Don Shepherd: Glamorgan cricket legend celebrates 90th birthday
Glamorgan legend Don Shepherd, the county’s leading wicket-taker, celebrates his 90th birthday on 12 August.
He took 2,218 first-class wickets between 1950 and 1972, the most by an England-qualified player without a cap.
Off-spinner Shepherd featured in two Glamorgan wins over Australia, bowled them to a Championship title in 1969, and was one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year in 1970.
“Don Shepherd is an absolute legend of a man. I’m still learning off him,” said Glamorgan coach and former England bowler Robert Croft.
“He’s a man who has epitomised what a Glamorgan cricketer should be, totally committed on the field and an absolute gent off it.”
Still fit and well as he hits 90, Shepherd recalls the key moments of his career.
My grandfather used to score for the village team at Port Eynon. I would be there with him and it must have been a bug.
There were only two of us boys interested – the other chap Colin Bevan had a bat and ball and I used to bowl for days to get him out.
I must have played about four games at Gowerton Boys’ Grammar School with no practice. It must have been just watching people.
I never played for a club until I got called up for National Service, and when I was stationed at Worcester that was the turning point of my life.
I played for the armed forces station against Gentlemen of Worcester and the county officials offered me a six-month contract based at Lord’s in 1948.
From Gower to Lord’s
There were thousands of members of MCC and if they wanted a net we had to go and bowl, though we had a coach and a net in the morning.
I was hardly aware of Glamorgan winning the 1948 Championship – it was very distant – but at the end of the season I played for Glamorgan seconds in Exeter against Devon and only then became aware of what had happened.
It was truly magnificent, one of the truly great events of Welsh sport to bring that Championship out of England for the first time, and I was invited to be part of the celebrations.
Wooller in charge
I played my first game in the Championship in the first match of 1950, Surrey at the Oval, which was the ground for my last one as well in 1972.
Quite a lot of us had done National Service and we were used to being told what to do with no argument. It was a similar situation with captain Wilf Wooller!
He liked to be in charge, if he’d had a chance he would have been in charge of both teams! It was a tough environment and you were just pleased to be there.
Seam to spin
I probably wasn’t hitting the seam as a fast bowler and it was a crime if you took part of the shine away. Wicketkeeper Hadyn Davies said: “Why don’t you have a go at bowling spin?”
In the last match of 1955 I just bowled it and I got 10 wickets, so I was ready for the next season and that was my best ever with 177 wickets.
Beating the Aussies in 1964 and 1968
I still talk to people who used to travel from many a mile – west Wales and the valleys. It was almost an obligation to see Glamorgan against the touring sides.
Those wins have got to be among my favourites. When we won it really was a fantastic atmosphere and whatever they say about the Australians, they were very sporting and gracious in defeat.
In 1964 former Glamorgan all-rounder Jimmy Pressdee and I were taken to the Eisteddfod on the Saturday night of the Australia game. We went on the stage and when we left there was no way we were going to lose.
It was a fantastic experience. It really was a team representing the country.
I was fortunate I only had three captains at Glamorgan – Wilf Wooller, Ossie Wheatley and Tony Lewis – and they were all on top of the job.
Everyone had his place and it was a well-drilled side, and we had so many great catchers around the bat – ’69 was great with Peter Walker and Roger Davis.
I was pleased to get to 2,000 wickets (in the title-winning game against Worcestershire in Cardiff). It’s a quiet satisfaction and I had a bit of a hug with Tony Lewis because we had worked as a team, we knew how much it meant.
Missing England honours
It never worried me. I played for MCC against the West Indians at Lord’s in 1957, and I played for a Commonwealth team under Australian captain Richie Benaud.
If I’d been an Australian, he told me I would have played quite a lot of times.
But there were so many terrific off-spinners around towards the end – Fred Titmus, David Allen, John Mortimore, Ray Illingworth – and they could bat, while I was a bit of a slogger.
I was happy enough doing what I did and what happened to me through my life.
Don Shepherd was talking to BBC Wales Sport’s Nick Webb.