Sir Ian Terence Botham OBE (born 24 November 1955) is an English cricket commentator and a former cricketer who has been chairman of Durham County Cricket Club since 2017. Widely regarded as one of the greatest all-rounders in cricket history, Botham represented England in both Test and One-Day International cricket. He played most of his first-class cricket for Somerset, and also for Worcestershire, Durham and Queensland. He was an aggressive right-handed batsman and, as a right arm fast-medium bowler, was noted for his swing bowling. He generally fielded close to the wicket, predominantly in the slips. In Test cricket, Botham scored 14 centuries with a highest score of 208, and from 1986 to 1988, he held the world record for the most Test wickets until overtaken by fellow all-rounder Sir Richard Hadlee. He took five wickets in an innings 27 times and 10 wickets in a match four times. In 1980, he became the second player in Test history to complete the “match double” of scoring 100 runs and taking 10 wickets in the same match.
Botham has at times been involved in controversy including a highly publicised court case involving rival all-rounder Imran Khan and an ongoing dispute with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). These incidents, allied to his on-field success, have attracted media attention, especially from the tabloid press. Botham has made effective use of the fame given to him by the publicity because he is actively concerned about leukaemia in children and has undertaken several long distance walks to raise money for research into the disease. These efforts have been highly successful and have realised millions of pounds for Bloodwise, of which he became president. In recognition of his services to charity, he was awarded a knighthood in the 2007 New Years Honours List. On 8 August 2009, he was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.
Botham has a wide range of sporting interests outside cricket. He was a talented footballer at school and had to choose between cricket and football as a career. He chose cricket but, even so, he did play professional football for a few seasons and made eleven appearances in the Football League for Scunthorpe United. He is a keen golfer and his other pastimes include angling and shooting.
On the occasion of England’s 1000th Test in August 2018, he was named in the country’s greatest Test XI by the ECB.
Records in international cricket
Botham’s Test career spanned 16 seasons and he played in 102 matches. He scored 5,200 runs at an average of 33.54 with a highest score of 208 in his 14 centuries. He took 383 wickets at an average of 28.40 with a best return of eight for 34 and achieved ten wickets in a match four times. He held 120 catches.
In 116 LOIs from 1976 to 1992, he scored 2,113 runs with a highest score of 79; took 145 wickets with a best return of four for 31; and held 36 catches. A straight comparison of these totals with those of his Test career reveal that he was less effective in the limited overs form of the game. He did have some outstanding LOI matches, however, winning six man of the match awards. Botham took part in three editions of the Cricket World Cup: 1979, 1983 and 1992. He played in 22 World Cup matches including the finals in 1979 and 1992, both of which England lost, and he was in England’s losing team in the 1983 semi-final.
Botham was the 21st player to achieve the “double” of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in Test cricket and he went on to score 5,200 runs and take 383 wickets, as well as holding 120 catches.
He held the world record for the greatest number of Test wickets from 21 August 1986 to 12 November 1988. His predecessor was Dennis Lillee who had retired with 355 wickets in 70 matches. Botham extended the record to 373 in 94 matches before he was overtaken by Richard Hadlee. Botham ended with 383 wickets in 102 matches while Hadlee extended the record to 431 in 86 matches. See List of Test cricket records#Career.
As described above, Botham in 1980 became the second player to achieve the “match double” of 100 runs and ten wickets in Test cricket, following Alan Davidson in 1960-61. Botham was, however, the first to score a century and take ten wickets in a Test match (Davidson scored 44 and 80). The century and ten double has since been achieved by Imran Khan who scored 117 and took six for 98 and five for 82 against India at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad in January 1983.
List of Test centuries and five-wicket innings
Compared with many of cricket’s greatest players, most of whom were specialists, Botham’s averages seem fairly ordinary but this overlooks the fact that he was a genuine all-rounder and it is rare for this type of player to achieve world-class status. Since the Second World War, Botham is one of perhaps a dozen or so world-class all-rounders whereas there have been numerous world-class specialists. Some of the great all-rounders, such as Garfield Sobers and Jacques Kallis as batsmen or Alan Davidson and Richard Hadlee as bowlers, could justifiably be described as world-class specialists in their main discipline who were effective practitioners of the other. The genuine all-rounders to achieve world-class status during the era, besides Botham himself, have included Keith Miller, Richie Benaud, Mike Procter, Clive Rice, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Andrew Flintoff.
