Once upon a time batsmen were coached to hit the ball along the ground. The reason? Simple, it reduces the chances of the bowler dismissing you.
It was a maxim to which Alan Ormrod adhered, he being a player introduced to county cricket (he joined Worcestershire in 1960) before orthodox cricket was swamped by the limited overs farrago.
Whether consciously or otherwise, Ormrod modelled his style on that of Tom Graveney and critics were of the opinion that after Graveney retired, Ormrod was the most stylish batsman in England. Perhaps it could be said of him, as it had been of Joe Hardstaff, that he would rather be out than play an ugly stroke (a really inane comment, but its meaning is clear).
Ormrod was one of the very few who did not join the scramble, begun by Dennis Amiss, to wear a helmet whilst batting. He said plainly that a county batsman should keep his eye on the ball and therefore move his head when necessary. He belonged to a different era. Some players are noted for showing their dissent when an umpiring decision goes against them. Others manage to control their feelings until they reach the privacy of the dressing room. According to his colleagues, Ormrod accepted the umpire’s verdict without a grizzle, even in the inner sanctum.
Until 1975, Ormrod batted for Worcestershire first wicket down but rarely captured the headlines. Ron Headley retired and very reluctantly Ormrod joined the great Glenn Turner as part of the opening partnership. He was an immediate success and for eight summers, Turner and Ormrod were considered the best pair of openers in the country.
Many people were astonished that the Test selectors did not call upon him to open with Boycott for England – several others were chosen during those summers, but none really succeeded. It wasn’t as if Ormrod was an embarrassment in the field. He often stood at really silly point and had bruises on his legs to prove it, as well as 400 catches!
During his time at New Road, Worcestershire won the Championship for the first time in their history and repeated the feat in 1974. When he turned 40, he moved to his native Lancashire – he is a fanatical Manchester United supporter – played on for two more seasons and then was appointed Lancashire’s manager-cum-coach.
In 1987 he took Lancashire to the runners-up spot in the Championship, their best position in 27 years and in 1990 saw them win both the NatWest and B&H Trophies. Internal politics saw him sacked in the closing weeks of the 1992 season.
He was appointed as Notts manager for 1994, beating three former England candidates including Geoff Miller. He persuaded Jason Gallian to leave Lancashire for Trent Bridge at the start of 1998 and during that summer saw three very young uncapped players – Read, Franks and Afzaal – all show great promise, but the results at the end of the season for the county were not as good as expected and Notts decided to swap Ormrod for Rice. Would it have been wiser to stay with the former? We will never know.