Robin Jackman, the former England bowler and one of the most beloved sporting personalities in world cricket, has passed away at the age of 75.
Known to all simply as ‘Jackers’, his journey in cricket was every bit as exciting as his personality.
Born in India where his father was stationed during the war, he returned to England with his family in 1946. Dissuaded from becoming an actor, he turned his attention to cricket and became a stalwart for Surrey for 16 years, though many would argue that his love for the theatrics never quite left him.
As a fast-medium bowler, Jackman picked up more than 1 400 First-Class wickets (at under 23 apiece), helping Surrey to the County Championship in 1971, and the Natwest Trophy in 1982, where he took 6/22 in the quarterfinal - at the age of 37!
Never shy of a bit of overzealous appealing, cricket writer Alan Gibson gave him the nickname ‘Shoreditch Sparrow’.
Jackman made his England debut in 1974 and played 15 ODIs, but it seemed Test cricket would never happen for him; that is, until Bob Willis pulled out of the 1980/81 tour to the West Indies.
Jackers, then 35, was set to win his first cap in Guyana, but the local government refused to grant him a visa on the basis of his winter cricket excursions in Zimbabwe and Apartheid South Africa, and the fact that he was married to a South African.
The Test match was called off, but Jackman eventually got his chance in Barbados, playing the first of his four Tests, with his first scalp being no other than the legendary Gordon Greenidge.
Coaching led to the Jackmans relocating to South Africa on a permanent basis, but it was his work as an award-winning commentator that truly made him a household name in the country. He was a near ever-present as the Proteas found their feet at international level again, and was on air for some of their most memorable moments, famously tearing up as Jacques Kallis finally reached his double century against India in Centurion in 2010.
A throat cancer diagnosis in 2012 meant less commentary work, but Jackers was not lost completely to the cricketing fraternity, becoming a regular on the post-dinner speaking circuit, where his master storytelling, turn of phrase and sharp wit left the crowd in stitches.
He was also more than happy to offer up his time to help those less fortunate, signing up with various charitable organisations, including Lord's Taverners South Africa, for who he served as an ambassador alongside great friend and fellow commentator Jeremy Fredericks.
The whos-who of cricket wasted no time in offering condolences following news of Jackman’s death, and it’s a measure of the man that a common thread among all the messages is ‘gentleman’, ‘gracious’, ‘charismatic’ and ‘passionate’. And, of course, ‘legend’.
Rest in Peace Jackers, you legend.