Of note, Botham’s first 202 wickets came at 21.20 per wicket, while his final 181 cost on average 36.43 apiece; the first average is one that would make Botham one of the greatest bowlers of the modern era, ranking alongside the West Indian greats Curtly Ambrose (career average 20.99), Malcolm Marshall (career average 20.94), and Joel Garner (career average 20.97), but the second average depicts a player who, as a specialist bowler, would be unable to sustain a place in many Test teams. This difference can be largely attributed to the longer term effects of a back injury he sustained in 1980; this limited his bowling pace and his ability to swing the ball.
Botham’s batting – although never the equal of his bowling abilities – declined as well, with a batting average of 38.80 for his first 51 Tests substantially higher than the 28.87 he managed in his last 51 Tests, again a number that would be considered unsatisfactory for a specialist batsman in most Test sides. In the first 5 years of Botham’s Test career, when not playing as captain, he scored 2,557 runs at an average of 49.17 including 11 centuries and a highest score of 208, took 196 wickets at an average of 21.28 including nineteen 5 wicket hauls and held 50 catches. Such figures denote a player who would easily maintain a place in any Test side as a specialist batsman or bowler alone. During this period his reputation as one of the leading Test all-rounders was firmly established.
Ian Botham’s 14 Test Centuries and 27 Test Five Wickets HaulsNo100sNo5 WtTestOpponentsSeasonVenueCityCountryResult15/75Third Test Australia1977Trent BridgeNottinghamEnglandEngland won by 7 wickets25/21Fourth Test Australia1977HeadingleyLeedsEnglandEngland won by an innings and 85 runs110335/73Second Test New Zealand1977-78Lancaster ParkChristchurchNew ZealandEngland won by 174 runs45/109Third Test New Zealand1977-78Eden ParkAucklandNew Zealandmatch drawn2100First Test Pakistan1978Edgbaston Cricket GroundBirminghamEnglandEngland won by an innings and 57 runs310858/34Second Test Pakistan1978Lord’s Cricket GroundLondonEnglandEngland won by an innings and 120 runs66/34Second Test New Zealand1978Trent BridgeNottinghamEnglandEngland won by and innings and 119 runs7
5/39Third Test New Zealand1978Lord’s Cricket GroundLondonEnglandEngland won by 7 wickets95/70First Test India1979Edgbaston Cricket GroundBirminghamEnglandEngland won by an innings and 83 runs105/35Second Test India1979Lord’s Cricket GroundLondonEnglandmatch drawn4137Third Test India1979HeadingleyLeedsEnglandmatch drawn11
5/98First Test Australia1979-80WACA GroundPerthAustraliaAustralia won by 138 runs5119*Third Test Australia1979-80Melbourne Cricket GroundMelbourneAustraliaAustralia won by 8 wickets611413
7/48Golden Jubilee Test India1979-80Wankhede StadiumBombayIndiaEngland won by 10 wickets7149*156/95Third Test Australia1981HeadingleyLeedsEnglandEngland won by 18 runs165/11Fourth Test Australia1981Edgbaston Cricket GroundBirminghamEnglandEngland won by 29 runs8118Fifth Test Australia1981Old Trafford Cricket GroundManchesterEnglandEngland won by 103 runs176/125
4/128Sixth Test Australia1981Kennington OvalLondonEnglandmatch drawn185/61First Test India1981-82Wankhede StadiumBombayIndiaIndia won by 138 runs9142Sixth Test India1981-82Modi StadiumKanpurIndiamatch drawn195/46First Test India1982Lord’s Cricket GroundLondonEnglandEngland won by 7 wickets10128Second Test India1982Old Trafford Cricket GroundManchesterEnglandmatch drawn11208Third Test India1982Kennington OvalLondonEnglandmatch drawn205/74Third Test Pakistan1982HeadingleyLeedsEnglandEngland won by 3 wickets12103Fourth Test New Zealand1983Trent BridgeNottinghamEnglandEngland won by 165 runs13138215/59First Test New Zealand1983-84Basin ReserveWellingtonNew Zealandmatch drawn228/103Second Test West Indies1984Lord’s Cricket GroundLondonEnglandWest Indies won by 9 wickets235/72Fifth Test West Indies1984Kennington OvalLondonEnglandWest Indies won by 172 runs246/90First Test Sri Lanka1984Lord’s Cricket GroundLondonEnglandmatch drawn255/109Second Test Australia1985Lord’s Cricket GroundLondonEnglandAustralia won by 4 wickets265/71Fourth Test West Indies1985-86Queen’s Park OvalPort of SpainTrinidad and TobagoWest Indies won by 10 wickets14138First Test Australia1986-87Brisbane Cricket GroundBrisbaneAustraliaEngland won by 7 wickets275/41Fourth Test Australia1986-87Melbourne Cricket GroundMelbourneAustraliaEngland won by an innings and 14 runs
Style and technique
