Cult Heroes: Ronnie Irani


This week’s Cult Hero is another former Captain of the Club who will live long in the memory of supporters for years to come. He joins James Foster and Graham Gooch in our series and is a player who helped the Club to a number of trophies during his time in an Essex shirt.

The Cult Heroes series is supported by Allen Ford and this week’s profile’s the Essex career of Ronnie Irani.

Essex Career Stats (1994-2007)
First-Class Debut: 24 May 1992 v Warwickshire
Appearances: 498
Runs: 20,610
First Class Average: 43.43
Highest Score: 218 – 2006 v Glamorgan
Centuries: 36
Fifties: 117
Wickets: 572

Having spent his formative years with Lancashire, Ronnie found himself denied extended opportunities with the Red Rose County and so made his way south to join Essex in 1994.

It was a move that kick-started what was to become a wonderful career for a player who struck up an immediate love-affair with the Essex faithful. As well as his obvious talents, his committed attitude and vibrant personality made him into the whole-hearted crowd-pleaser.

His reward for his performance meant the effective all-rounder forced his way into England international recognition winning three Test caps and playing in 31 ODI’s.

He also captained his adopted county for seven years and was still at the helm when a persistent and deteriorating knee condition forced him to retire midway through the 2007 season.

A performer with both bat and ball, the serious nature of his knee problem in 2003 determined that bowling was no longer an option.

But Irani shook off that setback by honing his talents to become a highly effective specialist batsman illustrated by an average that exceeded 56 in both 2004 and 2005.

Born in Leigh in October 1971, and after nine first-class matches for Lancashire in four years, he made the journey south to kick-start what was to become a wonderful career.

A forceful batsman, particularly strong off the back foot, he could also offer stubborn defence when the situation demanded and was also an effective right-arm medium pace bowler with the ability to swing the ball away from the right-hander.

He made his Test debut in 1996 at Edgbaston but after helping to save the match with India at Lord’s in the following match, he was dropped. However, he did go on to tour with England in 1996/97 but it wasn’t until 1999 when he got his third and final Test cap.

In 2000, he was named as Essex Captain. This was a role he retained, despite often playing through the pain barrier until an injury brought down the curtain on his career.

At County level, Ronnie was a feared opponent. He enjoyed a brilliant domestic 2002 campaign when he scored more than 1,500 runs, averaging over 53, along with 69 wickets which won him a recall to the England ODI side.

Although he retained his place for the 2003 World Cup, his knee problems worsened and in a bid to extend his cricket career, although by now exclusively as a batsman, Irani flew to America and then Germany to undergo knee treatment with positive results.

In 2006, he averaged 59 in the Championship and began 2007 with 144 against Derbyshire in the opening Championship match of the season. He later went on to record his career-best innings of 218 against Glamorgan at Chelmsford in the next game. However, that was to prove his final first-class innings at the County Ground.

During a Championship game with Leicestershire in May 2007, Irani slipped and twisted his knee and was forced to seek immediate medical attention. After treatment and a final consultation with his specialist, it was revealed that the damage was more serious than initially feared and he was told that if he continued professional sport, then it would seriously affect his health and lifestyle. Ronnie acted upon the specialist’s advice and announced his retirement.

By the time his career ended, he had played 211 first-class matches for Essex, accumulating 12,944 first-class runs @ 43.43 and claimed 316 wickets @ 29.24. In 179 one-day league matches for Essex, Irani struck 4,392 runs and claimed 161 wickets.

In 2015, he took up the position of the Club’s Chairman of the Cricket Advisory Group.