CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1935

Jim Smith

CEDRIC IVAN JAMES SMITH, more generally known as Smith, J., of Middlesex, was, all things considered, a remarkable and outstanding personality in the county cricket season of 1934. Born on August 25th, 1906, at Corsham in Wiltshire, Smith, who played for the county of his birth from 1926 until 1933, joined the M.C.C. Ground Staff at Lord's at the beginning of the 1926 season. Not very much was heard of him for some years, but in matches of minor importance for the M.C.C. and in second-class championship engagements for Wiltshire he steadily made something of a name for himself by his fast bowling and powerful but quite unorthodox style of batting. In this biographical sketch little need be said of his batting; he usually goes in and, standing fast-footed, hits hard at practically every ball. All the same there is no reason why this tall and powerfully built cricketer should not, in time, become an even greater menace than he is at the present, to bowlers towards the end of an innings.

Far more generous words can be said of his abilities as a bowler. The Middlesex authorities were not slow to realise his potentialities while he was bowling at the nets and in small matches for the M.C.C. and as Durston--now retired from first-class cricket--was obviously nearing the end of his career Smith received an invitation to qualify for Middlesex and become the fast bowler for the Metropolitan county. Accordingly Smith was eligible to play for Middlesex at the commencement of the 1934 season and seldom has a bowler in his first full summer's cricket with a leading county met with such brilliant success and jumped immediately to the front. The Middlesex committee, or whoever individually was responsible for inducing Smith to qualify received ample justification for the action taken. He did not come at once into the limelight but towards the end of May he took ten wickets against Somerset; following that a little later with eleven against Warwickshire; and going through the season so splendidly that at the end he had obtained 172 wickets and stood sixth on the first class bowling list with an average of slightly less than nineteen runs a wicket.

For a man practically new to big cricket this performance during a hot, tiring campaign was little short of astounding. People might erroneously argue that his success was due largely to the fact that he did most of his bowling on the Lord's wickets which, as in the previous summer, were inclined to flatter practically every type of bowler, but when it is stated that he accomplished much of his best work away from Lord's it will readily be seen that he owed nothing in particular to the type of pitches at St. John's Wood. At Southampton, for instance, he took eight wickets for 102 in Hampshire's first innings, and against Somerset at Taunton he obtained eight wickets in the two innings; but probably his greatest achievement was in the Surrey and Middlesex match at The Oval when he dismissed eleven men for just over fourteen runs apiece, and he wound up at Folkestone for M.C.C. against Kent with eight for 147.

On several other occasions he got through his labours in a manner which, if not quite so grandiose from the point of view of actual figures, at the least stamped him as, day in and day out, nearly the best fast bowler in England. It must always remain something of a mystery why the Selection Committee for the Test Matches ignored the evidence right under their eyes and omitted to give him an opportunity of showing what he could do in the highest class of cricket. Possibly they may have been influenced by his failure when picked for the Players at Lord's but against this could be placed his success in the Middlesex and Australians match, when he dismissed Woodfull and Ponsford each for nought and afterwards got rid of Darling and Barnett.

Standing six feet four inches in height, and possessing tremendous strength and energy, Smith is of ideal build for fast bowling. His run up to the wicket is quite easy and his action rhythmic, with the right arm brought very well over. He does not strive after swerve as so many modern bowlers do , but relies chiefly for his effectiveness on "lift" and life from the pitch. But, above everything else, he possesses to a pronounced degree the very valuable asset of "bowling at the stumps", with the result that batsmen can leave very few of his deliveries alone, nor can they take the risk of getting their legs in front of the wicket. The penalty for doing this Woodfull and Ponsford discovered to their cost when they first faced him. Would that many others of our bowlers would take Smith as an example instead of pursuing the fetish of swerve to the detriment of length!

Smith, who after leaving school joined the Corsham Cricket Club when sixteen, took up bowling the following season and has always bowled fast. He received no coaching in his early days of cricket but later owed something to the advice given him by A. W. Newman who was then on the M. C. C. staff at Lord's and who played for Wiltshire. Thanks to the good offices of the late Captain F. Reynolds, R. M., the captain of the Corsham Cricket Club, and to the recommendations of Newman, Smith ultimately found a place in the Wiltshire team for whom he played his first match at Gravesend against Kent II. eleven. In 1932 and 1933 he obtained fifty wickets each season for Wiltshire and when at Lord's many valuable hints were given him by Harry White, the head groundsman. Smith has never found any reason to change the style of his bowling and he could not suggest anything to account particularly for his success in his first full season with Middlesex. Twenty-eight years of age, he cannot, by the strictest standard of these days, be regarded as a very young player but, as a careful living man with his own progress in cricket very dear to his heart, there does not seem to be any real reason why, with such a frame, he should not prove of very great service to Middlesex and possibly to England for quite a long time. It is at least greatly in his favour that he went through a busy season practically day after day without suffering any ill effects from strain or accident. The invitation he received to make one of the M.C.C. team for West Indies was a just recognition of his merits.

© John Wisden & Co