Tributes pour in for former Northants all-rounder David Capel

Tributes have poured in from around the world following the death of Northamptonshire sporting legend David Capel, at the age of 57.

David Capel
David Capel

The former Northants and England all-rounder passed away at home on Wednesday morning following a long illness.

He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018.

When has was called up by England in 1987, Capel was the first Northampton-born player to represent England at Test level since George Thompson 77 years earlier.

David Capel during the 1987 Benson & Hedges Cup Final

He had earned that call for his superb performances with bat and ball for the County over the previous seasons, and in particular during that glorious summer when Geoff Cook's team reached two Lord's finals and also competed for the County Championship.

Sadly, Northants were to fall short in all three competitions, but for any fan of the club it was still a golden few months as arguably the best team the club has seen lit up the English cricketing scene.

And David Capel was a huge part of that.

The top five of that exciting batting line-up still rolls off the tongue now: Cook, Larkins, Bailey, Lamb, Capel... enough to spark anxiety attacks in any bowling attack.

David Capel was a Northants man through and through

They were all players who could, on their day, take any bowler to the cleaners, and Capel often did, allying a strong technique and defence with an array of powerful attacking shots.

One afternoon in that summer at the County Ground particularly sticks in the mind, as Capel and Rob Bailey took down the Yorkshire attack to chase down an improbable score on the final day of a Championship match.

It was like T20 had arrived in Northampton about 20 years early, such was was the array of attacking shots from both players, with Bailey ending on 152 not out and Capel 91 not out from just 85 balls.

Then there was his magnficent 97 in the B&H Final against the same opposition at a sun-drenched Lord's, and there many other superb innings in all forms of the game.

David Capel with Devon Malcolm

And Capel could of course bowl as well.

When the mood took him and everything was aligned he could bowl at a sharp pace, but it was his consistency and skill levels, an ability to make the ball swing late, that saw him excel.

And also his huge heart.

Because for all of his cricketing talent, and he had plenty, it was Capel's fighting spirit that gave him that something extra, that willingness to always work harder than everybody else, and always give of his best that gave him that little bit extra.

David Capel had a stint as a coach with the England women's cricket team

His record for Northants, a club he stayed loyal to throughout his career, is mightily impressive, and his record for England, in an era when every all-rounder was unfairly compared to Ian Botham, was not too shabby either.

Indeed, the great Sir Ian was among those to pay tribute to Capel on social media, writing on Twitter: "Very sad to hear the awful news about David Capel....his enthusiasm for the game was second to none! We’ve lost a very fine cricketer. Our condolences are with his family, RIP."

The fact that Capel rose from playing Town League cricket for his home club Roade, to the very top of the cricketing game, is reason for celebration and pride in itself.

I met and interviewed David a couple of times, but I never knew him, so all of this is coming from the perspective of a fellow Northamptonian, and a cricket and sports fan who simply enjoyed watching 'one of our own' reach the heights.

Someone who took pride in a Northampton lad and County player, representing his country with distinction and always giving his all for his club as well - and entertaining all of us along the way.

He did claim one major honour with his beloved Northants as he was part of the team that won the 1992 NatWest Trophy, but he and the club deserved so much more.

Capel's love and dedication to Northants didn't end when he stopped playing in 1998.

He moved into coaching, first with the club's young players and then as head coach between the years 2006 to 2012, and he was clearly an inspiration for many of the players that he worked with, both those who came through the Academy, and those brought in from elsewhere.

One of the youngsters he helped and inspired was David Willey, one of a clutch of players who followed in Capel's wake as being Northampton-born and going on to play for England, along with the likes of Ian Salisbury and Graeme Swann.

"Incredibly sad news," wrote Willey on Twitter. "Capes gave me my Northants debut and first pro contract. Eternally grateful for all he did for me. Not come across anybody who cared more about @NorthantsCCC."

David Sales, another who played his whole career at the County Ground, and also went on to a coaching role with the club, said: "I left home to come to Northants as a 16 year old, Capes took me under his wing.

"He he helped me on my way as a player, then helped me as my coach but most of all was a great family friend. Our thoughts are with Debbie, Jenny, Jordan & family at this very sad time. Going to miss him #legend."

Current Northants player Alex Wakely said: "This is devastating news. A brilliant, tough cricketer but more importantly, a lovely man.

"Capes had a huge impact on my career and many other players who came through the system. A true Northamptonshire legend."

Further tributes were paid from former Northants players from home and abroad.

Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who played with Capel when Northants went so close to winning the County Championship under the captaincy of Allan Lamb in 1995, wrote: "Shocking to hear the news of passing of David Capel.

"Have fond memories of playing with him at Northants and our many chats driving along the motorway. Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends."

Fellow Northants legend Lamb, who spent more than a decade as a team-mate of Capel with both club and country, wrote: "Very sad to hear my former team mate passed from a long suffering illness.

"David Capel all round person and a true gentlemen both on and off the field we are going to miss you buddy. RIP and condolences to your family."

Monty Panesar, brought through the County ranks before going on to play for England, posted a picture of him and Capel on Twitter, and said: "My last picture with my coach David Capel. Thankyou for helping and coaching me from my first days @NorthantsCCC and always believing in me to play for @englandcricket.

"You played a huge role in my life, I will miss you. God bless you #ripdavidcapel."

Panesar's fellow spinner and Northampton lad Graeme Swann, who played alongside Capel, said: "So sad to hear that David Capel passed away.

"He was a passionate, natural cricketer and true Northamptonian. one of my childhood heroes I was lucky enough to share a dressing room with. RIP Capes."

Former Northants captain and South African Test player Andrew Hall wrote on Facebook: "Very sad day for the cricketing community.

"Capes played a very big part in me signing for Northants and the direction the club took. Because of what he started we won promotions and trophies. Thoughts and prayers are with his family at the difficult time. RIP Capes."

Former Australia Test batsman Chris Rogers, who was brought to Northants by Capel in 2006, wrote: "So sad to hear of David Capel passing away. Played under him at Northampton when he coached.

"A tremendous person who wore his heart on his sleeve and gave everything. Rest In Peace Capes."

And there were further tributes from stars of the wider cricketing world as well, with Australian batting legend Dean Jones saying: "Sad to hear of the passing of David Capel. Condolences to his family and friends and especially to all of his @englandcricket and @NorthantsCCC team mates ... a tough day for you all."

Former England batsman Neil Fairbrother said: "David Capel, a wholehearted man both on and off the field.

"A fierce competitor, who got every ounce out of himself, will be sadly missed in this house and through the cricket fraternity. Thoughts go out to all Capes' family. #RIPCapes."

Ex-England skipper and current BBC pundit Michael Vaughan added: "The cricketing family has lost another great man today ... David Capel ... A cricketer I really enjoyed & was always very kind with his advice to me as a young player in the 90s ... #RIPCapes."

After leaving Northants, Capel took up a coaching role with the England women's team, and the former skipper, Charlotte Edwards, said alongside a picture of her with him: "I have so much to thanks this man for, my thoughts are with Debbit, Jordan and Jenny. RIP Capes xxx."

And there were many, many more.

The list of people from the cricketing world and beyond who have reacted to the news and spoken so well and kindly of Capel speaks for itself.

It is a fitting tribute to his cricketing career and, more importantly, the measure of the man.

It has been reported that Northants are considering a memorial to Capel at Wantage Road, marking his 33 years service to the club, and that would be a great move, and permanent reminder of what he did for his home county.

Not that any supporter, or anybody with a connection to the club, will ever forget anyway.

RIP peace David Capel, with thoughts, prayers and love to those you have left behind.