Foxes Flashback - Mike Smith
MJK (Mike) Smith (born 30th June 1933)
Who was the last ‘double international’ to represent England in a ‘major’ sport? Arguably, it is Mike, who played one rugby international for England against Wales in 1956, and 50 Test matches for England, the last one in 1972. (He beats Arthur Milton who finished his international career in 1959).
Though born in Leicester, Mike is very much a Broughton Astley product, his family living there for several generations. He came from a very sporting family, his cousins, Diane Batterham played hockey for England, and her brother, David Bird, played 285 games for the Tigers. He attended Stamford School (astonishingly playing for 6 years in the 1st XI) and made his debut for Leicestershire just after leaving school in 1951. To say he was a novice when he did so rather understates matters; ‘I did not realise that the ball moved off the seam’ was his comment. His first three matches for Leicestershire brought just 5 runs. Oxford, following two years National Service was different, scoring over 3,000 runs in the three short university seasons, with an unbeaten double hundred in the 1954 varsity match as a top score.
He was not so successful in county matches, and his top score was 72 against Essex at Ashby in 1954 but in 1955 he was awarded his Leicestershire cap and also played in the Gentlemen v Players match at Lord’s with county colleagues Charles Palmer and Maurice Tompkin.
Back in Oxford for his final year, he played a lot of rugby which culminated in his International cap, where sadly his attempted drop goal was charged down and a try for Wales resulted. His future career was decided by Warwickshire approaching him with a view to becoming their ‘Assistant Secretary’. The procedure that allowed an amateur cricketer to continue doing so, whilst being paid to help run the club. As Warwickshire were a big ambitious club, about to resume hosting test matches, the decision was an easy one.
Though Leicestershire were sad to see him go he moved with their blessing. He was still obliged to spend a year qualifying (i.e., he could not play in championship matches), some of which he spent playing rugby in South America for a Combined Universities team. He played in the two games against the full-strength Argentinian side, both of which the universities won. To demonstrate his versatility, he played fly half in one, and full back in the other. The tour worked out particularly well as he met the lady who became his wife four years later.
Catcing Sincock in Australia
As a cricketer and later captain, he played 50 test matches, including captaining MCC on three important tours of India, South Africa and Australia between 1963 and 1966. On his day he was a prolific batsman who hit particularly strongly on the leg side. In 1959 he scored 3,245 runs, the last English player to do so, and captained Warwickshire for 11 years, which included a Gillette Cup victory in 1966. He was also a fine fielder, taking some great catches whilst fielding at short leg. Though he ‘retired’ in 1967, he returned to play for Warwickshire again in 1970, and was even recalled to the England team in 1972.
The family connections with sport continue. His son Neil also represented England in One day Internationals and captained Warwickshire; his daughter Carole is married to Lord Coe.
Richard Holdridge - Club Historian