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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Master of his art
Jack Russell takes time out on tour to Pakistan to paint
Russell takes time out in Pakistan to paint - his other passion
Jack Russell, one of cricket's great characters, has left an indelible mark on the game.

He first played for Gloucestershire in 1981 and over the course of 23 years he worked tirelessly to become a master of his art, developing an "offensive" style of standing up to the stumps that is now part and parcel of the one-day game.

Even his inimitable eccentricities - the weather-beaten sun hat, penchant for tea and baked beans and reclusive nature - only added to his reputation as he he single-mindedly pursued success behind the stumps.

Although 54 Test caps and 40 one-day international appearances is a record many would envy, he was sacrificed by the England selectors who turned to Alec Stewart in the search for extra runs.

The pair's battle for supremacy at international level has a modern day parallel with Chris Read and Geraint Jones.

And 40-year-old Russell's retirement will leave the sport's idealists worried about the future of the specialist keeper, a problem he has highlighted in the past.

"We're sending out a message to kids that keeping's not important and 10 or 15 years down the line we might pay the price," he has said.

It has been an honour and a privilege to have worn the Gloucestershire badge - my heart will always be with the team and this wonderful game of ours
Jack Russell
"They're going to fall into the mistake of thinking you can manufacture a keeper doing drills and that's dangerous."

Russell's frustrations are well founded having spent the majority of his international career at the mercy of the whim of the selectors.

He made his Test debut in 1988 with 94 as a nightwatchman against Sri Lanka at Lord's and the following summer, while England used an astonishing 29 players in six matches against Australia, Russell remained a constant, one of only two players to appear in every match along with skipper David Gower.

In a dismal, one-sided Ashes series, Russell was one of the few successes and as well as his stylish performances behind the stumps, he recorded his highest Test score of 128 not out, ending the summer with an average just shy of 40.

The following year he was named one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year, but it was also the season Stewart first broke into the Test team.

When the Australians returned to England in 1993 Russell had been demoted to make way for Stewart and a once-promising international career was on the slide.

He returned to the respectable obscurity of the ranks of county cricket, but when asked to return to the international stage he never let his country down, most notably on the 1995/96 tour to South Africa.

JACK RUSSELL FACTFILE
Born: 15 August 1963
First class record:
465 matches
1,192 catches & 128 stumpings
16,861 runs @ 30.93
Test record:
54 matches
153 catches & 12 stumpings
1,897 runs @ 27.10
ODI record:
40 matches
41 catches & six stumpings
423 runs @ 17.63
He broke Bob Taylor's record for the most catches in a Test match with 11 dismissals at Johannesburg before helping Mike Atherton secure an unlikely draw.

While his captain took most of the credit with a battling unbeaten 185, without Russell's stoical 235-ball 29, Atherton's efforts would have been in vain.

Two years later Russell retired from international cricket prompting the legendary Godfrey Evans to question the wisdom of England's selectors down the years.

"There was a terrible irony," Evans mused. "We were the worst team in the world and our one player of undeniable world class couldn't get in the side."

Russell found solace back at Gloucestershire where he was an intrinsic part of their successful one-day side which won six trophies in five seasons from 1999.

Two years ago, despite advancing years, he was overwhelmingly voted the best wicket-keeper in the domestic game by his peers.

But the call of time waits for no man, and a back injury has forced Russell into premature retirement in mid-season.

His successful sideline as an artist will now take centre stage, and with his tireless work ethic there is no doubt he will earn deserved success in his second career.




GLOUCESTERSHIRE

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