CHARLES RANDALLby Ivo Tennant If anyone had wanted to bet on a cricket writer having the longevity of, say, John Woodcock, Charlie Randall would have been a good call. He was slim, wry, seemed to eat and drink little, did not smoke, and, as he once demonstrated when covering Hampshire at Bournemouth, had evidently been a fine club cricketer for many years. He collected the ball on the boundary and, to the irritation of the fielder who had pursued it, fizzed it in over the stumps and into the wicket-keeper’s gloves
So his death from pneumonia, when only in his early ‘seventies, comes as a shock. He worked for the Daily Telegraph for 32 years, firstly on the sports desk and then as a cricket writer for a quarter of a century. Thankfully he, and his long-serving colleague Dicky Rutnagur avoided the unforgivable culling of several of their colleagues three weeks before the start of the 2010 season.
I happened to be in the press box, the old - and preferable - box at Lord’s with Charlie in 1989 when he was relatively new to cricket writing. It was early season and Yorkshire were giving a debut to a young fast bowler called Darren Gough, who took three Middlesex wickets for 44, coming on first change. Neither of us had heard of him. Charlie, diligent and polite as ever, asked the travelling White Rose correspondents - at least four in those days - if they could fill him in as he had a lengthy piece to write.
It was, I think, John Callaghan, who mischievously informed Charlie that Gough was “the son of a Barnsley rat-catcher.” Given Charlie had been a sub-editor, and no doubt respected for his accuracy, his description was not queried. His lurid words were duly printed. Fortunately I had a shorter piece for The Times; otherwise I would have had Wooders or Alan Lee raising an eyebrow the next day.
On another occasion, at Grace Road, Charlie informed his readers that a dog had left “a steaming pile” on the pitch during an interval. Strange as it may seem now, his descriptive phrases were out of kilter with the Telegraph’s coverage, which was based on solid facts and accuracy. Charlie knew the game and observed it closely. His politeness deserted him only when tour parties came into the box at Lord’s. Some years later, amid much hilarity from the rest of us when Charlie was sent to Bristol, one of the senior guides, John Light, had become chairman of Gloucestershire - and had a long memory.
At close of play Charlie headed home rather than to the bar. He was justifiably proud of his intelligent children. He would come to see old colleagues at our annual lunch and attend matches at his home ground, Radlett. His continued involvement with his local club, and indeed his whole life, emphasised just how much he loved the game.