How much the swift rise of Warwickshire, which culminated in their second County Championship triumph in 40 years, was directly due to Horace Edgar Dollery, the first professional to become an annually-appointed county captain, was difficult to assess. Certainly all those closely connected with Warwickshire cricket believed that Dollery's influence and inspiration was largely responsible. Dollery was the first professional to lead a side to the County Championship in the twentieth century, and in every way he gave solid support to those who believed that an amateur captain was not indispensable to bringing out the best from a first-class team, whether county or country.
This is not the place to weigh the arguments for and against professional captains, but no one could disagree that, by his skill and knowledge of the game, his bearing on and off the field, and his ability to summon the best from those under him, Dollery revealed all the finest qualities of leadership. On personal achievement in runs, 1951 was by no means Dollery's best season, but there could be no doubt that he was one of the personalities of the year.
Dollery's rise to fame in no way surprised those who knew him as a boy. In fact it would have been strange had he not reached the top, despite the failure of so many promising youngsters to make the grade later in life.
Born at Reading on October 14, 1914, Dollery was brought up in an atmosphere of cricket, his home backing on to the Berkshire County ground. The groundsman there was A. B. Croom, father of Arthur Croom who gave Warwickshire many years good service as an opening batsman. Most of Dollery's spare time was spent with the Croom family. Nothing could be more natural than for the conversation to revolve around the exploits of Warwickshire or for Dollery to look upon Warwickshire almost as his native county. He took every chance of using the ground to practise both cricket and football and he developed to such an extent that he became one of the most prominent boy sportsmen of his day.
Dollery won his way into the Reading School eleven when 13 and for five years was one of the batting mainstays. In his last two seasons he captained the school side. During that period his form was remarkable. When 16 he made 101 out of 140 against M.C.C. and in the corresponding match the following year surpassed that by batting throughout an innings of 115 for 104 not out. The next best score was three! Dollery also won his way into the School Rugby XV, but later developed into a first-class soccer forward and was persuaded to turn professional, playing occasionally in the Reading first team.
He always intended to join Warwickshire for cricket but, as his birthplace was in Berkshire, was required to spend two years qualifying. While doing so he played for Berkshire in the Minor Counties Competition and in 1932, at the age of 17, scored a hundred in each innings against Monmouthshire at Newport. The following year he represented Minor Counties against West Indies at Lord's
With such success behind Dollery, Warwickshire were keen to include him in their side and, on the first occasion possible, on July 18, 1934, he made his county debut, batting number six against Yorkshire at Scarborough. Although Dollery himself scored only one and nothing he shared in a dramatic triumph. In the first innings Warwickshire were dismissed for 45, the lowest total of the season, yet won the match by one wicket after being set to get 216.
Developing under the guidance of Sid Santall, the Warwickshire coach, and learning a good deal from the county stalwarts Bates, Croom and Kilner, Dollery scored over 1,000 runs in his first full summer and to the end of the 1951 season had always exceeded that figure. His best year was 1949 when he scored 2,084 runs, average 47.36, and played the highest innings of his career, 200 against Gloucestershire at Gloucester. In 1951 he made 1,549, average just under 39. As in the past, his steadfastness was shown most in a crisis. Many of his big scores were made when most needed.
Dollery has played four times for England, twice against Australia in 1948 and once each against South Africa and West Indies.
Although captain at school, he had no similar experience until sharing the Warwickshire leadership with R. H. Maudsley in 1948. Next year he was appointed sole captain. He freely acknowledges how much he learned from R. E. S. Wyatt, when Wyatt was the Warwickshire captain.
Dollery believes that by living among his team the professional captain knows more about his men than can the amateur who stays separately. In fact, he says that sometimes he has arrived in the dressing-room on the morning of the match and sensed which bowler is likely to be off form, or to do well. His argument may not hold good in all cases, but it probably does in the case of a born leader much as Dollery himself. Warwickshire owe much to Tom--the name they gave him soon after his arrival at Edgbaston nearly 20 years ago.--L. S.