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Instead, the situation is entirely different. England have not regained the Ashes and much of the cricket in the Five Tests in the Antipodes fell below expectations. Too much emphasis was put on avoiding defeat in preference to thinking in terms of victory from the very first ball. For this unfortunate state of affairs I doubt whether the entire blame can be attached to Dexter. Whenever possible he went to the crease intent on playing his natural attacking game and he gave some thrilling displays.
England, in sharing the rubber, did better than many of the experts predicted. Unreliable fielding, more than anything else, let the side down, far too many vital catches being dropped. After the overthrow of Peter May's team in 1958-59, the selectors stated that, in rebuilding the England team, special consideration would be given to first-rate fielders. On this count, one wonders why M. J. Stewart, G. A. R. Lock and P. J. Sharpe were left at home. These are three of the best close-to-the-bat catchers in present day cricket and all were on the short-list for the Australian tour.
The selectors did not have a simple task. Since the days of Sir Leonard Hutton and Cyril Washbrook, England have not possessed a pair of consistently reliable opening batsmen and very seldom has the side received a good start to an innings. More recently there has been a dearth of genuine fast bowlers to support J. B. Statham and F. S. Trueman and the leg-break and googly trundler of the Richie Benaud type seems to have no place in modern English cricket under the existing lbw law.
Now we face a strenuous challenge from Frank Worrell and his West Indies team. If it is a fine summer with plenty of days in the sun, as we all hope after the long, hard winter so many of us have endured at home, we look forward to sparkling displays from such talented exponents as Rohan Kanhai and Garfield Sobers. England need batsmen who will not surrender the initiative to the opposing bowlers and, above all, it would appear that we require two openers who are doing the job regularly in county cricket.
The season of 1962 was spoiled to a large extent by rain and main interest centred on finding a team to go to Australia. First steps were taken in the appointment of a new selection committee with R. W. V. Robins as chairman. Robins always held the reputation of being a dynamic and enterprising cricketer. Helping him were two newcomers to the committee, Alec Bedser and Willie Watson; the fourth member was D. J. Insole, the sole survivor of the previous committee. All agreed that they sought enterprising batsmen, efficient bowlers and capable fielders.
It was essential to produce the right captain. Dexter had taken the M.C.C. team the previous winter to India and Pakistan, but he returned finding himself under trial again with two other candidates, M. C. Cowdrey and the Rev. David Sheppard. Indeed, steps were taken to get Sheppard back into first-class cricket with the possible objective that he should lead the side in Australia, but he was not free for cricket until the middle of June and then, after an absence of some years from the game, he had to play himself into form to justify getting even a place among the chosen seventeen.
Meanwhile, Dexter captained England against Pakistan in the first two Tests, at Edgbaston and Lord's, and Cowdrey received his chance at Headingley. By this time Dexter had regained a great deal of support by daring hitting, ability to take important wickets, very fine fielding and his captaincy of Sussex. He enjoyed a great triumph against Surrey at The Oval and people began to realise that England were fortunate to have three such men as Dexter, Cowdrey and Sheppard available for the captaincy in Australia.
M.C.C. made the final decision during the Gentlemen and Players match at Lord's. Cowdrey missed the match through illness and on the very day when the majority of newspapers had predicted that Sheppard was a certainty--he had just hit a splendid century--the honour went to Dexter. This was a mild surprise compared with the one M.C.C. sprang a week later when they announced that the manager would be the Duke of Norfolk, the Premier Duke and Earl Marshall of England. His appointment was widely acclaimed, particularly in Australia,
To many people the abolition of the amateur status in first-class cricket provided yet another big surprise. Four years earlier M.C.C. had conducted a full inquiry into this matter and arrived at certain conclusions which were accepted by the Advisory County Cricket Committee. Among them were the following:--
The wish to preserve in first-class cricket the leadership and general approach to the game traditionally associated with the Amateur player.
The Committee rejected any solution to the problem on the lines of abolishing the distinction between Amateur and Professional and regarding them all alike as "cricketers."
They considered that the distinctive status of the amateur cricketer was not obsolete, was of great value to the game and should be preserved.
The members of this Committee were: The Duke of Norfolk (chairman), H. S. Altham, G. O. Allen, M. J. C. Allom, Col. R. J. de C. Barber, F. R. Brown, E. D. R. Eagar, C. A. F. Hastilow, C. G. Howard, D. J. Insole, P. B. H. May, C. H. Palmer, Col. R. S. Rait Kerr, A. B. Sellers, Rev. D. S. Sheppard, R. Aird (secretary).
It seems strange that within four years the opinions of some people appear to have been completely reversed. We live in a changing world. Conditions are vastly different from the days of our grandparents; but is it wise to throw everything overboard?
