Saturday, May 25, 2024

Josh Baker’s ‘broken’ parents pay tribute to cricket star who ‘achieved many of his dreams before reaching 21’ – as sudden death of diabetic player is probed by coroner

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The devastated parents of rising young cricket star Josh Baker say they are ‘broken’ by his tragic death at the age of 20.

Paul and Lisa Baker said Josh, a spin bowler with Worcestershire, had achieved many of his dreams before reaching his 21st birthday which was just two weeks away.

Josh was found dead in his apartment in Worcester yesterday morning after he failed to turn up to a match he was playing in.

His death is being investigated by the coroner and an inquest is expected to be opened next week.

It has emerged that Josh was diagnosed as diabetic from a very young age and a medical cause of death is being explored.

Josh Baker’s parents Lisa and Paul took to Facebook to share their devastation and thank friends and relatives for sharing their memories of their son 

The spinner's death was announced yesterday, sending the cricket world into mourning

The spinner’s death was announced yesterday, sending the cricket world into mourning 

His shocked parents, from Redditch, went onto social media to say: ‘We are both broken. Achieved so many of his dreams before reaching 21.

‘Take every opportunity to hug your parents and children.’

The heartbreaking comment was accompanied by a poignant photograph of the couple hugging Josh on the boundary at Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

They added: ‘We’ve taken great comfort from the many messages received so far – keep sharing and posting your memories please.’

Hundreds of tributes have flooded in from friends and the cricket community around the world describing Josh as an ‘inspiring’ and ‘genuine’ young sportsman.

He honed his talents at Kenilworth wardens Sports Club and at Malvern College where he also excelled at hockey.

Kim Tutcher, Josh’s former assistant to house master, posted a moving tribute saying: ‘I can still see you returning back to Malvern; cricket bag or golf bag on your back (or even both), mum following on with hangers full of immaculately ironed shirts, dad carrying the important bags full of kit, snacks and goodies and treats and you cuddling your all important pillow.

‘I was so proud of the way you embraced your diabetes, I never heard you feel sorry for yourself or let it hold you back, you organised your medications and told me what to order, it made my job so easy.

‘We all celebrated your signing for Worcestershire, a schoolboy one day and a rookie professional the next.

‘Dreams do come true, hard work does pay off, the love and support of family and friends is so important and incalculable.

‘There is a large hole left in our lives, but it will be filled with wonderful memories of a talented and fun loving sportsman, who cruelly was taken far too soon. Night, night Josh and thank you x.’

His former headmaster, Keith Metcalfe, Headmaster, said today: ‘We are devastated by the heartbreaking news of the passing of Old Malvernian, Josh Baker.

‘Josh was a well-loved member of the School House community and is fondly remembered by staff across the College, not least for his successes in cricket.

‘Our whole community, past and present, send their condolences to Josh’s family, friends and teammates. They are in our thoughts and prayers.’

Josh’s death is being investigated by Senior Worcestershire Coroner David Reid.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We can confirm that the Senior Coroner has received a referral reporting the sad death of Joshua Baker.

‘There will be no further information until further investigations have taken place.’

Baker took three wickets against Somerset at Bromsgrove on Wednesday, with the game abandoned as a draw yesterday, and previously featured in two Vitality County Championship games last month. 

A matter of hours before his passing, Worcestershire’s X account shared a compilation of the youngster’s efforts during Wednesday’s session.

Worcestershire said they were  'heartbroken' at the death of 20-year-old spinner Baker, who was found dead on Thursday

Worcestershire said they were  ‘heartbroken’ at the death of 20-year-old spinner Baker, who was found dead on Thursday

Baker was playing in a second team game against Somerset when he was found by a friend

He took three wickets in the match, including that of England star Jack Leach (pictured)

Baker was playing in a second team game against Somerset when he was found by a friend

Baker picked up three wickets with his left-arm orthodox bowling, dismissing Thomas Rew – brother of England hopeful James – Josh Thomas and current England star Jack Leach.

He can first be seen taking the wicket of wicketkeeper Rew via LBW, lodging a passionate appeal before the umpire gives the decision as out.

The wicket of Leach then falls, with the Somerset man spooning a shot up into the air and Baker taking the catch off his own bowling.

Thomas can then be seen falling in the same way, with Baker leaning forward to take the catch.

Baker was due back on the field in Bromsgrove on Thursday but the game has now come to an end, with Worcestershire’s first team not in action in the County Championship this week.

He had played twice for his side’s first team this season.

A heartbreaking interview with Baker after he had just signed a new deal with Worcestershire revealed him looking forward to the season ahead. 

He said: ‘That was a day I really enjoyed. I didn’t manage to get any wickets but I batted quite nicely. My parents were there as well, which was nice.

