Mike Selvey – A promising start that saw premature end after just 3 Tests

Mike Selvey as Guardian’s cricket correspondent © Getty Images

Mike Selvey, born on April 25, 1948, played three Tests for England in 1976-77. On his debut, he accounted for the wickets of Roy Fredericks, Vivian Richards and Alvin Kallicharran, but that couldn’t prevent his side from being battered. Later, he stayed connected to the game by becoming the Guardian’s cricket correspondent. Karthik Parimal looks back at the short career of this cricketer-turned-journalist.

It was perhaps one of the most frictional tours in the history of Test cricket. It all began when Tony Greig, prior to the commencement of the 1976 series against the West Indies, made a statement along the following lines: “You must remember that the West Indians, these guys, if they get on top are magnificent cricketers. But if they’re down, they grovel, and I intend, with the help of Closey [Brian Close] and a few others, to make them grovel.” The use of that word had severe repercussions, for its association with slavery is no secret. What followed was a barrage of missiles directed towards the ribs and throats of the Englishmen by West Indies’ pace artillery in the first two Tests at Nottingham and Lord’s respectively.

By the time both teams reached Old Trafford, the venue of the third fixture, the contest was on an even scale, but West Indies’ determination to teach Greig’s entourage a lesson hadn’t faded. Several players, especially the bowlers, in England’s already fragile line-up had been discarded owing to injuries — both internal and inflicted. The void that was created presented opportunities for many fringe players, and it was at this juncture that a certain Mike Selvey, 28, donned the whites for England for the first time on the big stage.

A debut to remember

Having replaced bowlers of the calibre of John Snow and Chris Old, the expectations on his tender shoulders were . Yet, it was a debut dipped in brilliance, at least on a personal front. Swinging the ball both waysat a noteworthy pace — a trait that held him in good stead in the domestic circuit — he accounted for the wickets of Roy Fredericks, Vivian Richards and Alvin Kallicharran in a little over three overs of his spell. Only Gordon Greenidge managed to hold fort, scoring 134, but Selvey’s quality at the outset was instrumental in restricting West Indies to 211. He finished with figures of 4 for 41, which eventually turned out to be his best ever performance at the international level.

England crumbled in that Test, and gradually in the series too. He was retained for the final game at the Oval, but couldn’t replicate the performance that won him accolades at Old Trafford. He travelled to India, where he played his third and last Test, at Bombay’s Wankhede Stadium, but he was wicketless. Thereafter, he was axed and never received a call-up.

Prowess in the domestic circuit

Despite an extremely short international career, he was an prominent personality in county cricket. After a short stint with Surrey and Cambridge University, he moved to Middlesex in 1972 and established his foothold there. When Middlesex won the County Cricket Championship in 1976 (for the first time since 1949), Selvey picked 90 wickets. Two years later, he bettered his record, accounting for 101 scalps. When opportunities at the club ceased, his age being the primary culprit, he moved to Glamorgan.

Overall, he featured in 278 First-Class games, with 772 wickets under his belt at an average of 26.66.
Post-retirement from all forms of the game, he’s been actively involved in commentary and became The Guardian’s cricket correspondent.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal )