CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1902

Willie Quaife

W. G. QUAIFE was born on March the 17th, 1872. Born in Sussex, it was only by an accident that he was never associated as a cricketer with his native county. When, following the season of 1890, his brother Walter ceased to play for Sussex and threw in his lot with Warwickshire, he also after a time went to live in Birmingham, and in due course found his way into the Warwickshire eleven. His career, destined to be so brilliant, began in 1893, the year previous to the one in which Warwickshire, in company with Leicestershire and Essex, obtained official recognition as a first-class county. At the same time Derbyshire was restored to its old position, and at the end of the season promotion was extended to Hampshire. W. G. Quaife only played once for Warwickshire in 1893, but he made the most of his opportunity, and with an innings of 102, not out, proved that he was a batsman of no ordinary skill. In 1894 he had a regular place in the eleven, and without doing anything extraordinary got on very well, averaging 20, with an aggregate of 390 runs. Moreover, he was from the first a most brilliant field at cover-point, the runs he saved adding greatly to his value in the eleven. In 1895 he again did fairly well, and since then he has never looked back, his career being one of uninterrupted success. Indeed only two or three other batsmen have been so consistently at their best. For six years in succession he has come out at the top of the list for Warwickshire, his average being 34 in 1896, 46 in 1897, 60 in 1898, 54 in 1899, 58 in 1900, and 55 in 1901. For the last two seasons he has been very hard pressed by Kinneir, but has managed to keep in front. A record of the many fine innings he has played for Warwickshire between 1896 and the present time would fill a far larger space in Wisden than can possibly be spared. It must suffice to say that he stands in the very front rank of contemporary batsmen. His success may be described as a triumph of natural ability and hard work over physical disadvantages. One of the shortest men who ever took a leading position in the cricket field, he has by careful study of the art of batting almost neutralised his lack of height and reach. Debarred by physical limitations from forcing play in front of the wicket, he has mastered practically every way of scoring behind the stumps, as Mr. Fry stated in The Book of Cricket, he is so exceptionally quick on his feet that he can make nearly any ball look easy to play. For his proficiency in this respect he is no doubt indebted in great measure to the coaching he had from Alfred Shaw before he left Sussex. The only reproach that can be urged against him as a batsman is that he keeps his average a little too much before his mind, and is apt to play a slow game when caution is the last thing needed by his side. For an essentially steady and defensive player he is wonderfully good to look at. We have never known so short a man play with such a straight bat, and his style is finished to a degree, every movement being easy and graceful. He played for England against Australia at Leeds and Manchester in 1899 and, though he only scored 20, maintained a superb defence at Leeds for an hour and three-quarters on a difficult wicket. At Manchester he failed in batting, but his fielding at cover-point was perfection. In the course of the past season MacLaren picked him for the Australian trip-a compliment he fully deserved.

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