Brian Rose at 70: an affectionate appreciation by Vic Marks

Former Somerset and England spinner Vic Marks played a key role in Somerset’s Glory Years teams.

Those sides were captained by Brian Rose.

To mark Brian’s 70th birthday, Vic describes what it was like playing under his former skipper.

We were denied the opportunity of celebrating our noble President’s 70th birthday this year.

No doubt without the pandemic we would have all congregated at the Cooper Associates County Ground on June 5th 2020, the day after his birthday, for a floodlight Vitality Blast match against Surrey and we would have raised a glass to Brian Rose, Club Captain, Cricket Chairman, Cricket Director and President, the four key roles that he has held at the Club over five decades, the last of which may be the most straightforward (presumably he just has to locate the glass before pouring).

Then we would have settled down to watch Lewis Gregory, Tom Abell and the boys give the Brown Caps a good thrashing while sympathising – with no great sincerity – with the Chief Executive of Surrey, Richard Gould, who is always welcome at Taunton.

Sadly Brian remains Somerset’s most successful captain, having led us to four trophies – Ian Botham was leading the side when we won the fifth in 1983. This status is a source of dismay to Brian himself. Since the heady days of the late 1970s and early 80s we have all witnessed so many near-misses, but there remains great and justifiable hope that the current team, several of whom started with the club when Brian was the Cricket Director, can sort that out. Brian would happily be the second most successful captain of Somerset.

He has been a constant at the Club for half a century, although along the way he did have a proper job in the paper industry for more than a decade. It always irked him that in Wisden his birthplace was designated as Dartford. He lived there for the first three weeks of his life and has been in and around Weston-super-Mare ever since. His devotion to the Club has never wavered though the nature of his contributions have varied.

At the start in his teens he was a carefree driver of the ball and then he turned pro and played like a pro, shunning too many extravagances outside the off-stump and tucking the ball away on the leg side. In this mode he was good enough to be picked for England for the 1977/78 winter tour. Then he was made captain of Somerset after the retirement of Brian Close and we saw a different type of Rose blooming at the top of the order.

He started playing his shots again all around the wicket. The captaincy had freed up his approach to batting. No one was going to drop him now. For a couple years he vied with Graham Gooch as the most destructive English opener around. He was picked again for England again when Ian Botham was captain and he kept attacking even against the mighty West Indian quick bowlers. Like most batsmen he was a better player when playing his shots.

It is always a mild surprise when I remind people that Brian was not necessarily the obvious choice to be captain. He kept his own counsel in his corner of the dressing room, giving nothing away. Derek Taylor and Peter Denning were also reckoned to be credible candidates back in 1977, but it did not take long to realise that they had chosen the right man.

He was quite a contrast to Close, who was never very good at hiding his emotions. Close was a wonderful maverick tactician, living on his wits and instinct, impatiently hunting victory. Rose, it transpired, was more of a ruthless strategist, who would never shy away from the difficult decision. He had a dressing room that was very easy to captain on the good days, but tricky on the bad ones.

Whatever the situation, captain Rose may have seemed like a beacon of calm common-sense. However, this was not always the case. I still enjoy the memory of a Sunday League match when Somerset were chasing a steep target not very convincingly. Brian was already out and stationed on the balcony of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion like a beleaguered captain on the bridge. He looked on silently at our unavailing attempts to up the rate out in the middle. Whereupon he obviously had a brainwave. He rose from his seat and bellowed towards the dressing room with the authority of a born leader.

“Dennis!”, he shouted in the general direction of Dennis Breakwell, who was a capable and aggressive left-handed batsman down the order. “Dennis, go and put your pads on. Quickly”.

A slightly surprised Breakwell replied. “Alright, skip. But you do realise that you made me twelfth man earlier this afternoon, don’t you?”.

Hopefully I shall be around to remind our President of this little episode – yet again – on the occasion of his 71st birthday.

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