Year of contrasts and controve, 1961

Notes by the Editor

Norman Preston

Most lovers of cricket will look back on 1960 as "The Sad Season." It will be remembered for the rain which spoiled so many matches, for the alarming fall in attendances and for its bitter controversies--the throwing of Griffin, the sacking of Buller as a Test umpire, the withdrawal by M. C. C. and Surrey of privileges to Laker following the publication of his book, Over to Me, and the Graveney dispute over the Gloucestershire captaincy. There was also the disappointing South African tour. For the fourth consecutive summer a visiting team failed to extend England in the Test matches. Indeed, for the third year running England settled the rubber in three straight matches, South Africa undergoing the same fate as India in 1959 and New Zealand in 1958. On the other side of the picture, there was the superb batsmanship of Dexter and the successful Imperial Cricket Conference at which the delegates of all seven Test match countries showed a genuine desire to tackle the various problems confronting the first-class game.

A Wonderful Game

Then as this depressing year was reaching its close Australia and West Indies lit the torch to the path of brighter cricket by playing a tie at the Woolloongabba ground, Brisbane. It was the first tie in the long history of five hundred Test matches and there was scarcely a dull moment throughout the five days. I am grateful to E. M. Wellings, who was there and saw every ball bowled and every run scored, for his graphic description which precedes these Notes. He avers that this was the greatest match ever played. How was the miracle achieved in this age of so much unimaginative and negative cricket? It was achieved by Richie Benaud and Frank Worrell, the rival captains. First of all they were blessed with ideal conditions, sunshine and a perfect pitch, two important factors. Just as important was the attitude of both men to the game. These captains insisted that the men under their command played enterprising cricket from the very first ball and they did not think of withdrawing into their shells when they ran into trouble. They still put victory as their goal and the stories of their deeds right through the series thrilled the cricket world.

Responsibility of Captains

Many people are anxious about the future of the first-class game. One cannot control the weather, but when it is favourable the destiny of cricket is in the hands of the captains. Benaud and Worrell have proved this truism. You can vary the Laws and do what you like, but without the goodwill of the captains all is in vain. In other words there is nothing wrong with cricket--and particularly county cricket--that the captains cannot put right. It is useless them going to Lord's in the winter and agreeing that it is essential for every county to adopt a dynamic attitude to the game from first ball to last whether batting, bowling or fielding and then deliberately ignoring the agreement on the field. And I am afraid this accusation can be levelled against some county captains. Too many excuses for poor cricket are attributed to the weather. We have always had rainy seasons in this country. The odd tropical summers like those of 1921 and 1959 come only rarely. Nowadays, the public will not risk the heavy expenditure of fares to the grounds and the price of admission when the weather is doubtful because even if the conditions are quite good for play they cannot be certain they will be entertained. The professional cricketer, and particularly the specialist batsman, should remember that he is a paid entertainer and if he fails or makes no attempt to keep the onlookers interested, the time will surely come when he will have to seek a living elsewhere. Some County Committees, too, should be more realistic and not pick players on the form shown by the weekly averages but by their actual deeds on the field.

English Attendances Slump

In 1947 the total attendances--exclusive of members--at county matches reached 2,300,910. In 1960 the figures fell to 1,046,104, a decrease of 323,569 compared with 1959, and these were the lowest figures since the war with the exception of 1958 (983,820). Daily attendances for county matches in 1960 fell on every day of the week compared with 1959, Saturday showing the biggest decrease (137,344) and Monday (74,817) the next greatest.

The Dexter Touch

That the presence of only one personality in a match can make all the difference was illustrated by the experience of Sussex last summer. They possessed that most gifted batsman, Ted Dexter, who captained them for the first time, and their membership went up by 1,200 and their gates by £2,000. There are some people who argue that runs are more difficult to make in this second half of the twentieth century than in the Golden Era before 1914. They say that the bowling is more astute, the fielding better and field-placing more skilful. They point to the catches held close to the bat these days, but I did not see many men standing close to the bat when Dexter was in full cry. The plodders and the prodders have allowed the fielders to creep nearer; they soon disperse to safer regions when a genuine batsman appears. There are too many county professionals who reckon they have done a satisfactory job if they scrape 1,200 runs in a season for an average of about 30.00. They pay no heed to the way they make their runs and it is time they were clearly told that unless they are prepared to think of making the occasional hundred in two and a half to three hours, their services will no longer be required. The decline in professional batsmanship since the War is one of the main reasons for the alarming fall in public support. Another is the counter-attraction of T.V. and sound radio.

