The text of Sir John Major’s tribute to Mike Gatting, held at a dinner on 16th June 2006.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
If I learned only one thing from my old profession, it is to ignore the spin – ignore the hype – for the only thing that matters is substance, action and delivery.
And for the Lords Taverners, Mike Gatting has – in spades – delivered all three. Mike has presided over the biggest fundraising year in the Taverners’ history: he has travelled the length and breadth of the country for them. He led a 38 day Ashes walk to raise funds. And in the midst of all this, he has even found the time to play a bit of cricket for them. His has been an extraordinarily successful Presidency.
But Mike’s contributions to charity are not new. At home, on my wall, are two cricket bats. With one, Mike scored his first Test century, and with the other, he scored his last. How come I’m lucky enough to have these two great pieces of memorabilia? Because Mike gave them away to be auctioned – [pause] – for charity.
Most of us, if we scored a hundred, would consider the bat a miracle worker and cling on to it … but not Mike.
77 not out in Nigeria was my own best cricketing moment. I was clearly on a roll and had visions of making my first century, but a plane landed with the weekly mail at square leg and the match ended.
This was deeply frustrating, but at least I got a letter: it began “I hope you are getting a lot of cricket.”
I am also indebted to Mike for providing us with one of the most memorable of all sports interviews.
Everyone remembers the famous incident in which he was hit in the face by a cricket ball. Desperately painful to watch. God alone knows how painful to bear.
But, even so, Mike agreed to be interviewed for TV. His eyes were black and swollen. One was nearly closed. His cheeks were puffy, his nose – that once elegant adornment to his face – was flattened. There was a plaster across what remained of the bridge, and a trickle of blood seeped from one nostril.
The reporter looked straight at Mike as he posed his first question: “How are you?”. Mike replied – rather politely I thought in the circumstances. Whereupon the reporter followed up with his second question:
“Tell me Mike, where exactly did it hit you?”
We are here tonight in one of our nation’s most historic buildings, which houses some of our nation’s most treasured possessions. How appropriate. For Mike Gatting is himself one of our greatest national treasures.
Take a good look round this room, Mike, which could have been filled many times over. We are all here for one reason: to celebrate your extraordinary achievements, to salute your endeavour, and to thank you – from the bottom of our hearts – for the compassion you have shown to those most in need. Without spin, without hype, you have well and truly delivered.