We have inherited the game of cricket. The story of its development during the last hundred years is appropriately given full treatment in this edition of Wisden. Right through these hundred years the amateur has played a very important part.
In the time of Dr. W. G. Grace there was talk that the amateur received liberal expenses. Whether this was true or not, I do not believe cricket, as we know it today, would be such a popular attraction, or so remunerative to the professional, without the contribution which Dr. Grace and his contemporaries made as amateurs.
By doing away with the amateur, cricket is in danger of losing the spirit of freedom and gaiety which the best amateur players brought to the game.
On the other hand there is at present a source of talent which has been untapped because of the gulf between the amateur and the professional. This comprises the band of cricketers who could get away from business or other activities for periods during the summer to assist their counties if they could receive compensation for loss of salary. In other words, their employers would be willing to release them, but not to pay their salaries during their absence from work.
The passing of the amateur could have a detrimental effect in the vital matter of captaincy both at County and Test level. True, it was under a professional, Sir Leonard Hutton, that England last regained the Ashes, in 1953, and men like Tom Dollery (Warwickshire), J. V. Wilson (Yorkshire) and Don Kenyon (Worcestershire) have led their counties with distinction.
Because the amateur possessed independent status, the professionals, generally, preferred to have him as captain. Two of the most popular and most successful captains were A. B. Sellers (Yorkshire) and W. S. Surridge (Surrey). Their gifts of leadership were stronger than their batting or bowling ability. Both were great fielders, but if either had been on equal status as a "cricketer" with the professional he might well have been passed over.
Under the new set-up, one presumes there will still be players with a full-time contract while others receive match fees and a minority may still prefer to play solely for the love of the game. One can visualise smaller full-time staffs, particularly if, as many reformers desire, there is a reduction in the number of days allotted to county cricket.
Sir John Hobbs, commenting on the change, said: "It is sad to see the passing of the amateurs because it signals the end of an era in cricket. They were a great asset to the game, much appreciated by all of us because they were able to come in and play freely, whereas many professionals did not feel they could take chances. Now times are different, and I can understand the position of the amateur who has to make his living. You cannot expect him to refuse good offers outside cricket."
The difference between the amateur and the professional status is not a modern problem. As far back as 1879 it caused enough controversy in cricket circles for M.C.C. to appoint a sub-committee to inquire into the Definition and Qualification of Amateur Cricketers. Their report, which follows, was adopted unanimously by the General Committee:--
"We have in the first instance referred to the accounts of the last few years, in order to ascertain the amount which has been expended by the club under the long established rule that a gentleman who is invited to play in an M.C.C. match, and would be debarred from playing by the expense to which he would be put, may, on application to the Secretary, receive his reasonable expenses; we find that the total amount paid under this rule is comparatively trifling (under £50 a year in all); that there has been no abuse of this rule, so far as M.C.C. are concerned, at all events since the management of the finances of the club has been in its own hands (1866); and that no gentleman has been retained by the club by extra payment.
"We see no reason for recommending the abolition of the old established rule, but we think it is advisable that the committee should lay down distinctly the principle on which they are prepared to act, especially as regards the match, Gentlemen v. Players.
"We are of the opinion that no Gentlemen ought to make a profit by his service in the cricket field, and that for the future any cricketer taking more than his expenses in any match should not be qualified to play for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord's but that if any gentleman should feel difficulty in joining in the match without such assistance, he should not be debarred from playing as a Gentleman by having his actual expenses defrayed.
"Whilst expressing our opinion that the payments by the M.C.C. under their rule have been reasonable, we feel that we must notice statements which have been made to us that sums much in excess of actual expenses have been frequently paid to gentlemen by other clubs or individuals.
"We have not thought it desirable to go into this question at any length, because we hope that if the committee of the M.C.C. should adopt our suggestion as to the above minute, and should make such minute public, that course will have the effect of checking a system which might grow into a serious abuse, and which even as now alleged to be practised is open to grave objection".
Over the last thirty years, indeed since the body-line tour of Australia in 1932-33, first-class cricket has been subjected to a number of changes in the Laws without any noticeable improvement to the game either as a spectacle or for the enjoyment of the participants. Moreover, the most recent of these alterations, such as the introduction of bonus points for first innings lead, the suspension of the follow-on, covering of pitches, the seventy-five yard boundary and the latest lbw Law which has been in operation in England since 1935, have failed to satisfy the majority of the reformers.
For one thing, it is not only difficult but seemingly impossible to produce a set of Laws for the conduct of the game which is suitable for cricket in whatever part of the world it is played. Conditions in England, particularly the climate, are very different from elsewhere and while many people here would like to see a return to the pre- 1935 lbw Law, the current one appears to be satisfactory in places like Australia and the West Indies where the sun shines more consistently and generally with greater warmth.
