World Cup mavericks: Dermot Reeve, the 'unlikeable' innovator

The Englishman who once sledged Dravid into losing his wicket

54-Dermot-Reeve Illustration: Job P.K.

We have seen Joe Root drop his bat in celebration. He did so after a century against India. Dermot Reeve also dropped his bat; only, he did so while batting. It was a Warwickshire vs Hampshire match. Left-arm spinner Raj Maru was bowling into the rough outside leg stump and Reeve did not want to get caught bat-pad. His solution? He put his leg forward to defend the ball and dropped his bat to the pitch. He did so 15 times during that match.

It was such innovation, sometimes ethically complex, that Reeve was known for. He would reverse sweep with impunity and would vary the pace of his seam bowling before it became fashionable. Basically, he would employ any method to get into the opponent’s head. This included incessant chirping at batters, regardless of reputation. As Rahul Dravid would find out. “He told me, ‘You’re the only person who’s ever got under my skin,’” Reeve told Daily Mail in 2021. “I went on and on. And he got out. Things like that made me very disliked. But I wasn’t out there to make friends. We were there to win matches.”

He was not stingy with this ideology, lavishing it on teammates, too. As captain of Warwickshire, he thought star signee Brian Lara was getting special treatment and even called him a “prima donna”.

It was this antagonistic attitude, perhaps, that prevented him from getting a longer career. There was that persistent hip injury, too. Of his 29 ODI caps, 11 came in World Cups. The 1992 edition was more memorable―he took eight wickets at an average of 15.75, the tournament’s lowest. His best was a three-fer against India, where he got the captain Mohammad Azharuddin and Kapil Dev. He also hit four fours en route to an important 25* in that infamous rain-affected match that saw South Africa’s target being revised to 22 off one ball.

Reeve’s playing days morphed into coaching stints with a couple of teams, including Somerset and the Maharashtra Ranji side. He also took up commentary duties, but was let go from Channel 4 after news of his cocaine addiction broke. He says he is clean now. “I have no recollection of seeing the ball on Saturday and Sunday. I had to watch the match video to hear what I said,” he told The Mail on Sunday in 2005. It was the England versus New Zealand match at Lord’s in 2004. “They (others in the box) just said I was my usual self but chirpier―and kept doing Imran Khan impressions off-screen. They said it was the funniest commentary they had ever heard.”