Mike Brearley was one of England’s greatest cricket captains.
He made his first class debut as a wicketkeeper for Cambridge University against Surrey, scoring 76* in 1961 and from then played first class cricket for Middlesex, leading them to four County Championships, until the end of his playing career in 1983. Brearley’s academic focus – he is now a psychoanalyst as well as a cricket administrator and writer – meant that despite his cricketing excellence in his twenties, including his highest first class score of 312* made whilst captaining MCC under-25s in Pakistan, he did not make his Test debut until 1976 aged 34.
Brearley’s outstanding man-management brought the best out of the players he captained
In 39 tests for England, Brearley was captain for 31, winning 18 and losing just four. Brearley’s outstanding man-management brought the best out of the great players he captained – his pace attack of Bob Willis and Ian Botham took 112 wickets (at 24) and 150 wickets (at 19) respectively under his leadership.
Brearley’s finest hour came in the Ashes series of 1981 when he replaced Botham – at a low ebb after an Australian win at Trent Bridge and a pair at Lord’s – as captain, and promptly rejuvenated him to produce a heroic 149* at Headingley and turn the series England’s way. England won the series 3-1 and Brearley’s reputation as a brilliant and intelligent leader was secured. Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg famously described Brearley as having “a degree in people”.
Given his playing success on the field and academic success off it, it is not surprising Brearley continued to contribute to the game after his retirement by writing on it. In 1985 he published 'The Art of Captaincy', and also writes for The Observer.
Brearley became President of MCC in October 2007 and served a year in office, nominating former team-mate Derek Underwood as his successor.
He succeeded Tony Lewis as the Chairman of the World Cricket committee in 2012, overseeing his first meeting in South Africa.