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Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Friday, 18 June 2010 11:45 UK

Denness the diplomat

One-day international: Scotland v England
Venue: The Grange Date: Saturday, 19 June Start time: 1045 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Sport website; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles; live video streaming at

Mike Denness
Scotsman Mike Denness captained England in 28 tests

By Phil Goodlad

Mike Denness is nothing but diplomatic. It is a prerequisite for any England cricket captain.

But, when you were born in Lanarkshire, your team-mates can't understand your strong Scottish accent and you have to manage an unhappy Geoffrey Boycott, then diplomacy reaches new levels.

Ask Denness who will win Saturday's match between Scotland and England in Edinburgh and you get a flavour of it.

"I will be looking at it from both the Scottish and English side and I will enjoy the cricket that both teams play," said Denness.

Denness is from Bellshill and played for Scotland throughout much of the 1960s.

Playing in Perth with all the flies - you just hoped one didn't land on your eye just before they bowled at you. They were pretty ferocious lads

Mike Denness

But, on moving to Kent to play for the English county, he caught the eye of the national selectors and made his debut for England against New Zealand in 1969.

"The adrenaline was going pretty quickly as well as the heartbeat," he said. "It was great, really great."

He made such an impression that, come 1973, he was made captain of England, being picked ahead of a certain Mr Boycott.

"He didn't take it too well," said Denness. "I wanted him to help me with training and net sessions, but he declined."

What did I say about diplomacy?

His finest moment came at the MCG in Melbourne, when Denness led his England side on the 1973-74 tour of Australia.

He contributed a knock of 188, the highest score made by an English captain down under, but most people remember the series for the emergence of two young Australian fast bowlers who struck fear into the English side, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

"The adrenaline and heart was going pretty quickly," said the Scot.

"You didn't have time to think. Playing in Perth with all the flies - you just hoped one didn't land on your eye just before they bowled at you. They were pretty ferocious lads."

Denness stood down as captain in 1975, resigning before he was sacked by English selectors who began leaking their thoughts on his performance as captain to the media.

Overall, his Test figures make good reading, scoring nearly 1700 runs in 28 tests with an average of 39.69.

Saints midfielder and the club decided that an operation was the way ahead on an injury which troubled the 31 year old for the final third of last season
Mike Denness (right) became a referee after he finished playing

After hanging up his gloves, the poacher turned gamekeeper when Denness became an International Cricket Council match referee. It was a move that would ultimately lead to death threats against him.

His citing of six Indians in a Test match between South Africa and India exploded into a diplomatic incident.

The Indians accused him of racism. The ICC fudged the issue.

"There are times when you would've liked to have received more support," said Denness.

"We (match referees) were asked to be strong and were looking at receiving strong backing. That didn't come to fruition."

So what about Saturday and the match between the country of his birth and the country that he captained?

"Everybody for Scotland needs to be totally focussed, both mentally and physically," he said.

"They've got to do all the basic things well and have plenty of concentration and just believe that they can actually do something against England."

Pushing him for a prediction, the diplomacy that has served Denness well throughout his career comes to the fore again.

"Look at the football World Cup at the moment," he said. "Surprises are coming thick and fast. Who knows what can happen in the game of cricket?

"Let's look forward to it all and let's hope it's a good challenging game."

Mike Denness. Scotsman. Former England captain. Master diplomat.

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see also
Hamilton returns to face England
16 Jun 10 |  Scotland
Shahzad receives England ODI call
15 Jun 10 |  England
Kieswetter retains one-day place
10 Jun 10 |  England
Scots aim to extend winning run
14 Jun 10 |  Scotland
Scots to build on India A visit
02 Jun 10 |  Scotland
Australia in England 2010
04 Jul 10 |  Cricket

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