Another Inquiry

Meanwhile, M. C. C., at the request of the counties, have set up a Committee to examine--with particular reference to the financial situation of the county clubs--the present state of first-class cricket and to consider whether any changes in its structure and/or in the general conduct of the game are needed. This will be the fourth inquiry on these matters in less than twenty-five years. We had the W. Findlay Commission of 1937; Sir Stanley Jackson's in 1944; H. S. Altham's in 1957 and now we have Col. Rait Kerr's in 1961.

A pilot committee which consisted of Sir Hubert Ashton, H. S. Altham, C. A. F. Hastilow and Cdr. B. O. Babb, the Surrey secretary, first examined many ideas and got together a general appreciation of the situation before handing over the reins to the following full committee of twenty members appointed by M. C. C.:

  • Colonel R. S. Rait Kerr (Chairman).
  • Sir Hubert Ashton (President of M.C.C.).
  • H. S. Altham (Treasurer of M.C.C.).
  • R. Aird (Secretary of M.C.C.).
  • G. O. Allen (Chairman of England selection committee).
  • A. V. Bedser (Surrey).
  • W. E. Bowes (Yorkshire).
  • D. B. Carr (Captain of Derbyshire).
  • A. M. Crawley (Oxford University and Kent).
  • C. A. F. Hastilow (Chairman of Warwickshire).
  • C. G. Howard (Secretary of Lancashire).
  • D. J. Insole (Essex).
  • E. R. Lewis (representing the public).
  • P. B. H. May (Captain of Surrey).
  • J. H. Nash (Secretary of Yorkshire).
  • R. W. V. Robins (Middlesex).
  • A. B. Sellers (Yorkshire).
  • Rev. D. S. Sheppard (Sussex).
  • J. J. Warr (Middlesex).
  • W. Wooller (Glamorgan).

Welcome, Australia!

After an interval of five years the Australians will be in England again this summer. They came here first in 1878 and this will be their twenty-third tour to this country. Everyone hopes that the sun will shine and that the presence of our most illustrious opponents will bring the crowds flocking to the game again. Thirteen years have passed since Australia last won a rubber in England and then they had the great Don Bradman as their captain. Nevertheless, they hold the Ashes by virtue of their overwhelming success against Peter May's M. C. C. team which went to Australia in the winter of 1958-59.

On the return of that unsuccessful expedition, the England selectors under their industrious chairman, G. O. Allen, decided to rebuild on a three-year plan in readiness for the 1961 Australian visit. Nineteen players took part in that tour of Australia and now only six remain in the England side, May, Cowdrey, Dexter, Subba Row, Statham and Trueman. Moreover, the accompanying table of England results since the post-war revival shows that not a single Test has been lost during the latest rebuilding process.

True, much of the opposition has been weak, but it must be remembered that two operations have caused May to miss nine matches. He did not play any cricket last summer. Happily he is restored to full health again and England under his leadership


1950-51 New Zealand2101 F. R. Brown
1951 South Africa5311 F. R. Brown
1951-52 India5113 N. Howard
1952 India4301 L. Hutton
1953 Australia5104 L. Hutton
1953-54 West Indies5221 L. Hutton
1954 Pakistan4112 L. Hutton (2)

D. S. Sheppard (2)
1954-55 Australia5311 L. Hutton
1954-55 New Zealand2200 L. Hutton
1955 South Africa5320 P. B. H. May
1956 Australia5212 P. B. H. May
1956-57 South Africa5221 P. B. H. May
1957 West Indies5302 P. B. H. May
1958 New Zealand5401 P. B. H. May
1958-59 Australia5041 P. B. H. May
1958-59 New Zealand2101 P. B. H. May
1959 India5500 P. B. H. May (3)

M. C. Cowdrey (2)
1959-60 West Indies5104 P. B. H. May (3)

M. C. Cowdrey (2)
1960 South Africa5302 M. C. Cowdrey (5)
should have a really strong and attractive side, with such batsmen as May, Cowdrey, Dexter, Pullar, Subba Row, M. J. K. Smith and Barrington available and Statham and Trueman as the spearheads of the attack. Lock, in his new mode, is still the best left-arm slow bowler, but the spinners are more likely to come from Allen, Illingworth, Barber and Greenhough. In order to avoid a long tail, Parks must be a strong candidate for wicket-keeper, otherwise Murray or Swetman (if he is in form) seem likely.

