CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1961

Roy McLean

When Bernard Shaw wrote that "you don't learn to hold your own in the world by standing on guard but by attacking and getting well hammered yourself" he enunciated the creed adopted by the one modern South African batsman who is a dedicated and effective hard-hitter. Roy Alastair McLean, who turned 30 during the 1960 tour, enriched a defensive side with a power of stroke and aggressive attitude equalled by few of his predecessors, perhaps only J.H. Sinclair and H.B. Cameron.

Until this, his third visit to England, his batting was hampered by repeated recklessness. He was not only severely criticised for his impetuosity, but in two series at home was omitted from the test eleven.

He became such a force on the recent tour because he arrived in England not only conscious of his responsibility as the lone representative of attacking batsmanship but because he was determined to keep his head down and restrain his natural impulses.

From his very first innings against Worcestershire he revealed a new approach to his task. In launching his season with his highest first-class score of 207, made in only four hours, he showed an unprecedented maturity of judgment and control. It remained the hallmark of all his innings.

Like others in the team McLean found his scope restricted because for once the opening batsmen, D.J. McGlew and T.L. Goddard, were not able to blunt the thrust of new ball bowlers in the Tests. Yet it was in spite of these very circumstances, the loss of three wickets for 57 runs in the fourth match at Old Trafford, that McLean played the most accomplished innings of his 33 Test matches. In his chanceless 109, scored in two hours forty minutes out of a total of 229, he played only two strokes which contained any imperfection. Both in technical execution and adaptation to a threatening position for his side it was the finest innings of the series.

During the first Test at Edgbaston McLean batted so soundly for his 68 not out on the fourth evening that it seemed possible for South Africa to reach the total of 309 required for victory. This was not to be for in the first over on the fifth morning he was lbw when playing across a ball from Trueman. Another hour of McLean might well have prevented the one-sided outcome of the series.

During the tour he scored four centuries, made the most runs (1,516) and highest individual score of his side, was first to pass the thousand, recorded the fastest hundred of the season in seventy-five minutes against A.E.R. Gilligan's XI at Hastings and shared with G. Griffin the distinction of hitting the most 6's (eleven). His century at Hastings was remarkable for the fact that in the first half-hour he scored only six runs, and then he added 94 in three-quarters of an hour. So sure was his touch and timing that at no stage did his batting give the impression of spectacular onslaught.

With T.L. Goddard he shared the team's highest partnership -- 280 against Northamptonshire for the third wicket. McLean hit 180 in three hours and ten minutes.

When South African fielding attained its highest peak under the captaincy of J.E. Cheetham the work on the boundary by McLean made a notable contribution to its unrivalled standard. Last summer he fielded closer to the wicket. He held 21 catches with an approximate efficiency of 70 per cent.

There were no other cricketers in the McLean family. His father enjoyed soccer and swimming. Roy was born on July 9, 1930, in Maritzburg, where at the Merchiston Preparatory School he was in the same class as his future captain, D.J. McGlew.

He began his cricket in a normal way playing with other boys at home on a bowling green. When he moved to another preparatory school, Cordwalles, he led the cricket side for two years. He was also captain of junior teams at Hilton College and played in the first fifteen at Rugby. When he was chosen for the Natal schools in the national Nuffield tournament two of his team-mates were D.J. McGlew and J.H.B. Waite.

His natural ability at games led to his selection for Natal both at cricket and Rugby, but he gave up football after playing for his province against the Wallabies in 1953. His first appearance for Natal at cricket was against Lindsay Hassett's Australian team. His debut was modest, but he soon became a regular member of the side. He learned much from some ten century partnerships he played with A.D. Nourse, the manager of the 1960 team in England.

It was under Nourse's captaincy that McLean first toured England in 1951 and entered Test cricket at Old Trafford within a day or two of his twenty-first birthday. Although he took part in only five innings in the 1951 series a glorious 67 at Leeds confirmed his impressive capabilities.

On his second tour -- to Australia -- he was responsible for two exhilarating innings of 81 and 76 not out that primarily clinched South Africa's victory in the fifth Test. When he left the dressing-room on the last day Cheetham cautioned him not to throw his wicket away. "Don't worry, Pop," he replied, "I'll get them for you." He was dropped first ball, but went on to score the winning hit after an innings which gave him the most enjoyment of his career.

McLean was remembered most in England in 1955 not for the fact that he scored 1,448 runs and was second in the averages but for two outstanding displays. One was his 142 in the Lord's test -- a lucky but devastating demonstration of big hitting -- and the other, 50 at Old Trafford when South Africa were racing against time to their exciting victory by five minutes. His hooking of Tyson at Manchester was masterly. The hardest of his four Test centuries he regards as the 100 he made against England, led by Peter May, at Durban in 1956-57. He had to graft for it for some four and a half hours.

Only an inherent lack of consistency -- he has failed to score ten times in Test matches -- has denied McLean a place among great batsmen. On his day his batting is as stirring as any in the game. As Sir Donald Bradman observed after watching him in England last summer: "When Roy plays a good innings no one can hold him. He can score off any type of bowling."

© John Wisden & Co