‘I was born to play Cup Match’ ‒ 1979 hero Randy Horton sets the table
Randy Horton believes it is imperative to commemorate the historical values of Cup Match in order to safeguard the legacy of what makes it such a significant event.
With the Annual Classic days away, excitement is building for the much loved event, which is returning to Somerset for the first time since 2018.
While Horton is relishing it as much as anyone else, he reflected on the importance of remembering the core values of the holiday and its links to Emancipation Day, among the fanfare and festivities.
“I remember the great Tony Cozier, who I had the honour of commentating with, telling me that there was nothing anything else in the world like Cup Match,” said Horton, whose own legacy was cemented in 1979 after wrestling back the cup for Somerset, for the first time in 19 years, as captain
“He’d been all around the world watching cricket and Cup Match is better than anything he’d seen.
“As well as the action, it is also important that we remember those people who were there to set up this event that we call Cup Match and what it really stands for with its links to Emancipation Day and Mary Prince Day.
“The event is heavily linked to those days, but for me it wasn’t until I finished playing and became a commentator that I started to dig further into the roots of the game and became fully aware of the connections to those days.
“What it’s great to see is that all over the island now there is discussion about the links back to its origins and we have to keep that going.
“I don’t think the importance of the game will diminish but the only thing that I would say is that judging by what I’ve seen is that I would encourage players that when you play in Cup Match you are playing in the major event in Bermuda because all of the island is coming out to see you.”
Looking back on his own links to Cup Match, which are deeply rooted from childhood, Horton believes he was always destined to follow in the footsteps of family members before him and make a mark in the event.
“Cup Match is in my blood,” he added. “My grandfather, Warren Simmons, was the longest-serving captain for Somerset. He was captain for 13 years and played 22 years. He also took 94 wickets in Cup Match, the third-highest ever and also went on to be a long-serving president.
“My uncle, Lloyd Simmons, was also a captain. He played 13 years in the event and claimed 76 wickets to stand sixth in the rankings.
“Then you had my father, Ray Horton, who was wicketkeeper and also another uncle, David Horton, who played as well.
“In my house during the month of July, everything was about Cup Match and Somerset. Everyting red and blue and what Somerset were going to do. From a small boy I was around Cup Match and it started to be very much impacted by it all.
“When I became captain in 1968, we were the first three generations of family who had been captain. I always wanted to play Cup match; I was born to play it.”
Reflecting back on his own playing career, Horton has many special memories but concedes that fateful day in 1979 will always remain his most cherished.
“I finally made the team in 1963 at 18 years old — and what an experience it was,” he added.
“I was one of four colts and came in at No 11. We were in trouble and I’m telling you it was like a haze.
“I was shaking and so nervous. When I looked up I couldn’t see anything but a glare. All I remember was hearing my stumps being knocked out first ball.
“Taking six wickets in 1970 [six for 37] was amazing, but 1979, that was the year!
“We hadn’t won for 20 years and that day we won the toss and when we did, I knew we’d win the game.
“We set out what we were going to do. Every one of the of the players knew what we were going to do and we stuck to it.
“As the match progressed, looking around we could see the crowd were just coming and coming because they wanted to see Somerset win back the Cup for the first time in 20 years and we managed to do it.
“That was probably the most exciting time I’ve ever experienced; it was just fantastic.
“I also had the pleasure of commentating, which started in 1982, and so I’ve always been able stayed well involved in the game.”