CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1936

Arthur Wellard

Arthur Wellard, one of the most attractive personalities in cricket last season, was born at Southfleet in Kent on April 8, 1903. That the county of his birth failed to recognise his ability has occasioned much surprise; the following details of his early career should suffice to show that the Kent authorities were not entirely to blame. As a boy Wellard never took part in any organised cricket. He went to a Bexley school where there were no facilities for the game and his first memories of any type of cricket go back to pick-up games with other boys on the local Recreation ground. Cricket must have been in his blood for at roughly the age of 18 he used to visit the Bexley club ground and chase the balls which the players hit when practising. In this way he found a chance to bowl at the nets and evidently he revealed no mean skill as he was soon given a place in the side as a change bowler. Quickly proving his worth and becoming a valuable all-rounder, Wellard, during his association with Bexley, played several times for the club against the Kent colts and in one match he took eight wickets at comparatively small cost against such players as G. J. V. Weigall, W. H. V. Levett, Ames, Watt and Hubble (J. C.).

Apparently this performance did not make a big impression in Kent county circles and as no efforts on Wellard's behalf were made to secure him a trial he was never really considered by Kent. During his last three seasons (1924-1926) with Bexley he headed the batting and bowling averages and, following a chance conversation with Archie Haywood, a former member of the Kent club and ground staff who acts as coach to Taunton School, he went to Taunton in September 1926 for a three days' trial. A letter from the Somerset authorities to Wellard was sent the following April and arrangements were made for him to act as professional to the Weston-Super-Mare club so that he could qualify for the county by residence. In the same season he made his first appearance for Somerset against the New Zealanders at Weston-Super-Mare and two years later, in 1929, his period of qualification over, he became a regular member of the county side. At once he proved an acquisition, for in his first full season he took 131 wickets, and at Leicester he performed the hat trick for the only time so far in his career. Wellard well remembers that match for he failed to score in either innings. Strangely enough Wellard has never quite approached his bowling record of 1929--indeed, his success with the ball has been inconsistent, to say the least--but last year he took more wickets (114) than in any season since 1929.

Standing over six feet, Wellard in his loose-limbed style brings the ball from a useful height. He possesses a natural off break and besides being fast off the pitch, he can, on his day, cause the ball to move from its expected direction when in the air. Like all bowlers of his type he has suffered from missed catches; at one time he experienced elbow troble which was put right by the removal of a small piece of bone.

Apart from his usefulness as a bowler, Wellard's place in the Somerset side must be secure for many seasons to come by virtue of his run-getting ability. As a batsman he has developed from a raw, if fearless, hitter into a master of sound defence and stroke play without losing any of his power and aggressiveness. Wellard is an example of how natural ability can be developed without the aid of excessive coaching. He says he has never had a day's coaching in his life, though a few hints from members of the Somerset team, particularly Young and J. W. Lee, proved valuable. Certainly few men in modern cricket drive so hard against any variety of bowling. In each of the last three seasons he has obtained more than 1,000 runs and in 1933 and 1935 he achieved the distinction of accomplishing the cricketer's double. Wellard is an attraction to the public as well as a match winner. No matter how badly his side is faring he is always likely to alter the course of a game. One of his finest performances was at Portsmouth in 1933. Somerset began the match by losing six wickets for 38 runs, but then Wellard, hitting four 6's and seven 4's, scored 77 out of 94; in the second innings he made 60 including two 6's and seven 4's. As he also took ten wickets for less than eleven runs apiece, his part in the defeat of Hampshire by 107 runs was very considerable. Of his fielding nothing but praise can be written. Whether in the slips or at short leg or silly mid-off he is wonderfully good.

Unlike the other four cricketers whose portraits appear this year, Wellard has not appeared for his country or taken part in a tour abroad, but his claims for a place in the team for the Final Test last season were seriously considered.

© John Wisden & Co