CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1939

Bill Brown

WILLIAM ALFRED BROWN, who as a batsman ranked second only to Bradman in the Australian team which toured England last season, was born at Toowoomba (Queensland) on July 31, 1912, but learned his cricket in New South Wales. Educated at Dulwich Hill and Petersham High Schools, he began as a wicket-keeper, later becoming an opening batsmen--a role which he was destined to fill with much credit for his country. In 1929-30 he joined the Marrickville District Club, but, unable to obtain a regular place, he had practically decided to leave the city. However, an innings of 172 for his Shire team whetted his appetite; going through the various grades until he reached his club first eleven, he continued to advance, and in 1932-33 he appeared in the New South Wales team. Brown states that in those early days he owed a lot to his club secretary, Mr. B. H. Bicknell, who was always his enthusiastic supporter, guide, philosopher and friend.

In his opening season of first-class cricket, Brown hit 79 v. South Australia, and against D. R. Jardine's team he batted admirably for 69. It was obvious that a player of high class had appeared and next season Brown made 154 at Brisbane and shared with Bradman in a partnership of 294, an association which Brown admits meant much to him. Particularly did Bradman impress upon him the necessity for bright and intelligent running between wickets. Later that season, Brown took part in a big opening stand with J. H. Fingleton against Victoria, and scored 205, an innings which assured him of selection for the 1934 tour of England. On that trip, when he greatly enhanced his reputation, he made 105 in the Lord's Test, and his skilful batting in South Africa afterwards took him to the front rank of Australian batsmen.

Returning to Queensland, Brown captained the State eleven, but his form fell away and his choice for the recent tour to England caused considerable and sometimes bitter criticism. Fortunately, the Australian selectors had sufficient vision to realise that such a batsman does not lose his powers at the age of 25, and in England Brown rose to the occasion splendidly. After an innings of 196 not out against Northamptonshire, the tour was one long succession of triumphs for him. Scoring 206 at Lord's in the Second Test, he joined the select band of those to bat throughout an innings. This fine performance, following a fighting century in the Nottingham Test, put the seal on his fame, and finishing second to Bradman both in average and aggregate, Brown ranked with his captain in consistency. Besides batting with a charming skill, coolness, thoughtfulness and certainty, Brown was magnificent as a fieldsman, and he owes his development in this direction to persistent training. Day after day he used to run with professional sprinters in order to learn anticipation and quickness off the mark. A cricketer of remarkable powers who has not yet touched his top form, Brown at present is slow to unfold a wonderful array of strokes. One day he will realise his own skill and then cricket should be the richer by batsmanship glorious in conception and execution.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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