So far in these series of chats we have met a celebrity chef, a Hollywood film star and a rock star…this month I get the chance to talk with another Four Shires’ personality. Cricketing hero Gladstone Small.
We meet in a lovely converted barn that Gladstone has moved to in north Oxfordshire. Here, over a cup of coffee he tells me about the journey that started over 51 years ago in Barbados and what has now brought him to our part of the world.
Gladstone was born in the parish of St Georges in Barbados and as he grew up he played cricket almost everyday of his life – except Christmas Day when his mother insisted he joined the family at church.
He told me that the biggest England cricket supporter he ever met was his grandfather in Barbados! He loved the history of the game and his knowledge of English cricket was second to none. In his 92 years he never once left Barbados, if any of his children or grandchildren wanted to see him, they had to go to him!
Gladstone’s father had moved to England some years earlier and worked for British Leyland in Birmingham. When Gladstone was 14 his father brought him and the rest of his family over to join him.
Gladstone told me: “The flights from the Caribbean arrive first thing in the morning and even though it was September I had never been so cold in all my life. As we drove north up the M1 (the M40 had not yet been built) it got greyer and colder…”
Home was in Acocks Green and Gladstone was soon playing cricket for his school, Moseley.
“I was playing for Moseley against Camp Hill Old boys who after the match approached me to play for them. As I did not go to that school, strictly speaking I was not allowed to play for them, but they changed their constitution which had stood for over 100 years to let me in”
Spotted by Warwickshire he was offered a contract which surprised him, “I had no idea I was going to get paid for playing, I would have played for nothing!”
He went on to spend nearly 20 years with Warwickshire and was part of the team that in 1994 won the treble, the County Championship, The Sunday League and the Benson and Hedges Cup.
But his real moment of glory came in the 1986-87 Ashes in Australia when in the fourth test in front of nearly 60,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground he took 5 wickets for 48 runs in the first innings and a further two wickets in the second. As well scoring 21 runs he also took the catch that won the match, and to cap it all was made man of the match.
When I asked him who was the best batsman he ever bowled to, without hesitation he said “Viv Richards” and the best bowler he faced, “Malcolm Marshall”.
Likewise his favourite grounds “Sydney, Lords, Edgbaston, Melbourne and of course, the Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados”
He spent nearly nine years following retirement as a director of the Professional Cricketers Association and is now an ambassador for them as well as being a consultant to ITC Sports which still sees him travelling the world following the great game.
“I was bought up in the country and I love living here in the Oxfordshire countryside,” he said.
Gladstone is a very content person and a great conversationalist but he is first and foremost a sportsman. He is as competitive as ever, especially on the golf course where he plays off a very respectable 10 handicap. He has recently become a member at Chipping Norton. If you see him, say hello, but it might not be a bad idea to sit down, he tells great stories.