At the request of the counties, M.C.C. have been busy in the last few months considering a reversion to the old lbw Law and possibly an increase in the width of the wicket. There is a suggestion that a fourth stump might be added or the three stumps be shaped elliptically, but one must remember that it is only the small body of people engaged in first-class cricket who seek changes. Club cricketers and the schools would not welcome any increase in the size of the wicket. W. E. Bowes carried out a thorough investigation for Wisden on these matters in the 1956 and 1957 editions. Opinions were gathered from all parts of the world and they are still worth reading.
Wrapped up with the leg-before-wicket Law is the problem of pad-play. This is not the first time I have criticised the way in which cricketers are permitted to use their legs to keep the ball out of the wicket. Cricket is surely a game solely between bat and ball. About 1800 a player named Robinson was "laughed out of his invention" when he strapped boards to his legs, but by 1836 H. Daubeny of Oxford had invented pads. The growth of round-arm bowling and then the authorisation of overarm bowling in 1864, which meant an increase in the pace of the ball, led to the use of pads, but only as a means of protection to the legs from bruising. Writing on the subject of lbw in the Wisden of 1923, Mr. Sydney H. Pardon, the celebrated Editor, referred to the "pestilent doctrine" which provides that "a batsman, in playing a ball that pitches outside the wicket, is entitled to regard two well-padded legs as a second line of defence. Surely nothing could be more flagrantly opposed to the true spirit of cricket."
That very fine Australian writer and commentator, Mr. A. G. ("Johnny") Moyes, touched on this very subject only two or three days before his untimely and sudden death immediately after the third Test match in Sydney last January. We heard him in London in an early morning broadcast complain bitterly about certain England batsmen moving forward and relying solely on their pads to stop the ball.
Wisden could not be in better company in celebrating the one hundredth edition of the Almanack than Yorkshire County Cricket Club who in the same year are celebrating their centenary. It was on January 6, 1863, that the Club was formed in Sheffield, although cricket flourished in the county long before that time. Appropriately Yorkshire held their official party at the Cutlers' Hall, Sheffield, almost exactly 100 years to the day in January, and it remains a memorable occasion for the 400 people who attended. As many as seven Yorkshire captains were there: Sir William Worsley (chairman), A. T. Barber, A. B. Sellers, N. W. D. Yardley, W. H. H. Sutcliffe, J. R. Burnet and J. V. Wilson. Also present were three notable Yorkshire and England batsmen, H. Sutcliffe, M. Leyland and Sir Leonard Hutton, and a host of personalities not only of Yorkshire but from all parts of the country.
The county of Surrey, one of Yorkshire's great rivals, in the person of Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, the President, proposed the toast of Yorkshire and he said that since 1863 there had been what all cricketers could regard with differing degrees of enthusiasm a tremendous record of success--as many as 27 Championship wins. Sir William Worsley, the Yorkshire President, said all could look back with pride on something like 2,000 matches and a small army of 500 Yorkshire cricketers. Bramall Lane was the parent ground of Yorkshire cricket. Yorkshire own none of their grounds, but are partners in all. Each has its own character, its own brand of spectator and its own peculiar sense of humour and all are the more fun for that.
Of the 52 Yorkshire county cricketers who have played for England, six have a total of at least 40 Test matches each, L. Hutton 79, W. Rhodes 58, H. Sutcliffe 54, F. S. Trueman 50 odd, M. Leyland 41 and H. Verity 40. Continuity has served Yorkshire well. The county has had only five Presidents, M. J. Ellison, Lord Hawke, Sir Stanley Jackson, T. L. Taylor and Sir William Worsley; five Treasurers, M. J. Ellison, M. Ellison, Junr., Chas Stokes, R. T. Heselton and A. Wyndham Heselton, and three Secretaries, J. B. Wolstinholme, Sir Frederick Toone and J. H. Nash.
Lord Hawke made Yorkshire cricket and his standards must be maintained. A law unto himself, he ruled with an irresistible and unresisted authority, declared Sir William, who went on to say that the Yorkshire club wanted to do a lot more for the amenities of its county grounds and to mark the centenary they were, for the first time in their history, launching a special appeal aimed to raise £100,000 for this purpose. "We finished last season on a tremendous wave of enthusiasm. If we can keep that enthusiasm alive, we have the young team which is keen to keep it that way. If only County Cricket is allowed to maintain its traditional character in a world of change, I think we shall be all right for the future."
