Members of the cricketing community have joined forces with charity Heartburn Cancer UK to raise awareness of oesophageal cancer following the death of former England captain Ray Illingworth. 

Illingworth, who had an illustrious test, domestic and managerial career, died on Christmas Eve at the age of 89 after revealing in November that he was being treated for cancer of the oesophagus. 

Following his death, several legends of England cricket, including former captains and players, have joined the charity to help raise awareness of common symptoms, particularly among men who are the most likely to be diagnosed with the disease. 

Former England fast bowler Darren Gough has recently been appointed Managing Director of Cricket at Yorkshire, the team he previously captained and where Ray Illingworth began and ended his domestic career. Speaking after Ray’s death, Darren said: 

“Yorkshire and English cricket have lost one of its legendary cricketers in Ray Illingworth, to a cancer that mainly affects middle-aged men, and the strongest risk factor is persistent acid reflux.  Let’s face it, there are plenty of middle-aged men who take anti-acid tablets in the world of cricket, but how many of them have ever heard of oesophageal cancer? More awareness of this cancer is desperately needed in the cricket community and wider society.” 

Former England captain and Sky commentator, David Gower, played under Illingworth during the early part of his career at Leicestershire in the 1970s. 

“It was sad to lose my former Captain Ray Illingworth to cancer of the oesophagus recently,” says Gower, speaking from Australia where he is currently commentating on the Ashes tour for BT sport. “I just hope that his passing may increase awareness of this awful disease, the importance of early diagnosis and how we men must not ignore symptoms like persistent heartburn or difficulty swallowing”.

Oesophageal cancer is the fourteenth most common cancer in the UK, yet it is the seventh most common cause of cancer deaths. This is because it is often diagnosed at a late stage as people who suffer with symptoms such as persistent heartburn may not believe there is anything seriously wrong and delay seeking medical advice.