Bexhill has lost one of its greatest sportspersons with the untimely passing of Roger ‘Tub’ Bechter.
It was at the Down County Secondary Modern School that Roger’s many natural sporting talents first came to light.
Roger lacked height but he could leap to such a degree that it overtook the height advantage of his taller opponents whether to head a football or pop the ball through a basketball hoop.
And, as his nickname ‘Tub’ suggests, although he carried a degree of bulk, nonetheless he could sprint with a level of speed that left more agile football opponents floundering.
On the football field, Roger proved a natural in his primary position on the left wing and although his appreciation of the classics was left in the classroom, his reading of the flow of play was poetry itself.
Mainly he played for Bexhill but later enjoyed spells with Sidley, Ninfield, Claverham and Herstmonceux, whilst with the coming of Sunday football he dominated the Continental’s attack.
But it was to be cricket where Roger’s talent really shone. In his early teens Roger joined Bexhill Cricket Club where he established himself as a wicketkeeper batsman.
Aged 15 Roger became, what is believed to be, the first Bexhillian sportsperson to represent his country, when selected to keep wicket for England Schoolboys.
That Roger failed to progress into County Cricket was not due to a lack of talent but to the failings of Sussex County Cricket Club with its then disregard for those who did not hail from the “landed gentry”. That Roger had the talent is fact, the fact being that a rival for the wicket-keeping spot in the England Schoolboy’s team was none other than Alan Knott, later of Kent and England.
Roger’s unique style of batting left many an oppositions’ bowlers helpless since his natural talent and keen eye defied whichever line and length was delivered to his willow.
Noteworthy was an early Sussex Cricket League encounter with Lewes Priory. Roger arrived at the crease as the No 9 batsman, with Bexhill requiring over 100 runs to secure an “impossible” victory. Once again, Roger took command and used his “Jumbo” bat, a recent innovation at that time, to flay the opponent’s bowlers far and wide, including a massive six which thundered first bounce into the distant football stand. The eighth wicket partnership produced 30 of the runs and although the departure of Alan Tack for 5 had seen the ninth wicket stand realise an unlikely 73 runs, they remained 18 short of their target. Again, Roger’s words of wisdom had the desired effect for although the No 11 batsman failed to trouble the scorers, his solid defence enabled Roger not only to secure victory but finish with 101 not out to become only the second century to have been scored by a Bexhill batsman in the Sussex Cricket League.
Roger was renowned for his sense of humour, which often verged on the ironic.
Off the field Roger played a major part in assisting Bexhill Cricket Club to maintain its financial standing, as well as avidly collecting match fees and tea monies for many years. More recently he acted as umpire for the club.
Hastings and St Leonards Priory CC stalwart John Lawson said: “From the time I first played against Roger as a 15-year-old schoolboy he proved to be a Great Ambassador for his club and a Great Ambassador for cricket. He was always fair and always fun but most of all his batting, especially in the twenty over game, had to be admired and feared, because until Roger’s wicket had been claimed you knew that defeat could be just around the corner.”
Roger’s former team mates contribute towards a bench, to allow older former cricketers to enjoy the sport.
And members of Bexhill Cricket Club have arranged for a collection for a trophy in memory of Roger, to be presented annually to the supporter’s ‘Player of the Year’.
Roger’s funeral takes place at 1pm on Friday March 13 at Eastbourne Crematorium.