The victorious Thames Ditton CC team at the Oatlands Park six-a-side in 1967. Brian Mitchell is holding the trophy, but close to the champagne!
Brian Mitchell – The man who guided Thames Ditton Cricket Club through rocky times into the modern cricketing era as player, captain, President and trustee.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of one of the club’s most influential and inspiring figures, Brian Mitchell.
Here, long time club player, supporter and ex-President, Graham Ashton provides a fascinating view of the changing face of club cricket in Surrey over the period of Brian’s involvement in the club and the huge impact he made. (Statistics by Mike and Chris Dixon).
The 1960s was a decade of great change in the country and club cricket did not escape a revolution during this period. And so it was that at the start of this decade, with Bernard Cribbons’ song about a hole in the ground in the hit parade, that a fresh-faced Brian Mitchell joined Thames Ditton CC. . .
When Brian arrived at Thames Ditton CC he was one of a new generation of younger players, such as Bruce Pavey, Bobby Wells, Geoff Hunt, Derek Foode, John Harding, John Mottram and John McDermott, who gradually took over from the 1950s old guard of Aveling Pickard, Pat Sherwood, Ted Watkins, Eddie Watts and others.
At this time there was no league cricket for clubs in Surrey. Instead 1st and 2nd team fixtures were arranged against clubs we had played against for years. Surrey club cricket was a tight-knit clan and hard for outside clubs to break into. In fact the fixture card for 1959 showed marked similarities to that of 1895.
Thames Ditton were in the top echelon of Surrey clubs, playing against Sunbury, Esher, Ashstead, East Molesey, Wimbledon, Epsom, Teddington, Old Whitgiftians, Horsham, Guildford, Weybridge and others. And the club’s cricket week always included an all-day game on The Green against the MCC. In the days before Sunday county cricket many top players would turn out for their clubs, in fact Mike Brearley, Micky Stewart, Ramon Subba Row and David Shepherd all played against Thames Ditton during this period. Heady days indeed.
Despite the undoubted quality of the cricket being played the club held its own at this time and in 1967 won the Oatlands Park six-a-side competition with Brian a central figure in the victorious side (see picture).
It should be remembered that despite the company we kept, in those days our ‘pavilion’ was a tent erected on The Green and the nearby Angel pub was used for tea and post-match drinks.
The club continued to flourish in this unchanging and familiar world, but away from Surrey things were moving on. By the end of the decade the England cricket team had suffered several beatings from both West Indies and Australia and the newspapers were not happy – blaming poor performances on a lack of competitiveness in the English game particularly advancing a view that there was too much friendly cricket between the ‘old boys’ network’.
While Lancashire and Yorkshire had their leagues, the rest of the country did not. The counties had to react, and in 1968 leagues were formed in Surrey. Unfortunately for Thames Ditton – perhaps too used to our familiar friendly games – we hesitated, while other clubs took the plunge to form the Surrey Championship. Meanwhile our club, with cricket on the village green ground and changing in a tent, was left out in the cold. Instead we had to wait years before making the move to league cricket – scrambling into the South Middlesex and North Surrey League in 1972.
During this period many of our better players left for plusher and more challenging surroundings, but Brian and a few others stayed. They remained loyal to club and village and started to improve the facilities – helping to build the club’s first pavilion, using rooms over an off-licence on the war memorial corner of the Green.
But the absence of league cricket meant that between 1968 and 1971 the club faltered, finding it difficult to field two sides of any great strength on a Saturday. Brian was captain by then and there is no doubt that it was his leadership (and crafty leg spin) that kept the Club together.
As time passed Brian’s loyalty and determination paid off and new players joined including Peter Pirie, Michael Emrys-Jones, Chris Nelson, and with the old guard from the 2nd XI, John Pamment, Derek Wellman, Peter Ashton, Bob Gurney and others, the club survived. In 1969 and in 1971 the England Ladies XI, captained by Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, came to the Green to play against the Club, which cheered us all up (especially Brian it seems).
Although the club hardly set the world alight in those early league years, in 1977 the 2nd XI led by Tony Davies won their division giving the club a huge boost – things were looking up. As 1st XI captain Brian led the club from the front as an ever-present player and providing an optimism that fed the whole club, which continued to grow and by 1977 we were turning out a 3rd X1, and later a 4th team.
Brian played on until the mid 1980s. His bowling was as crafty as ever, indeed an-ex player remarked last week on the news of his passing that he was “Genuine, fun to be with and the man who I am sure taught Shane Warne how to bowl.” Finally, in 1991 he was persuaded to play one more game for the 3rd X1 at Chessington. He bowled half a dozen overs and retired to his bed.
In 1986 he succeeded Tony Davies as President of the Club, and held that position until 1997. It was Brian who welcomed the new influx of players which were to bring the club’s next successes. In 1995, the club won silverware again with the 1st XI winning the Fuller’s League Cup and twelve months later things improved still further when the club won two Fullers League championships, first the 3rd X1 and three weeks later, the 1st X1.
But it was seven years later, in 2003 with Brian still a staunch supporter of the club both in the bar and avidly watching the climax of home games from the boundary – glass of wine in hand – that he oversaw one of his proudest TDCC moments, when the 1st XI won the Fullers County League Division 1 again, to claim their place in the Surrey Championship, joining many of the clubs who had left us behind those many years before. Brian’s and the club’s long-held ambition had been achieved.
The icing on the cake was the completion of the club’s new clubhouse in the Winter of 2003/4, with Brian one of the many driving forces behind this, the club’s most ambitious project.
From this time until his death, Brian and Anne were regulars in the clubhouse. Always taking a keen interest in all aspects of the club, but particularly wanting the players to do their best and win for the club. There were few people who enjoyed a TD win more than Brian.
He will be so sadly missed.
Brian Mitchell’s Playing Record
Using archived club scorebooks, our current club statistical gurus have provided this summary of Brian Mitchell’s recorded playing career with Thames Ditton CC.
Brian Mitchell – Thames Ditton CC Career Record
Debut: 1962 Last Game: 1991
Highest Score: 76 vs Cranleigh 1962
5 wickets in innings – 23 times