Botham had an affinity with Brian Close, his first county captain who became a mentor to him, as they shared a determination to do well and win matches. Wisden has commented on another shared characteristic: “outstanding courage”, mainly because Botham would readily field anywhere, generally in the slips but also in dangerous positions near the batsman and he was a brilliant fielder. As a batsman, Botham was often wrongly labelled by the tabloid press as a “big hitter” (effectively inferring that he was a “slogger“) but, while it is true that his strength enabled him to drive a ball for six and his courage to hook one for six, Botham actually had a very correct batting style as he stood side-on and played straight: Wisden praised his “straight hitting and square cutting”. Botham might not have been good enough to retain a regular England place as a specialist batsman (his Test career batting average was a fairly modest 33.54) but as a bowler who was capable of taking 383 Test wickets, he certainly would. Wisden praised Tom Cartwright for helping to develop Botham’s technique as a swing bowler and, by the time he made his Test debut in 1977, Botham had mastered change of pace, the outswinger and the fast inswinging yorker, all formidable parts of his repertoire which eventually enabled him to break the world Test wicket record.
Writing in Barclays World of Cricket (1986), former England captain Tony Lewis commented upon Botham’s strength, enthusiasm and aggression “which he took into every game”. Lewis, however, pointed out that Botham’s exuberance often reduced the efficiency of his play, in that he would take too many risks or refuse to give up on a bowling tactic despite ongoing heavy cost. He summarised Botham as an exciting cricketer who lacked self-discipline. Botham was in the middle of his career when the book was published but Lewis emphasised the speed at which Botham had achieved certain milestones such as 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in Test cricket. At that time, there seemed no reason why Botham should not go on reaching milestones but he had already peaked and, in retrospect, his career had a meteoric aspect. His rival Imran Khan asserted this when he said: “Botham was someone who I don’t think ever did justice to his talent. When he started he could have done anything, but he declined very quickly. In a way our careers were the opposite of each other. I started quite slowly but got better, maximised my talent. He went the other way, I think”.
Status as a player
The tabloid/juvenile hagiography of Botham has caused many knowledgeable commentators to assert that Botham was overrated, a problem for him that dates right back to his first Test series in 1977. When naming him as a Cricketer of the Year in its 1978 edition, Wisden described Botham as “a determined character who knows where he is aiming, and who will, quite naturally and fiercely, address himself to the interesting view that he is overrated”.Denis Compton, another great English cricketer who was idolised by the media, dismissed Botham as “overrated” and said he “only did well because all the best players had joined Packer“: i.e., for World Series Cricket (WSC).
Given all the arguments about whether Botham was the greatest or whether he was overrated, it must be stressed that there is no evidence anywhere of Botham himself claiming, Muhammad Ali-style (or even Fred Trueman-style), that he ever was “the greatest” or of him “revelling in superstar status”. Rather, he would readily give praise to his colleagues and effectively assert that cricket is a team game in which he always did his best and played to win (just like Brian Close, his mentor): for example, the credit which Botham gave to his batting partners Hallam Moseley and Bob Clapp after the 1974 Benson and Hedges quarter-final against Hampshire; and to Bob Willis who, after all, was the actual match-winner at Headingley in 1981. Botham’s innings there was an outstanding performance but, in match terms, it gave England a ray of hope which, without Willis’s brilliant bowling on the final day, would have been extinguished for, as Wisden said: “This was Willis’ hour”. Botham has turned all the publicity to good use in one important respect as it made him famous outside cricket and that has generated increased public interest, and investment, in his charity fundraising efforts.
As a Test batsman, he scored 14 centuries with a highest score of 208 against India in 1982. Thirteen of his centuries were scored before his thirtieth birthday in November 1985. It is a similar picture in terms of his Test bowling. He took ten wickets in a match four times and five wickets in an innings 27 times. Apart from a five for 71 in 1985-86 and a five for 41 in 1986-87, all those successes were achieved before his thirtieth birthday.