‘Hopefully I don’t finish on 61 and have a few runs left in me. I’m looking to build on that.’

Former England captain Michael Vaughan led tributes to Baker on social media from the wider cricketing world.

‘This is so sad.. Thoughts with all his family & close friends,’ Vaughan wrote.

No further details have been shared about the circumstances of the youngster’s passing, with the club requesting privacy and respect for his family.

The spinner played 47 times for county Worcestershire after becoming a professional in 2021

The spinner played 47 times for county Worcestershire after becoming a professional in 2021 

The left-arm bowler was a travelling reserve for England at the Under-19 World Cup in 2022

The left-arm bowler was a travelling reserve for England at the Under-19 World Cup in 2022

Worcestershire said Baker had 'vibrant spirit and infectious enthusiasm that endeared him to everyone he met'

Worcestershire said Baker had ‘vibrant spirit and infectious enthusiasm that endeared him to everyone he met’

Former England captain Michael Vaughan offered a tribute to Baker on social media

Former England captain Michael Vaughan offered a tribute to Baker on social media

Worcestershire’s statement referred to Baker’s ‘untimely passing’ and asked for his family’s privacy to be respected.

The statement read: ‘Worcestershire County Cricket Club is heartbroken to announce the untimely passing of Josh Baker, who was aged only 20 years old.

‘During this profoundly difficult time, the club is dedicated to supporting Josh’s family, friends, and colleagues. We are united in our grief and committed to honouring his memory in a manner befitting the remarkable person he was.

‘It was his vibrant spirit and infectious enthusiasm that endeared him to everyone he met. His warmth, kindness, and professionalism were remarkable, making him a true credit to his family and a loved member of our team.

‘Plans to pay tribute to Josh will be made in consultation with his family and will remain private at this time. The club, along with Josh’s family, requests the respect of privacy as we mourn this immense loss. Further comments will not be provided during this sensitive period.’

Worcestershire chief executive, the former England spinner Ashley Giles, offered a personal message.

Worcestershire confirmed Baker's death on social media having played for the second team on Wednesday

Worcestershire confirmed Baker’s death on social media having played for the second team on Wednesday

The ECB said it is 'desperately sad to learn of the passing of Baker'

The ECB said it is ‘desperately sad to learn of the passing of Baker’ 

‘The news of Josh’s passing has left us all devastated. Josh was much more than a team-mate; he was an integral part of our cricket family. We will all miss him terribly. All our love and prayers go out to Josh’s family and friends,’ said Giles.

Baker took a total of 43 wickets in 22 First-Class appearances, the last of which coming against Durham less than a fortnight ago. 

He also played 17 List A games and eight T20s and was a travelling reserve for England at the Under-19 World Cup in 2022.

The England and Wales Cricket Board also offered their condolences to Baker’s family and friends.

‘The ECB is desperately sad to learn of the passing of Josh Baker,’ a statement read.

Ben Stokes had previously sent a message to Baker after the two played against each other

Ben Stokes had previously sent a message to Baker after the two played against each other

‘This is devastating news. We extend our best wishes to Josh’s family and friends, to everyone who knew and loved him, and to everyone at Worcestershire CCC.’

Daryl Mitchell, chief operating officer at the Professional Cricketers’ Association and one time Worcestershire team-mate of Baker, wrote: ‘Bakes was an infectious character that became the life and soul of the dressing room at such a young age. Thoughts with the family and everyone at WCCC.’

Pakistan spinner Usama Mir, another former New Road colleague of Baker’s, added: ‘So sad and upset to hear the news of Josh’s passing. He was one of the nicest people you could meet. And a brilliant cricketer. Really devastated to hear this news. Thoughts and prayers with his family.’

PCA chief executive Rob Lynch said the news was ‘impossible to comprehend’, while the ECB’s managing director of men’s cricket, Rob Key, tweeted: ‘This is absolutely heartbreaking. My thoughts go out to all of Josh’s family.’

England captain Ben Stokes sent Baker a heartwarming message after they faced off on-the-field two years ago.

Stokes smashed five sixes off Baker’s bowling in one over in the game when the spinner was just 18, but took the time to send him a text message of encouragement in the aftermath.

‘You’ve got serious potential and I think you’ll go a long way,’ Stokes wrote. ‘Most important opinion is from the lads in your changing room, and they will have your back.’

Last year, A video of Stokes’ innings in the game was shared by cricket publication Wisden on X (formerly Twitter), and Baker replied to the post, which features some of Stokes’ shots off the then-teenager’s bowling.

‘A day to remember…’ Baker wrote, accompanied by a face with a peeking eye emoji. The post was Baker’s last before his death.

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