Colin Cowdrey will be remembered as the fourth highest scoring batsman in English Test history. But the former England and Kent captain, who has passed away at his home at the age of 67, could have left an even greater mark on the game he loved.

As the cream of the world game paid tribute to a courteous player and a perfect gentleman, they were united in their belief that despite his towering achievements Cowdrey was never able to fulfil his potential.

''I think he was a top-class slip-fielder and a brilliant batsman, but I don't think he ever achieved the heights his great ability suggested,'' said Yorkshire and England legend Fred Trueman. ''He should have made 150 first-class hundreds.''

Ray Illingworth paid tribute to Cowdrey's ability to embrace both fierce competitiveness and an unstinting desire to play cricket the way it should be played.

''When he said 'It's not cricket' it really meant something. He felt an enormous amount of pride at playing for England but he didn't jump up and down or shout and bawl like they seem to today,'' Illingworth said.

''The game seemed to be so easy to him. He had exceptional timing, so his strokeplay could be fantastic. The only flaw was that he lacked confidence in his own ability.''

Cowdrey's England record has only been passed by Geoff Boycott, David Gower and Graham Gooch, all of whom played in more Test matches.

Boycott called Cowdrey ''the quintessential English cricketer'' and paid tribute to his legendary even temper. ''I never saw him lose control of himself as captain,'' he explained. ''I never saw him in a heated exchange with another player or even the opposition.

''When there were bouncers around, short-pitched stuff or a bit of aggro at times, I never saw him lose his cool or his good manners.''

Current England captain Nasser Hussain said from Pakistan: ''As well as being one of the most gifted batsmen of his generation, he was also one of the nicest people you could meet in the game and a good friend to the England team. He will be much missed.''

Tributes flooded in from all around the world of cricket, including one from Jeff Thomson, the Aussie ace who showed the England legend little sympathy when he came out of retirement at the age of 42.

Along with fellow fast bowler Dennis Lillee, Thomson gave Cowdrey a torrid time when he stepped into the breach to help England. ''When he came out here in 1974-75 he was the only one who tried to get in behind the ball and he was 42 years old then,'' Thomson said. ''He was a great player and a very good bloke. We went back to England the next year and he got 150 against us for Kent. I was watching from the stands and I'm glad I was.''

Former England captain Mike Gatting praised Cowdrey's work as president of the MCC and chairman of the ICC.

''It's a very sad day, the man did such a large amount of work for cricket. He took the game in the right direction as far as I'm concerned,'' said Gatting.

''He was always at the forefront, a great man for the game.''

As a past chairman of the ICC in 1987 and again from 1990 to 1993, Cowdrey guided cricket through a number of important and sensitive issues, including the re-admission of South Africa to the international game.

He also pioneered the introduction of the ICC code of conduct and the move to independent officials in Test and one-day international matches.

Current ICC president Malcolm Gray, who knew Cowdrey as both friend and colleague for 20 years, said: ''Colin was a remarkable character.

"He combined the ability to think clearly with the resolve to make tough decisions with tact and diplomacy. He was cricket through and through and was loved and respected for his approach and achievements as player and official."

ECB chief executive Lord MacLaurin added: ''Colin was, quite simply, the most eminent person in contemporary English cricket.