The sudden passing of Ian Cockbain at the ridiculously young age of 64 has focussed Cheshire CCC on some memorable times from a well-loved cricketer who captained his county from 1991 - 2001.
There has been much written is the short time since Ian's passing and like everybody else who spent anytime with 'Coey,' we're struggling for words.
Recognition at the Everton v Liverpool Premier League game and the fact that the players in the Hundred Final at Lords wore black armbands, recognising Ian senior's son played for the Trent Rockets, demonstrates the breadth of Ian's reach.
To captain your county for ten years is some feat. Ian captained Cheshire for ten years, Chairman, David Bailey described his influence as 'phenominal'.
"He captained the county at a time that saw us move to change in the (then) Minor Counties Cricket Championship.
"His flair, panache and passion for what we stood for was outstanding. Whether we'll ever see any captain have that impact on our side and that influence across the Cheshire County League, Liverpool Competiton and further, is doubtful. I know that what we have now is built on some fantastic foundations that he inherited and developed. Ian was Cheshire through and through. "
Pete Babbage, current Team Manager, expressed his appreciation when he said' "Quite simply, Ian's approach and the magnitude he dispayed in all things Cheshire was incredible."
"He created something special and his principles for the County Club were second to none. When I look at some of the youngsters that represent us today, I see Ian's spirit and belief taking us forward. We must continue to recognise this and continue to reflect his spirit."
Veteran spin bowler, Robin Fisher who played under Ian, spoke for a generation when he said, " Without a shadow of a doubt, he was the finest captain I played under. He could read the game like no other.
"It's hard to put into words how devastating the news was. I know I speak for all former Cheshire and Bootle/Formby (and other) players when I say that Coey's passing leaves a hole in our cricket which will never be filled."
Social media is full of praise and reflection. Go to any Cheshire / Liverpool Competition ground and you'll hear fantastic reflections about Ian.
With Cheshire, a glittering Minor Counties career saw Knockout Final success at Lord’s in 1996 and a share of the championship in 2001, the last of his 11 years at the helm. He scored 8,575 championship runs averaging 41, but the undoubted highlight came in 1988 at Chester, with a one-wicket NatWest Trophy victory over Northamptonshire, two-time Lord’s finalists the previous year, one of only 10 such giant-killings in 41 seasons.
He won the Player of the Match award in a narrow B&H Cup loss against Notts in 1994 and made an unbeaten 65 in a shock win over Leicestershire the following year. He went one better against the international tourists a year later, skippering Minor Counties to a famous win over the ’95 West Indians at Reading and, all in, scored 408 runs at over 50 against Test opposition.
Scott Oliver's excellent 2019 Wisden Cricket article highlights how he managed 39 trophies during 22 seasons with Bootle CC - read it here
The following is adapted from the late Gerry Hardstaff's 2009 appreciation of Cheshire captains, celebrating the Cheshire CCC centenary. Ian was listed in the Cheshire CCC 'All Time XI'.
Ian Cockbain - described as 'a stylish attractive and forceful leader' - was a 'product of Bootle CC' in the Liverpool Competition. His arrival as a county player in 1984 continued a long historical connection with the Club and the Competition.
He arrvied via the Lancashire CCC playing staff after several sucesful years, deciding that a 'proper job' was a safer option.
After talking with the captain of the time, Arthur Sutton, and expressing a desire to play for Cheshire, he was duly registered (much to the captain's delight).
It was a long and fruitful relationship. An elegant and forceful batsman of great skill and ability, after not too significant a start, he finally came good with a magnificent hundred. From there, he never looked back, scoring over 8,000 career runs.
Ian had an ambition to captain the County and when the opportunity came in 1991, he took it with both hands. His record as captain speaks for itself and his ability to lead the team on the field, along with his off field work, could never be doubted. He was a natural and the players responded positively, never doubting who was in charge.
Like all good captains, Ian was adventurous and optimistic, sometimes appearing to be overly so. But he knew when to pull back and when the need arose, he could get the players to respond accordingly. He could also get them to feel guilty if things didn't turn out as planned. Very skilfull!
Ian's talents were recognised and he was invited to lead the Minor Counties representative side. A well deserved honour for someone who served Cheshire cricket with such distinction.
We send our sincere condolences to Ian's friends and familes. Cheshire County Cricket Club owe Ian a great debt and we humbly salute one of our finest.