CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1963

Donald Kenyon

In a memorable year during which his career aggregate exceeded 30,000 runs Donald Kenyon was probably more valuable to Worcestershire than in any of his seventeen seasons with the county.

This opening batsman with the prolific cover drive has topped the 2,000 mark in a number of seasons, whereas in 1962 he fell 59 runs short of this total, yet never has he batted more consistently. He made only two centuries as compared with as many as six in some former years, but such was the high level he maintained he finished with no fewer than sixteen 50's to his credit as well.

A number came when forcing the pace against the clock, a situation in which he was at his best, though almost without exception his runs were the product of aggressive, enterprising strokeplay and of immense value to his side's notable bid for the championship which so narrowly eluded them.

No longer does Kenyon consider he is giving his county the best service by piling up big scores. Captaincy has taught him that successful cricket is essentially a team game, and to him Worcestershire now stands before personal achievement. In his fourth year as captain no other member of the side did more to make it Worcestershire's most glorious and joyous season. Under his skilful guidance and capable handling of the talent at his command the county looked a well-balanced combination, though injuries could hardly have struck more frequently or savagely.

Indeed, for Worcestershire to finish runners-up for only the second time in sixty-three years of first-class cricket -- they have never been champions -- was a triumph over adversity and a tribute to Kenyon's leadership. A shrewd judge in matters appertaining to pitches he had his players solidly behind him in his commendable desire to reach conclusions, win or lose, and it was Kenyon's captaincy as much as his batting that raised the side from thirteenth to second in three years.

While from early boyhood Kenyon cherished an ambition to play for Worcestershire, even though the Warwickshire head-quarters are barely ten miles from his birthplace, he never for a moment entertained captaincy of the county. In point of fact it came almost as a shock to him when in 1959, barely two weeks before Worcestershire's customary opening match against tourists, India, he was invited to take over from Peter Richardson.

Born at Wordsley, Staffordshire, on May 15, 1924, early recollection of cricket for this son of the Black Country was at a tender age when his father, for many years a quick bowler with a local glassworks team, taught him to hold a bat in the garden. By the time he was eight he was in Brook Street Council School XI in his home town, but it was at the local Audnam Senior School, which he captained, that Kenyon began to blossom as a batsman.

There he received practically the only coaching of his life -- from the headmaster, Mr. Frederick Dale -- who instilled into his eager young pupil a love and keenness for the game which has never deserted him. Mr. Dale had most to do with the development of Kenyon's favourite cover drive. At any rate while he was in the formative teens it was the nightly ritual for Kenyon to practise in the school playground to his headmaster's bowling.

The method his teacher adopted to encourage the drive to the off might well be utilised with beneficial results today. A white line was drawn on the tarmac up to the middle and off and Kenyon had strict instructions that anything pitched outside that line was to be cover-driven.

Before leaving school Kenyon had to thank his headmaster for a trial at the Worcestershire nets. Nothing came of it. However, while still only 14 he was considered good enough for the Stourbridge Birmingham League side, and soon he was attracting attention for the centuries he made. A further county trial followed in 1939 but war precluded him from joining Worcestershire until 1946.

Meanwhile, at the age of 18 he enlisted in the R.A.F. and, posted to Waterbeach, a village near Cambridge, as an engine fitter, he had two summers in which he played a good deal on college grounds and at Fenner's. As a member of service teams he represented his station, Bomber Command, Group, R.A.F. and Combined Services, and in the season that he joined Worcester, 1946, he had already gained a century against the county as a member of Combined Services.

He was awarded his cap the following season, and from 1950 to 1955 inclusive he scored over 2,000 runs each year. He missed this total by only six in 1956, a summer in which he made his biggest score, 259 against Yorkshire, the highest against that county by any batsman since Tom Hayward's 273 in 1899.

He has now struck more runs for Worcester than any other player and his tremendous match-winning 103 not out against Nottinghamshire on the last day of the 1962 season was his 67th century, also a Worcestershire record. Yet for all his county success (which earned him a Worcestershire record benefit of £3,840 in 1957) this accomplished stroke-player only once did himself justice in the eight Tests in which he played.

In 15 innings for his country his 87 in an England total of 334 in the 1955 Trent Bridge match against South Africa stood out. It helped England to an innings victory in three days. In four subsequent Test innings that summer he managed only nine runs, and that was the last of his Test appearances.

Previously he played in three Test matches on the 1951-2 tour of India and in two when Australia visited England in 1953 without being able to produce anything in the category of his natural form.

Married with two young daughters, Kenyon has latterly found relaxation by taking up golf, though it is his rose garden at his Woollaston home, near Stourbridge, from which he gains greatest satisfaction after cricket.

<

© John Wisden & Co