Avoiding a Catastrophe

At one time it seemed that the Australian tour of England might be marred by another altercation. Indeed, Sir Donald Bradman on his return to Australia from the Imperial Cricket Conference, said that, if allowed to get out of hand, the throwing controversy could lead to the greatest catastrophe in cricket history. "It is the most complex question I have known in cricket, because it is not a matter of fact, but of opinion and interpretation," he said. "It is so involved that two men of equal goodwill and sincerity could take opposite views. It is quite impossible to go on playing with different definitions of throwing. This was the great hurdle of the Conference and it unanimously and amicably agreed on a uniform definition. It was a major achievement, but it still had to run the gauntlet of time. We must find some answer which places due regard on the integrity, good faith and judgment of all countries, their umpires, players and administrators. I have good reason to think that certain proposals under examination might lead us into calmer waters. I plead that a calm, patient attitude be exercised while we pursue and resolve the problem."

Throw Defined in 1899

The Imperial Cricket Conference's definition of a throw is not exactly new. On going through various books and brochures which I acquired on the death of my father last August, I came across the following in a booklet compiled for The Australian Visit to England in 1899 written by James Phillips, the Australian umpire who used to spend his summers alternately in England and Australia. Moreover by his vigilance and the action he took he did much to stamp out throwing at the turn of the century:

Phillips wrote:

"I am one of those who hold the opinion that to bowl a fair ball it is immaterial whether the arm be straight or at an angle so long as there is no perceptible movement in the elbow-joint at the precise moment the ball leaves the hand of the bowler.

"Just as one bowler, in his desire to make his delivery more difficult, gets as near the return crease as possible, and occasionally inadvertently oversteps the mark, thereby bowling a 'no-ball,' so another bowler will, in attempting an increase of pace, use his elbow, especially if he be a bowler whose arm is not quite straight. In each of these instances it does not seem just to suppose that either bowler is wilfully unfair.

"In my capacity as an umpire I have found that there is great difficulty in detecting the elbow movement at the bowling end, whereas when standing at the batting end, near short-leg, this difficulty is overcome, and every movement of the bowler's arm is noticeable."

In those days only the umpire at the bowler's end could call "no-ball." Phillips went on to plead that either umpire should be allowed to call and the Law was changed that year to that effect.

Sixty years later we get the Imperial Cricket Conference version: A ball shall be deemed to have been thrown if, in the opinion of either umpire, the bowling arm having been bent at the elbow, whether the wrist is backward of the elbow or not, is suddenly straightened immediately prior to the instant of delivery.

The Truce

While the Imperial Conference was deliberating on the issue of throwing, it was seriously suggested in outside quarters in England and Australia that for the good of cricket it might be expedient to postpone the Australian tour of 1961. The Australian public apparently were convinced that the open condemnation of Griffin as a thrower had been done as a preliminary skirmish and that the real target was the Australian fast attack.

Another suggestion advocated a moratorium on throwing for the whole of the 1961 season. Later came the final agreement between M. C. C. and the Australian Board to call a truce for the first seven weeks of the season before the first Test. The cynics said the truce was nothing more than a "Charter for Chuckers." H. L. Hendry, the former Australian Test cricketer, stated that it is well known that some Australian bowlers chucked and that to argue otherwise was sheer hypocrisy. He advised that the Australian Board instruct the Selectors not to pick anyone whose bowling action was suspicious and to see that no bowler was called in England as it was essential that the tour proceeded without incident.

Sensible Compromise

Looking at the problem from all angles, the truce would appear to be a sensible compromise. All who desire to see cricket played in the true spirit should thank those who have striven behind the scenes to restore harmony to the game, particularly Mr. Harry Altham, the M.C.C. President, whose firm and courteous chairmanship won high praise from the delegates who attended the Conference.

