Off The Mark - How it began for...John Lever - Cricket World TV

John Lever (right), with Keith Fletcher
John Lever (right), with Keith Fletcher
©REUTERS / Action Images

John Lever tells us that his interest in the game was sparked by legends such as Ted Dexter and Ken Barrington before he became part of a successful Essex team between 1967 and 1989.

After making his debut as a teenager, left-armer Lever would go on to play for Essex for 23 years, as well as making 21 Test and 22 One-Day International appearances for England.

"One of my first cricket bats was a Ted Dexter autograph, so that's going back a long way, Ken Barrington was the next one, so I'm going back a long time," he said.

Lever broke into the Essex team in 1967 and says he was lucky to be able to start playing first-class cricket so early.

"I started in the late 60s and I think looking at Barry Knight and Trevor Bailey who were at Essex and at that time Trevor was ready to retire and Knighty went on to Leicester so there was a space for a bowler.

"I was 17, 18 so I managed to get in and play first-class cricket as opposed to playing second-team cricket which I think pushed my career forward very very quickly and it went from there."

Lever would go on to play 529 first-class matches and 481 one-day games in his career, taking 2,396 wickets but he explains it took time for a young Essex side to gel and become successful.

"We were a very young side - nine years I think we played without winning anything so we all grew up together, became good cricketers together and learnt how to win together so that was how Essex came through."

He then relates his own experiences of playing under different captains and the differences between bowling in county cricket and international cricket.

"At that time, Keith Fletcher was I think the best captain that I played under. Tony Greig was good, Mike Brearley was top drawer but Fletch, to me, because I knew him as a county cricketer...I got lazy...every time I looked up he'd made a fielding position change and then I got a wicket.

"'This is easy,' I thought. It wasn't until I played Test cricket I found out the captain says 'what field do you want?' and you have to do a little bit more thinking about it, the way they do it now, the way the bowlers get together.

"Obviously they've got plans, and plans for how they are going to attack different batsmen.

"We had the same team meetings and it still came back to the same line - we'll bowl off stump, just outside, or top of off!"

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