To mark the 50th anniversary of overseas players coming to county cricket in large numbers, we’ve asked an expert on each county to pick their top three for that club. Gloucestershire’s legendary wicketkeeper Jack Russell picks them for his county.
1. COURTNEY WALSH
West Indies (1984-98)
Simply the best bowler I ever kept wicket to, and an absolute gentleman who would do anything for his teammates. He would bowl all day, fast! In one match at Grace Road he bowled 29 consecutive overs except one, and that was to switch and bowl from the other end.
He was the Gloucestershire batsmen’s best friend because he would often make up for a lack of runs by dismissing the opposition cheaply. His first-class record (869 wickets for Gloucestershire at 20, including 61 five-wicket hauls) speaks for itself.
2. IAN HARVEY
We called him ‘The Freak’ because he could do anything. He was a pivotal cog in the machine during the Gloucestershire glory years of the late 90s early 2000s. He could bowl sharp, swing it both ways and had a good bouncer, but his best skills were bowling at the end of an innings. His slower ball out of the back of the hand was mesmerising and it took the opposition around two-and-a-half years to work out how to play it!
His batting could be destructive too – he was the first player to score a T20 century – and he often took the game away from the opposition. He was also a brilliant fielder who could run people out with a direct throw using his ‘wrong arm’.
3. MIKE PROCTER
South Africa (1965-81)
Procter carried Gloucestershire on his shoulders for much of the 1970s (scoring more than 20,000 runs and taking 1,113 wickets in 14 seasons with the county). He used to swing the ball into the right-handers at devastating pace, and when he bowled around the wicket he was lethal. He bowled yorkers at will.
Procter’s hat-trick against Hampshire in the B&H semi-final to help get Gloucestershire to the final in 1977 is legendary. I was at the final and watched him terrify Kent’s batsmen as he started his long run from in front of the pavilion steps. He was also a brilliant middle-order batsman and led from the front as captain – so much so that the county was renamed ‘Proctershire’ by the supporters.