Ian BOTHAM (1955-)

Ian Botham
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Ian Botham, cricketer, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.

After leaving school early, Ian played cricket for Somerset, making his first class debut in 1974, aged 18. He gained his Test debut for England in 1977 which led to an illustrious international career, as one of the most entertaining all-rounders of his generation.

His flamboyant batting and successful bowling had the capacity to win games and excite the spectators. His greatest moment came in the 1981 Ashes test at Headingley – where he led England to the most spectacular and unpredictable recovery against Australia.

Alongside his cricketing career, Ian is also a prolific charity fund raiser, undertaking gruelling long distance walks to raise money.

“Honest? Who the hell have you invited?”

Screenshots of Ian Botham This Is Your Life

Ian Botham's autobiography

Ian recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his autobiography, Head On...

The ‘Botham summer’ of 1981 was now over, but it had changed my life for ever. Before then I was reasonably well known in Britain and in cricketing circles abroad, but unknown elsewhere; now I was internationally famous. Even in America, where cricket was virtually unheard of, I made the cover of Sports Illustrated, the first cricketer ever to do so. It was hard to keep my feet on the ground at the time, with the phone ringing off the hook with offers of endorsements, advertising campaigns, book deals and personal appearances.

I also made a surprise television appearance, as the subject of This Is Your Life. Kath had obviously been in on the secret from the start and she’d vetoed the original list of people that the programme’s researchers had come up with. They wanted to fill the programme with celebrities and people that I’d barely even heard of and Kath said, ‘No. If you do it that way, it won’t be a true reflection of Ian’s life up to now. I’m not having him portrayed as if all he wants to do is hang around with celebrities, because he’s not that type of person at all. If Ian’s going to do it, he’ll want his real friends and his family to be there, not all these other people.’

She dug her heels in and got her way in most of the arguments, so people like Charlie Martin, a Scots ghillie who had taught me to fish, were there – the first time in Charlie’s life that he had ever been outside Scotland. The only exception was Gary Sobers. Kath had wanted Brian Close to be the final guest because he had been such a big part of both our lives. Though we became good friends later on, I barely knew Gary at the time, but he was a huge name back then and the TV company insisted on making him the final guest, so he came on stage with Liam and Sarah.

I had no inkling that it was being planned – Kath had sworn everyone to secrecy – though I was a bit puzzled why conversations kept fading away as I came into the room and why she kept sneaking off to the phone box while we were on holiday just before I was ‘ambushed’ for the programme. I was in an England team meeting ready for the trip to India when I saw Eamonn Andrews appear with that trademark rictus grin on his face and his Big Red Book clutched in his hand. I was sitting there thinking, ‘Wonder who he’s going to get – Boycott? Willis?’ When he gave me the book I was gobsmacked. If I’d known in advance that he was coming for me, I would have told him, politely of course, what he could do with it; a lot of people say that, I know, but I really mean it. The idea of somebody saying ‘This is your life’ to someone in their mid-twenties was quite ridiculous. However, when it actually happened, I knew all my friends and relatives would be waiting backstage and would be bitterly disappointed if I pulled the plug on it. So I bit my tongue and went ahead with it, and I must admit it was touching to see all the people who had given up their time to come and say nice things about me … but it was still an absurd idea.

The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls the experience of this particular edition of This Is Your Life in his book This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Sir Gary Sobers flew in from Australia for our surprise on Ian Botham. He had been young Ian’s boyhood hero and inspiration.

It was 4 October 1981, [Bigredbook editor: Ian was actually surprised on 4 November 1981] and that summer Ian Botham had vanquished the Australian tourists virtually single-handed. His century at Old Trafford had made him Britain’s most popular sporting hero.

We surprised him, appropriately, at Lords, thanks to England team manager Raman Subba Row, captain Keith Fletcher and vice-captain Bob Willis, who had assembled the team for a ‘briefing’ on the eve of their tour of India.

Former England skipper Brian Close greeted from Barbados, Dennis Lillee from Australia and Geoffrey Boycott from Hong Kong. Geoffrey had been the first to tag Ian ‘Guy the Gorilla’ – and sent him a present of a bunch of bananas and a couple of coconuts.

Ian’s best pal from Somerset, probably the world’s best batsman, Viv Richards, rang at the last moment to say his flight from Antigua had been cancelled. Hastily we arranged a live link so the two famous cricketing pals could talk to each other.

And the cricketing hero he had idolised as a boy, Sir Garfield Sobers, paid him this tribute: ‘Today, Ian, I want to say you are the world’s best all-rounder.’

programme details...

  • Edition No: 577
  • Subject No: 573
  • Broadcast date: Wed 4 Nov 1981
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 4 Nov 1981
  • Venue: Royalty Theatre
  • Series: 22
  • Edition: 4
  • Code Name: Bit

on the guest list...

  • Keith Fletcher
  • Bob Willis
  • Raman Subba Row
  • England team members
  • Somerset team members
  • Brian Rose
  • Scunthorpe United players
  • Paul Sugden
  • Willie Carson
  • Mike Gibson
  • Jack Keall
  • Bob Keall
  • Charlie Martin
  • Kathy - wife
  • Les - father
  • Marie - mother
  • Dale - sister
  • Stephen – brother-in-law
  • Wendy – sister
  • Paul – brother-in-law
  • Graeme - brother
  • Gerry Waller – father-in-law
  • Jan Waller – mother-in-law
  • Lindsay – sister-in-law
  • Paul – brother-in-law
  • Rev Douglas White
  • John Saunders
  • Robin Trevett
  • Richard Hibbitt
  • Bill Jones
  • Nick Harrison
  • Viv Richards – via telephone
  • Ron Ashman
  • Ron Harris
  • John Hollins
  • John Dempsey
  • Ian Hutchinson
  • Peter Osgood
  • Sarah - daughter
  • Liam - son
  • Sir Garfield Sobers
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Mike Brearley
  • Geoffrey Boycott
  • Brian Close
  • Dennis Lillee

external links...

production team...

  • Researcher: John Graham
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Paul Stewart Laing, Terry Yarwood
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 22 subjects: Bob Champion > Bill Fraser > Wayne Sleep > Ian Botham > Cannon and Ball > Rob Buckman > Angela Rippon > Julia McKenzie > Jackie Milburn > Paul Shane > Peter Adamson > Kiri Te Kanawa > Mickie Most > Anita Harris > Mike Brace > Faith Brown > Robin Bailey > Rod Hull > Bob Monkhouse > John Toshack > Wally Herbert > Joe Gormley > Roger Whittaker > Alan Whicker > Peter Davison > Douglas Bader