Foxes Flashback - Roger Tolchard
Roger Tolchard (born 15th June, 1946)
Roger was part of the great Leicestershire team of the 1970s, a talented wicket keeper batsman. He helped in the dismissal of 884 batsmen for Leicestershire (more than anyone else), and over a thousand in all first-class matches. As a batsman, he was noted for his speed between the wickets, but he was good enough to score 15,000 first class runs with 12 centuries.
He made an early impression. He was just 16 when in 1962 he made his debut for Devon in the Minor Counties Championship. In the following year he displayed a cool head in a difficult situation by scoring an unbeaten 36 against Cornwall. With 10 to win, the Cornwall captain, former England Rugby Full back, dug one in and Roger hit him for an enormous six, and the game was as good as won.
The following year, 1964, he played in the annual schoolboy match at Lord’s against the Combined Services, which identified him as being one of the most promising cricketers of his year. County coach Bill Ashdown said he was ‘the best young cricketer he had seen in 20 years’ and he was as good as signed on the spot.
Spending 1965 ‘qualifying for Leicestershire by residence’, he was lucky to play for the Leicestershire team of 1966 and 1967 where skipper Tony Lock was building self-belief with his exuberant captaincy. He was also getting the opportunity to keep wicket to Lock’s left arm spin and the contrasting off breaks of Jack Birkenshaw.
The arrival of the Sunday League in 1969 gave him more opportunities to use his inventive talents as a batsman. It wasn’t just his ability to rotate the strike that was important, he could also use his feet, though memorably he was given out ‘lbw’ by Bill Alley in the Lord’s final doing just that. He also struck some telling blows, and I remember a square cut off the bowling of Andy Roberts in the B&H quarter final in 1975 that ‘turned the game’ at a stroke.
So far as international honours were concerned, he was always felt to be close to selection for England. He was undeniably not as good as Kent’s Alan Knott, and when he faded, there was Derbyshire’s Bob Taylor to contend with for the England wicket keeping position.
Roger pictured with David Gower
He toured Asia in 1972/73 with Jack Birkenshaw, without playing any Test Matches. He returned in 1976/77 and played in four tests, as a batsman because of his ability to play spin and he utilised his quick reflexes by fielding at short leg. In his debut at Eden Gardens, he put on 142 with his captain Tony Greig, scoring 67 in 328 minutes. A far cry from his quickfire one day innings for Leicestershire.
His International career was not quite over, for he returned to Australia in 1978. Here the intention was for Bob Taylor to play in the tests, and Roger to play in the one-day internationals. Rain caused the first to be abandoned, the second lasted just 7 overs before it befell the same fate, but not before the first Australian batsman had been dismissed, caught Tolchard bowled Old.
There then followed a totally inconsequential tour match. In those days the England tour of Australia lasted five months and included numerous games in the outback. In a three day game against Northern New South Wales at Newcastle a Kiwi by the name of Glynn Davis delivered a ball which broke Roger’s cheek bone and this finished his tour and prospects of further internationals.
He captained the county between 1981 and 1983, three ‘good to average’ years, with 2nd place to Middlesex in 1982 being a highly creditable position. However, the 1983 season ended with a very contrived run chase, devised to secure another runner up position. A scheme that failed with accusations of bringing the game into disrepute.
He returned to Malvern where he coached cricket, played lots of cricket for Old Malvernians and the Lord’s Taverners (his last appearance at Grace Road being as recently as 2012). He also umpired, mainly Minor County, Second XI and Women’s matches, and still ‘stands’ in the Devon League.
Richard Holdridge - Club Historian