Libel cases brought against Imran Khan (1994-1996)”]
In 1994, the year after he retired, Botham became embroiled in a legal dispute with Imran Khan who, in an article for India Today, had accused Botham and Allan Lamb of bringing cricket into disrepute. Botham and Lamb instigated a libel action in response. The case was heard at the High Court in 1996 with the court choosing to hear on the second day a separate action brought solely by Botham against Khan, who had suggested in a newspaper article that Botham had been involved in ball-tampering. This would become the subject of a court case later on, one that Khan would go on to win. Botham was liable for all expenses in the court case in the ruling, including those incurred by Khan.
Botham was a talented footballer but, believing he was better at cricket, he chose the latter for his full-time career. Even so, he played football as a centre half from 1978 to 1985 for Yeovil Town and Scunthorpe United. He made eleven appearances in the Football League for Scunthorpe. While with Yeovil, Botham made an appearance for the Football Association XI (a representative side for non-League footballers) against the Northern Football League at Croft Park during the 1984-85 season.
Botham has been a prodigious fundraiser for charitable causes, undertaking a total of 12 long-distance charity walks. His first, in 1985, was a 900-mile trek from John o’ Groats to Land’s End. His efforts were inspired after a visit to Taunton‘s Musgrove Park Hospital in 1977 whilst receiving treatment for a broken toe. When he took a wrong turn into a children’s ward, he was devastated to learn that some of the children had only weeks to live, and why. At the time, he was an expectant father himself. Since then, his efforts have raised more than 12 million for charity, with leukaemia research the main cause to benefit. In recognition of this work, Botham in 2003 became the first-ever President of Bloodwise, the UK’s leading blood cancer charity.
On 10 October 2007, he was invested a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, having been appointed in the Queen’s Birthday Honours “for services to Charity and to Cricket”.
After retiring from cricket, Botham became involved in the media and has worked as an analyst and commentator for Sky Sports for many years. He has earned much respect as a broadcaster because of his deep knowledge and understanding of cricket; he imparts information and opinion objectively, giving praise where it is due and constructive criticism where that is due. Unlike Fred Trueman and others, he does not hark back to “in my day”.Wisden editor Matthew Engel remarked on Botham’s calmness, wit and sagacity as a TV commentator, though admitting he was surprised by it.
On 9 August 2009, while commentating on the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley that season, Botham was invited to take part in an on-field ceremony to induct him into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame along with the Yorkshire greats Wilfred Rhodes, Fred Trueman and Geoffrey Boycott. Geoff Boycott was also in attendance, along with Fred Trueman’s widow Veronica and Colin Graves who, as Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairman, accepted the honour on behalf of Wilfred Rhodes. Botham said: “To be named amongst 55 of the most prolific players in cricketing history is a great honour for me. To have my cricketing career recognised in the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame is not something I would have thought when I began playing cricket but to be receiving this award today is something I’m extremely grateful for”. Colin Graves included Botham in his tribute to Rhodes when he said: “It is a great honour to accept the cap on behalf of a Yorkshire legend. Wilfred Rhodes was an exceedingly gifted player and is rightly regarded as one of England’s greatest all-rounders. I am also delighted to see two other great Yorkshiremen and another great all-rounder inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame today”.
Botham is colour blind. In 1976, in Doncaster, Botham married Kathryn (“Kathy”) Waller (now Lady Botham) whom he first met in June 1974. After their marriage, they lived until the late 1980s in Epworth, near Scunthorpe. They have one son, Liam (born August 1977), and two daughters. Liam is a former professional cricketer and rugby player. The family currently live in Almera, owning two houses, and Botham frequently plays golf there. His daughter Sarah owns a restaurant and wine bar in the town.
Botham is an avid trout and salmon angler. As a result, he was invited to present a TV series called Botham on the Fly. He has also been a team captain on the BBC series A Question of Sport.
Besides angling and golf, Botham enjoys game shooting and owns a grouse moor. This has resulted in a high-profile dispute with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). In August 2016, he called for Chris Packham to be sacked by the BBC as part of a campaign funded by the grouse shooting industry, after Packham had highlighted the industry’s involvement in the illegal killing of endangered species of birds of prey.
According to the New Statesman in 2015, “Botham is an old-fashioned Englishman he is conservative with a small and upper-case C” and “a robust monarchist“. Botham is a staunch supporter of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. He was quoted: “Personally, I think that England is an island. I think that England should be England. And I think that we should keep that.” He appeared at a number of pro-leave campaign events in the run-up to the United Kingdom’s European Union membership referendum in 2016.