TONY Baker dedicated his life to cricket.

An all-rounder who opened the batting and bowling for Old Tauntonians and Southampton Touring Club at the peak of their powers in the late 60s and 70s, he was one of the finest club cricketers of his era.

A handy basketball player in the winter months, he combined his cricketing talents with organisational skills and, during his time at the Touring Club, was opening batsman and bowler, secretary, fixture secretary and treasurer – all at the same time!

A perfect gentleman and one of the most genuine guys you could ever wish to meet, Tony was heavily involved with the old Southern League (in which he played with considerable distinction), initially as treasurer then the league’s chairman for five years.

He later took up his role as Hampshire’s chief executive for a 15-year period before the move from Northlands Road to the Ageas Bowl.

He was previously county treasurer at Northlands Road for about eight years.

Professionally, Tony was a partner with the Winchester-based accountancy practice Brooking Knowles & Lawrence (BKL) before becoming Hampshire’s chief executive from 1986 to 2001.

“Tony was well known and very popular with Hampshire members and played a pivotal role in moving the club from Northlands Road to the Ageas Bowl,” recalled Hampshire cricket secretary Tim Tremlett, who played against Tony countless times during his embryo years with Deanery.

In the days before media officers and media teams, Tony was the press contact and spokesman for the club. He handled the media as he did everything else, in an honest and gentlemanly way.

He ensured Hamoshire's interests were protected but never shied from awkward or tough questions. And you knew you were always dealing with a straight arrow of a guy.

Tony Baker’s considerable sporting prowess first became evident at Taunton’s Grammar School, where he excelled both academically, at cricket and on the basketball court, where he was a prolific point-scoring centre.

He played basketball for Old Tauntonians and represented the South.

After a brief spell with the Inland Revenue, he concentrated in a career in accountancy, but alongside his family – he is survived by his wife (of more than 50 years) Sally and sons Paul and Jonathan – cricket was always his first love.

Old Tauntonians were a dominant force in South of England cricket during the pre-league Tony Baker era.

Tall and upright, he opened the OTs batting for years, alongside forming a formidable new-ball bowling partnership with Tim Binks and Bernie Thomason.

“In many ways he was a dogged opening batsman, seldom playing many bad shots and always working out ways to score runs when the going was tough,” reflected long time friend and OTs team-mate Derek Tulk, with whom he shared many years of captaincy.

“Everything Tony did was spot on. An inspirational figure, he was as straight as a dye.”

The advent of competitive league cricket in the early 1970s saw Old Tauntonians win three of the first five Southern League championships and finish runners-up to Deanery, their arch Southampton rivals, the sixth.

In 1972, he performed the feat of taking all 10 Netley Sports wickets for 26 playing for OTs in the Hector Young Evening Trophy final in the Southampton Parks.

Four years later – by which time Southern League had really become established – he helped set a new first-wicket partnership for Southampton Touring Club, making an unbeaten 126 in a 235-run stand as Australian Old Collegians were beaten by 10 wickets at the County Ground, Northlands Road.

Playing and often skippering Southampton Touring Club took Tony Baker all over the South for all-day Sunday matches, the club boasting a formidable fixture list.

Tony Baker was an outstanding cricketer, as well as being a kind and genial team-mate with a great sense of humour – the type of sportsman, sadly, we will rarely see again.