Sir Ian Botham batting England vs Australia fourth test Edgbaston 1981 ()Sir Ian Botham batting England vs Australia fourth test Edgbaston 1981 () © Copyright

BTWT: Sir Ian Botham

The most legendary of all England cricketers talks about his God-given genius, riding torpedos and pipe smoking like a pro in Been There Won That.

The secret of my success was my self-confidence. I’ve always been rather confident about my ability. Because if I’m not confident about what I can do, why should anybody else be? Put it this way, there wasn’t a single situation I found myself in playing cricket where I didn’t think I could win. Not one.

Headingley in ’81 wasn’t a lost cause. Following on and at 135-7, the odds were 500-1 against us, but I had no doubt we could win it. I remember Graham Dilley came out to bat, and he asked what I wanted him to do. I told him to enjoy it. He played the innings of his career, it wasn’t just about me.

‘Botham’s Ashes’ made me. It turned me into a ‘celebrity’ – a word I despise. You got no guidance in how to deal with it in those days. You were thrown to the wolves, and you did end up making mistakes. But I have no regrets – not even the bad stuff. Everything happens for a reason.

Sir Ian Botham celebrates 1981 Ashes victory ()


My motto has always been ‘Ride the torpedo to the end of the tube’. That sums up my outlook. Once you get on, you can’t get off, and there’s little point looking back.

I don’t hate the Aussies at all. I admire them. I’ve said before that if you took 11 guys off Bondi Beach and put them on a plane to England, they’d give you a good game. That’s why I enjoyed playing them.

True greatness can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t. I think that’s the same in any walk of life. But being gifted won’t get you very far if you’re not prepared to put the work in and appreciate the gift you’ve been given. Not everyone does. The best advice I’ve been given is to have fun and enjoy it. If you enjoy it, you’ll improve; if you don’t enjoy it, why are you doing it?

England vs Australia third test Headingley 1981 Ian Botham ()


Batting was always hard for me because I’m chronically colour-blind. It made it very hard to differentiate the red ball from green grass. But you train until it becomes natural. I guess
if I’d have been able to see the ball, I’d have been even better.

Of the 16 walks I’ve done for charity, Sri Lanka in 2013 was the hardest, by some distance. It was 50-odd degrees, the road temperature took it even higher, 100% humidity… that was just hard. Gruelling. Did I fear I wouldn’t finish? No, that wasn’t an option.

The 1988 Pipe Smoker of the Year award doesn’t take pride of place in my trophy cabinet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of it. Every trophy I ever won means something to me. They all mean I was doing something right, including smoking a pipe. I’ve stopped smoking since then. It was a phase.

Sir Ian Botham was speaking at Tesco Wine Fair on behalf of Hardys Wines


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