CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1935

George Paine

GEORGE ALFRED EDWARD PAINE, like Smith of Middlesex, whose portrait also appears in this edition of the Almanack, did not enjoy the distinction of playing for England in any of the Test Matches in 1934. It is quite safe to assume, however, that he would have been one of the first choices but for the fact that the Selection Committee already had, in Hedley Verity, an experienced and thoroughly capable left-arm slow bowler. Paine was unfortunate in having, with the Australians in England, his best season in first-class cricket and yet being compelled to play second fiddle to the Yorkshireman. Often during the season one heard the suggestion that both Verity and Paine might have been included in the England eleven and as a precedent for this the names of Peel and Briggs were instanced. No analogy existed, however, between the two sets of circumstances; both Peel and Briggs were good batsmen as well as exceptional bowlers so that at the time they were together in the England team, batting strength was not sacrificed for the purpose of increasing that of bowling. All the same Paine was certainly deserving of sympathy in that he did not get at least one opportunity in a Test Match and to future generations it will, perhaps, appear strange that he was omitted during a batsman's season in which, with 156 wickets at a cost of just over seventeen runs apiece, he finished at the head of the first-class bowling averages.

Paine was born at Queen's Park, Paddington on June 11, 1908. Cricket must have been in his blood, for his grandfather and father were in turn both employed at Lord's ground. His father's association with Headquarters was the means of securing Paine a trial at Lord's in 1923, and in due course he became a member of the staff there, subsequently being tried for Middlesex in June, 1926. As a boy at Droop Street School he had shown promise, being in the eleven in 1921 and 1922, and helping the side to win the Paddington Schools' District Cup in the latter year. Strangely enough his first appearance for Middlesex was against Warwickshire at Lord's, and he was not called on again until the following August when Middlesex played at Edgbaston. In that game he took five wickets for 77 runs and three for 25, and before the end of the season turned out three more times for Middlesex. Meanwhile his bowling against Warwickshire had considerably impressed the authorities of the Midland county who, with the consent of Middlesex, invited him to join the staff at Edgbaston where, having duly qualified by residence, he became a member of the team and has played regularly since 1929. Incidentally he has remedied a weakness which handicapped Warwickshire for many years--the need of a slow left-arm bowler.

Standing just over six feet in height, Paine bowls with an easy delivery and makes full use of his stature. In his early days with Warwickshire there were critics who questioned if he was spinning the ball as well as he might, but steady progress and increasing success lessened those doubts, which were dispelled finally last season, when, he set up a new bowling record for Warwickshire by taking 155 wickets in all matches for the county. Mainly because of the great importance he attaches to length, Paine is a type of bowler useful to his side on most kinds of wicket, and in connection with this belief--to which he pays greater attention than some of the bowlers of post-war days--he regards the two winters spent at the indoor school under the guidance of Pat Hendren at Acton as having done more than anything else to develop and consolidate his accuracy of pitch. Apart from this he is not conscious of any coaching that has been markedly beneficial. He adopted his own methods and his advance in the season of 1934 can be traced to gradual development of length-control, and adequate use of flight governed by a high delivery and spin.

It is of interest to set out here what he has done during the six years of his association with his adopted county. His figures are most instructive in showing how year after year with the exception of 1933 he has steadily progressed. In 1929--his first year for Warwickshire--he took 57 wickets for just over 29 runs apiece and stood fifth in the County list. During the next three years he obtained 75 wickets for 26.36, 112 for 20.41 and 129 for 18.48, advancing to fourth place in 1930 and being top of the bowling averages in the following two seasons. During 1933 there came a slight falling off. Really he headed the bowling, only Hill, who took but one wicket, being above him, and his figures were 118 wickets at a cost of 24.29 each. Then, last year, came his 150 wickets in County Championship matches for less than seventeen runs apiece and, of course, he was at the top again. At times useful with the bat there has been little necessity for him to turn his attention to making runs, but all the same he can point to improvement as a batsman since 1930, and last season he had an average of nearly 20 runs per innings. It is also significant that, coincident with his progress, Warwickshire who were fifteenth in the County Championship at the end of 1930 have not since been lower than ninth, and last summer wound up fourth on the list. Warwickshire, therefore, seeing his possibilities more quickly than did his native county, have every reason to congratulate themselves on the day they induced Paine to throw in his lot with them.

© John Wisden & Co