Through little fault of his own, Richard Blakey endured a Test career that was as controversial as it was short. Picked in the squad to tour India in 1992-3, he was a member of a party awkwardly made up to straddle the requirements of both Test and ODI cricket. When injuries and illness to the first choice openers compelled first choice wicket-keeper Alec Stewart to open, Blakey was given the gloves. Despite firmly being a keeper-batsman, he didnt concede a bye in his first innings behind the stumps, despite England conceding 560 runs and fielding a three pronged spin attack. Ironically though, it was with the bat that he failed most. He looked completely lost against the Indian spinners on their home wickets, as he scraped together just 7 runs from four innings. Another reason for his tour being so disappointing was that in his ODI debut against Pakistan at Lords in 1992 he had looked reasonably at home on the international scene, making a decent 25 as England had just failed in win in a run chase. He also had an excellent record for England A in the winters before the Indian tour. Blakey had started his career as a specialist batsman with Yorkshire in 1985, although in 1988 he was picked ahead of David Bairstow as the Tykes gloveman, and by 1990 he was firmly ensconced as the first choice stumper. His batting had good and bad seasons, although he was a virtual ever present through the 1990s. Simon Guy emerged as a challenger for the gloves in 2000, and after a poor trot with the bat Blakey was dropped in favour of the younger man, much as Bairstow had been many years earlier. However, he returned to play most of the Championship winning campaign of 2001, where he was the only member of the squad left who had played in the Yorkshire team which had won the Benson & Hedges Cup final in 1987. Despite starting the 2003 season with a career-best 223* against Northamptonshire (off just 206 balls and containing 35 fours), it was his last campaign as a First-class cricketer, although he played a handful of limited-overs matches in 2004. Despite no-one having staked a decisive claim to the first team gloves in the last couple of seasons, Blakey now concentrates on captaining the Yorkshire Second XI, where he is now into his third decade of service to the white rose county.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)