Who is the best captain that Warwickshire have ever had? There are great names in the frame - and others who didn't even make the esteemed short-list of six. Brian Halford considers the candidates.
Frank Foster 1911-1914
Frank Foster (pictured above) is arguably the Bears’ greatest ever player. His claim to be their greatest captain rests on one sensational season.
As befits a true maverick, FRF, a brilliant all-rounder, announced his retirement at the age of 22. A few months later, having been thrashed in the first match of 1911, the Bears begged him to return – and also take over the captaincy.
He agreed, led the team to victory in the next game, at Old Trafford, and the path to the most remarkable championship triumph ever recorded by any county was underway.
Foster took over an ageing, faction-riven side which had drifted along for years and turned them into champions. He got everyone (amateurs and professionals) pulling together, motivated them, filled them with confidence and provided personal inspiration with 1,383 runs and 116 wickets of his own.
To wield that ramshackle bunch into champions was a cricketing miracle.
Tom Dollery 1949-1955
To be a great captain, you need the highest cricket and man-management skills. The man who led the Bears to their second county championship title, in 1951, possessed them in abundance.
By the time of that triumph, Dollery had already been with the Bears for almost two decades. From a very young age he had held the top order together with batting as selfless as it was skilful. Dollery always thought ‘team’ first. It was an ethos which underpinned his leadership as he steered that team to their first title in 40 years.
Dollery broke the mould of captaincy. In the bizarre, status-conscious world of county cricket, leadership had always been seen as the preserve of the amateurs (the aristocrats!). But Dollery exposed that as nonsense.
Warwickshire showed the boldness and innovation to appoint a professional as captain – and he rewarded them with the title.
MJK Smith 1957-1967
If a measure of a captain is getting the best out of players, then MJK Smith has few equals. A fine batsman, who scored more than 30,000 runs for the Bears, MJK’s leadership and man-management skills were legendary, whether deployed for his county or in 25 Tests as captain of his country.
Smith led Warwickshire in a record 327 matches. During that time, the Bears won only one trophy, the Gillette Cup in 1966, but that was no reflection on the captain, more on a playing staff that lacked quality in depth – and back then there were only two trophies to chase!
Perhaps MJK’s biggest asset as skipper was positivity. In an era when much championship fare was unforgivably dull, under Smith, Warwickshire played bright, attractive cricket. It was a mindset that MJK retained years later when, as chairman in 1994, his input to the treble must not be overlooked.
Andy Lloyd 1988-1992
Ask any of the players of the mid-90s to name the architects of the success of that great era and they will unanimously include the name of Andy Lloyd.
Lloyd formed the bridge between the stultifying mediocrity of the 1980s and the breathtaking success of the 1990s – and was, in a substantial way, the catalyst for it. He took the Bears’ mindset by the scruff of the neck and transformed it from a habitual resignation to just muddling along to a burning desire to win matches and bring trophies to Edgbaston.
His bold captaincy, always looking to find a way to win, brought silverware back to Warwickshire even before the memorable days of Bob Woolmer and Dermot Reeve.
Then they took up the baton – but what a baton! Could they have achieved what they achieved without the foundation built by Lloyd and Bob Cottam? Almost certainly not.
Dermot Reeve 1993-1996
If how much your opponents dislike playing against your team is a gauge of a good captain then Reeve was one of the best. Never happier than when getting up the opposition’s nose, Reeve built on the foundation laid by Andy Lloyd to supervise some of the most memorable cricket ever seen at Edgbaston.
He had some advantages. That foundation. Brian Lara. Bowlers including Allan Donald, Gladstone Small and Tim Munton. But many skippers have had fine players under them and failed to deliver success.
Perhaps the best motivator that cricket has known, Reeve extracted the very best from every player and built a juggernaut of team spirit that sent them on to the field expecting to win – and almost always backing that up by winning.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, including some of those who played under him. But a great innovator and a mighty captain and leader.
Jim Troughton 2011-2014
Troughton’s captaincy started quite well. Away to Somerset is a toughie so it was a decent effort to return home celebrating victory by an innings and 382 runs!
In the Edgbaston system since boyhood, nobody could be prouder to captain his beloved club than Troughts and he soon showed he had the mettle and nous to move the team forward. Fuelled by the great escape of 2010, he steered the Bears to second in the championship the following year and then the title in 2012. What a day that was in the New Road sunshine when the crown was clinched in the backyard of their arch-rivals!
Deeply ingrained in the Bears’ culture, Troughton also did much to pass on and enrich that culture. No-one who played in his team as captain, or these days in his team as first-team coach, will take the field anything less than fiercely proud to be a Bear.
Cast your vote
To vote for Warwickshire’s Greatest Captain, simply complete the below form. Everyone who submits their vote will be entered into a prize draw to win a signed Warwickshire shirt.
Voting closes at 5pm on Tuesday 7 April and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.