CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1923

AC Russell

A. C. Russell, was born quite near to the Leyton ground on the 7th October, 1887, and has been associated with Essex cricket all through his career. His rise to his present position among English batsmen was a long business, his powers being slow to develop. He played in two Essex matches in 1908, but for some time he remained more or less on the fringe of the eleven and it was not until 1913 that he became a real force. In that year he made a great advance upon anything he had done before, hitting up hundreds against Lancashire and Hampshire and averaging 34 with an aggregate of 1,072 runs. It was stated then that in improving so much he owed a good deal to Carpenter's coaching. His success did not come altogether as a surprise at Leyton. Several good judges, including the late Mr. C. E. Green, always saw his possibilities. He was steadily working his way to the front rank when the war came and stopped first-class cricket for four seasons. Since the war, as everyone knows, Russell has been one of the biggest run-getters. In 1919 he scored 1,357 runs for Essex with an average of 46, and in 1920, when he was picked for the Players at the Oval, Lord's and Scarborough, his county average came out at 42 and his aggregate of runs at 1,750. He was very properly picked for the M. C. C.'s tour in Australia in 1920-21, but it cannot be said that the trip added to his fame. He was very uneven in form and though his batting figures looked well on paper, he disappointed both himself and his friends. He had the satisfaction of getting 135 not out and 59 at Adelaide in the third Test Match, but in the other three in which he took part--he was kept out of the fourth by an injured thumb--he obtained only 64 runs in six innings. The Adelaide ground was very much to his liking and in the two matches with South Australia he had no mercy on the weak bowling, playing an innings of 156 at the beginning of the tour and winding up with 201. Back in England he was quite himself, batting better than ever for Essex and making hundreds in the two Test matches in which he played. He earned the first by thoroughly good cricket at Manchester, but he was to a large extent presented with the second by Armstrong's much-condemned tactics at the Oval. Last year Russell touched his highest point. He was amazing in the first half of the season, gaining appreciably in freedom of style--his innings for the Players at Lord's was superb--and though he could not keep up the same form to the end he just beat Hobbs in the number of runs scored. Judged by results since the war he is an exceptional player and yet his batting lacks the quality that fascinates. One cannot imagine people jumping into taxi-cabs and rushing off to Lord's or the Oval because they had seen on the tape that he was not out at lunch-time. A master of on-side play he is rather too utilitarian to rank among the great ones. He has a fine off-drive at his command, but he is very sparing in the use of it. Still he must not be blamed for playing the game that pays him best.

© John Wisden & Co