As he goes in to bat against his toughest opponent, Allan Lamb has turned to his tried and tested motto. ‘When in doubt, attack,’ says the England legend.
‘That’s the way I played my cricket and that is exactly how I am treating this. Once you go on the defensive, you can get out. You can get out attacking, too, but I’d rather go that way than be a defender.’
For Lamb, the opponent he is facing this time is not Malcolm Marshall or Dennis Lillee but prostate cancer. The 67-year-old is sitting with Sportsmail in the week he publicly announced his diagnosis and his phone does not stop ringing during the course of our hour-long chat.
Allan Lamb wants to raise awareness about a condition that affects one in eight men
‘It’s fantastic to see that so many people care about you,’ admits Lamb, who has just finished a session of radiotherapy before he meets us in his private members’ club in Mayfair, London. ‘You don’t even know how many friends you have out there.
‘Elton John called me yesterday to wish me all the luck and we had a long chat. Piers Morgan, Beefy (Ian Botham), David Gower. Loads of my cricketing friends. The England team have been brilliant. I’ve been gobsmacked by all of the support.’
Lamb did not make his cancer public just to be reminded of his popularity, however. He wants to raise awareness about a condition that affects one in eight men and was the cause of his great mate Bob Willis’ death two years ago.
‘You don’t usually want to put stuff on social media about your health but I think it’s so important,’ admits the two-time Ashes winner, who hit 14 Test centuries in 79 games from 1982 to 1992.
‘If I can save lives and get the awareness out to people, then I’m all for it. I don’t mind telling people what’s wrong with me.
Players past and present including Ian Botham have been in touch to offer their support
‘We lost Bob Willis and he was quite embarrassed about it and he kept it very quiet. My advice to all men over 50 is to go and have a check-up. Otherwise we are going to lose too many people.’
Lamb was diagnosed himself in September after a blood test found his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels had risen. He was referred to a specialist, who carried out a biopsy, and he received the devastating news while on holiday in France.
‘It was a funny feeling,’ recalls Lamb. ‘I thought I’d get it because so many of my mates had been getting it, but I still felt a bit numb.
‘My wife Lindsay took it worse because she had already had breast cancer. She was all worried that this was a killer and I was going to die.’
However, this diminutive batsman, who stood up to the West Indian fast bowling giants of the 1980s, is not going to start ducking now.
Pop music legend and cricket fan Elton John also phoned Lamb to wish him luck
‘I’m still feeling fairly strong,’ he says – and he looks it. ‘I could get out and go play a game a golf. I am still doing my exercise.
‘I started with the radiotherapy treatment in October and then I’m on hormone tablets for six months. I’m sure that’ll it’ll work.
‘They say I have between 85 and 100 per cent chance of beating it, so I’m very positive about it. You’ve got to stay in the right frame of mind.’
Lamb has been told he can carry on with his normal daily life and so he continues to work with his sports events and travel company, Lamb Associates. Indeed, he would have still been leading a supporters tour to next month’s Ashes were it not for Australia’s stringent Covid travel restrictions.
‘They have become a nanny state, run by nanny politicians,’ says Lamb. ‘In some places you can’t have a barbie or a beer on the beach any more. What has happened to this country?’
Lamb toured Australia three times in his career, winning the Ashes in 1986-87 as part of a team that legendary cricket writer Martin Johnson had famously said ‘can’t bat, can’t bowl and can’t field’.
Lamb won two Ashes and three cricket World Cups for England during his glittering career
‘He was probably right!’ laughs Lamb. ‘We had lost in our warm-up games and the Aussies thought they were going to give us a hammering.
‘But the night before the Brisbane Test, I remember Beefy saying, “Come on we have got to bloody beat these bastards”, and it all changed.
‘We’ve got to thank the late Martin Johnson because he really revved us all up. That was our team talk!’
Lamb and his best mate Beefy partied as hard as they played in Australia, including in the dressing room with Elton after sealing the series win in Melbourne.
‘That was our life but it’s all changed in cricket now,’ he says. ‘I am pleased I played in the era that I did. I don’t think a curfew would have worked too well in our days…’
A curfew may at least have got Lamb out of bother during the next Ashes tour of 1990-91, when he was standing in as captain for the injured Graham Gooch at the Gabba.
After the second day’s play, Kerry Packer – the founder of the controversial World Series Cricket – invited Lamb and David Gower for a meal on the Gold Coast, followed by a visit to the casino.
The problem for Lamb, though, was that he was 10 not out overnight and had to bat the next day. When he was promptly dismissed the following morning and England collapsed to a 10-wicket defeat, the papers had a field day about the England captain’s ‘drunken’ night out.
‘The thing was, Kerry is a teetotaller and we didn’t even have a drink,’ says Lamb. ‘That was probably why we didn’t do well the following day!’
England went on to lose that series 3-0 and Lamb does not hold out much more hope for Joe Root’s side this time around.
‘Australia will be favourites because of their bowling,’ he adds. ‘But it is nice to see Ben Stokes coming back. You need a guy like that in your side, someone who will take the fight to the opposition.’ Someone just like Allan Joseph Lamb.
To find out more about Prostate Cancer UK and to donate towards their lifesaving work go to prostatecanceruk.org/donate