CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1937

Charlie Barnett

CHARLES JOHN BARNETT, of Gloucestershire, the one regular opening batsman to score 2,000 or more runs last season, was born on July 3, 1910, at Cheltenham, within sight of the Cheltenham cricket ground. Both his father (C.S.) and his uncle played for Gloucestershire as amateurs, and after going to Wycliffe College he assisted the Tewkesbury Club under his father's captaincy.

Of his youthful doings at cricket, Barnett cannot recall many particulars. Coached by his father -- afterwards by some of the senior members of the Gloucestershire team -- young Barnett soon attracted the close attention of the County authorities, who were of course already well aware, with cricket in the family, of his potentialities and in 1927 at the age of 16, he appeared as an amateur for Gloucestershire against Cambridge University.

Given more opportunities the following season, he became a professional in 1929 and gradually developed from a natural hitter, usually going in Number Five, into one of the best batsmen in the country. For some seasons, Barnett's career was one of steady progress rather than brilliant achievement, but when in 1932 upon the retirement of Dipper he was asked to accept the responsibility of opening the innings he soon established his position.

The summer of 1933 saw him in such wonderful form that he registered 2,280 runs with an average of 40.71 and hit six hundreds. Chosen for the Oval Test Match with the West Indies, he scored 52 and, adding 95 with Nichols, shared in the most productive stand of England's innings.

He also did well when visiting India with the M.C.C. team that winter, and in the next English season had an aggregate of 2,348, average 43.48. A decline of his form in 1935 could be attributed in some measure to the experimental L.B.W. rule which, during the early matches, bothered him. Going out to feel for the in-swinger, he was several times dismissed by deliveries which a year before he would have hit for four.

Accepting as a fact the idea that there is now more merit than previously in a score made by an opening batsman against the new ball, his form last season reflected a bigger advance on his part than might be adduced from the improvement of his aggregate from 1,396 in 1935 to 2,098. An innings of 204 not out off the Leicestershire bowling beat all his previous feats and as a member of the M.C.C. team to Australia in 1936-37 he surpassed that effort by scoring 259 against Queensland at Brisbane.

The tremendous power Barnett puts behind his drives may be realised from the fact that, when hitting 194 at the rate of a run a minute at Bath in 1934, he obtained eleven 6's and eighteen 4's. Nowadays he is not so impetuous in his batting because he has curbed to some extent a natural inclination to take risks, although he is still a little venturesome outside the off-stump. Another fault urged against him is a tendency to drop the right shoulder when driving.

Probably he will always be a player of the type prepared to run risks, and qualities of an aggressive kind, combined with good judgment, form the strength of his batting. He drives with vigour and facility and also excels in square cutting.

As a medium-paced bowler he has often rendered valuable service to Gloucestershire and last summer, in the match with Essex at Clacton, he accomplished a fine all-round performance by scoring 14 and 117 and taking in the Essex second innings six wickets for 17 runs. He is one of the most reliable out-fielders in present-day cricket.

© John Wisden & Co