In these days, Brian Sellers is chairman of the Yorkshire C.C.C. Committee and he took the opportunity to make some pointed remarks on one or two current topics. He referred to the pitch prepared at Headingley for the Test with Australia in 1961. He agreed that it was a three-day pitch and not a five-day one and added: "It is time we decided to play in our own country on natural wickets. Stop covering wickets, for there is no better spectacle than when the bowler has a chance and the batsman has to concentrate. I see no reason why we should prepare wickets to suit our visitors. I am perfectly certain they don't prepare wickets to suit our men."
Mr. Sellers was critical of the way in which some cricketers were induced to leave Yorkshire. "We have many fine players and we are always willing to help other counties, but I am not too happy about the methods some counties use in trying to persuade our young players to join them. There are certain channels laid down for such approach and so long as these are used by other counties we shall always do our best to help them."
Cricket lost one of the greatest lovers of the game in the death last year of Lord Birkett of Ulverstone. He was one of the vast company of men who have gained much pleasure from cricket and its rural setting without taking part in it as a player. He possessed a wide knowledge of the game and its history and for many years he was a much-sought-after speaker at any gathering connected with cricket. Naturally, long before this issue of Wisden was planned I had intended to invite him to write something and I am sure he would have been delighted to do so. It always gave him pleasure to discourse on his favourite pastime. I am happy that he wrote a beautiful piece, "The Love of Cricket," for the 1958 edition of Wisden. Here is his opening paragraph:
It is one of life's little ironies that if you would write about the summer game for Wisden you must do it in the depth of winter. Your words will not be read until the winter is past and the rain is over and gone and the time of the singing of the birds is come; but you write them when the winds blow and the rains fall and the clouds lie very near to the earth. It is perhaps just as well that this is so, for in winter the love of cricket can be a rampart to the mind. Memory can bring back the sunlit fields, and Imagination can conjure up in anticipation the joys that belong to the English spring, and cricket played between the showers. At any rate it is so with me, and though the love of cricket has been sung ever since James Love set down his opening line more than one hundred years ago--
"Hail, Cricket! glorious, manly British game!"--
and though the songs and the writings are in four thousand volumes in the British Museum, the theme never grows old, and will no doubt continue to be sung long after we are all gathered to the pavilion of a better world and gaze out on Elysian swards.
With the retirement of Mr. Ronald Aird after 35 years' service at Lord's, Mr. S. C. Griffith last October became the tenth person to hold the very important office of secretary to M.C.C. The Marylebone Club dates back to 1787, but it was not until 1822 that it appointed its first secretary. The complete list is:--
|B. Aislabie||1822-42||Sir Francis Lacey.||1898-1926|
|R. Kynaston||1842-58||W. Findlay||1926-36|
|A. Baillie||1858-63||Lieut.-Col. R. S. Rait Kerr||1936-52|
|R. A. Fitzgerald||1863-76||R. Aird||1952-62|
|H. Perkins||1876-97||S. C. Griffith||1962|
One hundred years ago the duties of secretary were very light compared with the position today. Then the members numbered less than 1,000. Now there are 7,000 full members and 3,000 associate-members and the ground accommodation and amenities have been increased out of all knowledge. M.C.C., by consent of cricketers the world over, are expected to govern cricket even if they have no constitutional right or legal agreement.
Mr. Aird spent 25 years as assistant-secretary. He played a part in the framing of the diplomatic cables by M.C.C. to the Australian Board of Control during the "body-line" controversy in the D. R. Jardine tour of 1932-33. Mr. Griffith, who joined the staff at Lord's as assistant-secretary in 1952, has a wide knowledge of cricket as a player as well as administrator. Primarily a wicket-keeper, he excelled first at Dulwich College, then gained his Blue at Cambridge and later was captain and secretary of Sussex. I shall always remember seeing him make 140--his maiden first-class century--against West Indies in Trinidad in 1948 when England had so many casualties that his captain, G. O. Allen, pressed him into service as an opening batsman. Supporting him now at Lord's is another notable player, D. B. Carr, who has filled the vacancy as assistant-secretary. A fine all-rounder from Repton and Oxford, Carr is a double Blue whom Derbyshire will miss both as player and captain.
Most cricketers agree that the batting and bowling averages can be misleading, though they are usually reliable in assessing the merit of any individual over a span of years. During the past two years, while the follow-on has been in abeyance in the County Championship, some batsmen have been given runs and some bowlers have taken wickets in a loose sort of way while the rival captains have been jockeying to get the game into a suitable state for a possible finish. Consequently, some "false" names have been getting into the leading places in the averages. To rectify this state of affairs in order that the county averages shall do justice to everyone concerned, I have made changes in the old procedure so that in this edition the deeds of batsmen and bowlers who have taken only a small part in the season's proceeding are given at the end of the averages. It means that the county averages have been brought into line with those of other sections, such as the schools. The general guide to qualification for appearance in the full averages is 100 runs for batsmen and at least 10 wickets for bowlers.