Tragic death of professional cricketer (30)

Former professional cricketer Ian Folley in action

Former professional cricketer Ian Folley in action

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The father of a professional cricketer who died 20 years ago after an innocuous injury will make an emotional pilgrimage to the scene of his final cricket match.

Burnley-born Ian Folley (30) was playing as the professional for Cumbrian side Whitehaven exactly 20 years ago yesterday when he suffered a small cut to his eye while batting.

But what should have been a routine operation at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle ended in tragedy when the former Mansfield High School pupil died under anaesthetic.

His devastated father Jim Folley fought for five-and-half years with the hospital to accept negligence, which eventually came with a televised apology and acceptance of liability.

Such was the deep trauma Ian’s death left on his father, it took around six years before Jim could go to another cricket match.

Today, Jim will mark the 20th anniversary of his talented son’s premature death by visiting Whitehaven Cricket Club for the first time since that terrible day.

He said: “I have shed my tears, but I feel that now is the right time to go back there.

“I couldn’t go anywhere near a cricket field for years after his death. I eventually went to watch a few games at Nelson, but had to come away five times.”

Jim, who lives in Oswaldtwistle, is preparing for what will be an emotional return to Whitehaven tomorrow.

“I will watch a game of cricket at Whitehaven, which is what Ian would have wanted. I have spoken to the club secretary who has been wonderful so I think it will be a nice day. Ian’s loss was a terrible blow for us his family, and for the world of cricket.

“He died after a catalogue of errors at the hospital, which was inexcusable, but life goes on and this is my own personal tribute to my son.”

A talented all-rounder, Ian started playing the game he loved as a teenager at Nelson Cricket Club where it soon became apparent that he could go on to bigger things.

His potential was spotted and he was soon captaining Lancashire Schoolboys before going on to represent Lancashire County Cricket Club at senior level.

Starting out as a seam bowler, Ian adapted to become a talented spin bowler at Old Trafford.

In 1987, he took 74 championship wickets at an average of 25, which should have been enough to have secured him a place on England’s winter tour to Pakistan but he narrowly missed out.

Jim remembers those days fondly.

He added: “The great West Indian cricketer Clive Lloyd was Ian’s captain at the time and I know his talent was held in great respect by some of the game’s greats. I will never forget him.”