A legend of Welsh cricket. One of the most popular characters of Welsh sport. Desperately unlucky not to have played for England. Don Shepherd, the former Glamorgan spinner and BBC Wales summariser who died at the age of 90 late last week, will be fondly remembered by many. Here Edward Bevan, part of the ECB Reporters Network and a close personal friend, adds a special tribute.
Since his untimely death last Friday, Don Shepherd has been remembered in tributes as “a great bowler, a gentleman and a loyal friend”. Statistics rarely lie, and his bowling figures throughout a career that spanned 22 years sum up his total commitment and devotion to the game he loved.
He was a gentleman in the way he never refused an autograph to anyone – even after a hard day in the field where he had just sent down 40 overs or more. He would never make an excuse not to engage in conversation and would always offer advice to any young cricketer hoping to make his way in the game.
As someone who had the privilege of working with him on BBC Wales’s cricket coverage for over 30 years, I can vouch for his loyalty. He had left the cricket field and was now the pundit, and he soon developed into an excellent broadcaster with a large following in the principality. He researched diligently, was a superb analyser of a batsman’s technique, and - as one would expect - an expert judge of any bowler. I was indeed fortunate to have him at my side for all those years, and from becoming a colleague in the broadcasting studio he became one of my closest friends. A friendship I cherished.
He was loyal to his captains. Tony Lewis, skipper of the Glamorgan team that won the Championship in 1969, like his predecessor Ossie Wheatley, described Don as “the perfect adviser both on the field of play and in the dressing room. "To me,” Lewis continued, “he was essential and his advice was always positive and helpful.”
Someone described Don recently as a “bowling phenomenon”. Scanning through his figures, that person wasn’t far wrong in his assessment. A career tally of 2,218 wickets at 21.00, including figures of six for five against Notts, five for two against Leicestershire, and seven for seven against Hampshire - with a match haul of 9/93 from 69 overs against the 1964 Australians.
These figures, however, weren’t good enough for international recognition. Don was never even chosen for an overseas tour. As Richie Benaud observed after he had skippered Don on a Commonwealth tour: “Had he been an Australian, he would have played many times for his country.”
I frequently asked him if the lack of recognition disappointed him. “Not at all,” he would say. “I heard rumours that I was in contention but I never read the papers, I just got on with the job of doing my best for Glamorgan, and enjoying my life in open-air.”
A light has gone out with the passing of The Great Don Shepherd. Some never meet their heroes, I luckily did and "Shep" was 100 times more x— Robert Croft (@RDBCroft10) August 19, 2017
He would also attribute much of his success to the uncovered pitches of his era, highlighting the less responsive surfaces on which more recent off-spinners such as Robert Croft have had to toil. They were typical remarks from a remarkably modest man. Mark Wallace, the former wicketkeeper who retired after a lengthy Glamorgan career last year, described him as “a true gentleman, and as good a man as you will ever wish to meet”.
Croft himself said: “Some never meet their heroes. I luckily did - and Shep was 100 times more than that.”
He certainly was, and the great bowler will never be forgotten at his beloved county, or by his many friends. I was privileged to have been one of them.