every minute and saddened they chose to end it like this. But we move on.”

When asked what he plans to do, “Short answer is I have no idea. Some words somewhere , sometime, I hope.”

Maybe there was a message for Selvey on the journey after the game. “I have just been offered someone’s seat on the Tube. It really is the end,” he tweeted.

And that carnage at Old Trafford 40 years ago?

In just 20 balls on his day of days, Selvey took the prized wickets of Roy Fredericks, Viv Richards and Alvin Kallicharran for six runs. He was as close to unplayable as a fast medium bowler in helpful English conditions can be. He ended the innings with 4 for 41, match stats of 6-152. He played just two more Tests but he never took another wicket. Selvey was a four-time County Championship-winner, though, and was much admired by his long-time captain at Middlesex, Mike Brearley, which counts for a great deal.

Those 20 deliveries in 1976 were enough to convince me that, somehow, I wanted to spend as much time as I could observing sport for a living. So I, for one, want to thank Mike Selvey for that day, and for his labours over the past 31 years, too.

  • Steven Downes is the Secretary of the SJA


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