Already there are indications that all should be well in England this summer. Three of the four Australian bowlers, G. Rorke, J. W. Burke and K. Slater, whose suspicious actions caused so much criticism during the M. C. C. tour of 1958-59, seem to have disappeared from the Test match scene and I. Meckiff, the central figure of the argument, could not, after smoothing his action, produce the same venom against West Indies. His two wickets in two Tests against West Indies cost 117 runs apiece and his loss of penetrative power caused the selectors to leave him out of the team they selected to visit England this summer.

What is to happen to English bowlers who have been called for throwing during the past two seasons? I recollect Lock, Rhodes, White, Pearson, Aldridge and Bryant. None has been condemned universally by the umpires. There has been the odd case and some of these men, if not all, have taken pains to correct their faults. Are Lock and Rhodes, both Test men, to be barred by England for ever? There was the isolated instance of White, the very promising Hampshire bowler, being called when he had a good chance of going to New Zealand with M. C. C. His action had never been questioned until umpire P. A. Gibb no-balled him and I am not aware of any opposing batsmen who considered his bowling unfair. Obviously, M. C. C., having taken such tough action in their war against throwers, cannot invite such men for representative matches--especially overseas--until their names have been cleared. Surely any bowler called by an umpire for throwing should have his action investigated, so that he can be either advised of his fault or have his name cleared. The umpire may be right, but because a bowler has been under suspicion once, that should not rule him out of big cricket for all time, especially if he is satisfying umpires day after day in the County Championship.


First Test, at Brisbane, December 9, 10, 12, 13, 14. A Tie. West Indies 453 ( G. Sobers 132, F. M. Worrell 65, J. S. Solomon 65, F. C. M. Alexander 60, W. Hall 50, A. K. Davidson five for 135) and 284 ( F. M. Worrell 65, R. Kanhai 54, A. K. Davidson six for 87); Australia 505 ( N. O'Neill 181, R. B. Simpson 92, C. C. McDonald 57, W. Hall four for 140) and 232 ( A. K. Davidson 80, R. Benaud 52, W. Hall five for 63).

Second Test, at Melbourne, December 30, 31, January 2, 3. Australia won by seven wickets. Australia 348 ( K. Mackay 74, J. Martin 55, L. Favell 51, W. Hall four for 51) and 70 for three wickets; West Indies 181 ( R. Kanhai 84, S. Nurse 70, A. K. Davidson six for 53) and 233 ( C. C. Hunte 110, F. C. M. Alexander 72).

Third Test, at Sydney, January 13, 14, 16, 17, 18. West Indies won by 222 runs. West Indies 339 ( G. Sobers 168, A. K. Davidson five for 80, R. Benaud four for 86) and 326 ( F. C. M. Alexander 108, F. M. Worrell 82, C. Smith 55, R. Benaud four for 113); Australia 202 ( N. O'Neill 71, A. L. Valentine four for 67) and 241 ( R. N. Harvey 85, N. O'Neill 70, L. Gibbs five for 66, A. L. Valentine four for 86).

Fourth Test, at Adelaide, January 27, 28, 30, 31, February 1. Drawn. West Indies 393 ( R. Kanhai 117, F. M. Worrell 71, F. C. M. Alexander 63, R. Benaud five for 96) and 432 for six wickets, declared ( R. Kanhai 115, F. C. M. Alexander 87*, C. C. Hunte 79, F. M. Worrell 53); Australia 366 ( R. B. Simpson 85, R. Benaud 77, C. C. McDonald 71, L. Gibbs five for 97) and 273 for nine wickets ( N. O'Neill 65, K. Mackay 62*).

Fifth Test, at Melbourne, February 10, 11, 13, 14, 15. Australia won by two wickets. West Indies 292 ( G. Sobers 4, F. Mission four for 58) and 321 ( F. C. M. Alexander 73, C. C. Hunte 52, A. K. Davidson five for 84); Australia 356 ( C. C. McDonald 91, R. B. Simpson 75, P. Burge 68, G. Sobers five for 120, L. Gibbs four for 74) and 258 for eight wickets ( R. B. Simpson 92, P. Burge 53).

Wicket-keeping record: W. Grout ( Australia) equalled the Test record of J. H. B. Waite and F. C. M. Alexander by getting 23 victims in a series.

Record Crowd: 90,800 on the second day of the Fifth Test. (The aggregate attendance for the match was 274,404.)

Record Receipts: The total receipts for the Fifth Test match set an Australian match record of £A48,749 (£39,000 sterling).

© John Wisden & Co