CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1953

Stuart Surridge

Seldom does it fall to the lot of a cricketer to lead a side to the County Championship in his first year of captaincy as was the case in 1952 with WALTER STUART SURRIDGE, of Surrey. Though not always free from criticism as regards tactics and the manner in which he handled the bowling, he brought to Surrey a spirit of consistent enterprise and aggression such as they had not known since the days of PGH Fender's captaincy twenty odd years previously. With the same players as comprised the team which finished sixth in the table the year before, Surrey, under his inspiring command, swept to the county title with three matches in hand. Thus they amply justified Surridge's stated formula for successful captaincy: "Attack all the time, whether batting, bowling or fielding." In the nature of things the occasional upset occurred, but generally the harassing, chance-taking, opportunity-grasping policy of this genial player, so rare in present-day English cricket met with the reward it deserved. Success came from the start, and even in the early weeks of the summer Surrey was freely spoken of as probable Champions, with the name of Surridge and the virtue of his go-ahead methods inevitably coupled with such forecasts. Once again, as in the case of HE Dollery, who led Warwickshire to the title in 1951, was the value of spirited captaincy exemplified.

The part of Surridge in this season was not confined to leadership. As a fieldsman close to the wicket, whether at slip, short-leg, or in the 'silly' positions at mid-on or mid-off, he had few equals. In all matches he brought off no fewer than 58 catches - seven for South v North at Kingston - so setting up a record for a Surrey player not a wicket-keeper. His ability in this direction, resulting in the acceptance of some catches which might be regarded by many cricketers as bordering upon the impossible, at times exerted an unnerving effect upon opposing batsmen and paved the way to more than one of the twenty victories. Added to this, his enthusiastic fast-medium right-arm bowling, in which he used to good purpose his 6ft 1 3/8 ins brought him 78 wickets average 25.21, and by batting of such fierce enterprise that he reached 50 in twenty minutes against Derbyshire at Chesterfield he scored 541 runs, average 17.45. So his all-round value was great.

Born on September 3, 1917, at Herne Hill, London, Surridge was fortunate to have a father closely connected to the game in business and one who could afford to give him the utmost encouragement. He evinced a very early interest in cricket and at the age of eight took part in matches at Emanuel School, Wandsworth. The only member of his family to take seriously to the active side of the game, he progressed through the under fourteen team and the Colts to the first eleven, which he captained in 1935, his final season at school, without achieving special prominence. Until his last two years at Emanuel he kept wicket, a fact which may well account for the alertness he subsequently showed in the field. He became a fast bowler by force of circumstances when, as he put it, "The school hadn't a fast bowler, so I took on the job." That statement typifies the outlook of the man.

Emanuel did not employ a coach, but as a schoolboy member of the County Club from the age of twelve he attended the Easter classes at The Oval supervised by Alan Peach, and during the winter months improved his cricket at the indoor school run by A Sandham and AR Gover. For his advance as a bowler he owed much to Gover, for so long the spearhead of the Surrey attack, who helped enormously to correct faults in his action. While still at school Surridge appeared for the Young Surrey Players led by Peach, being contemporary with the Bedser twins, AJ McIntyre, GJ Whittaker and B Constable, all of whom played under him last summer. He made his first appearance for Surrey Second Eleven in the Minor Counties' Competition when twenty, and played much cricket for Old Emanuel, The Wanderers and Horley before the war, during which he centred his attentions upon farming.

Not until 1947 did he gain inclusion in the County Championship side, taking part in five matches, but next season when playing more often he achieved fine performance at The Oval, where he took five wickets for 50 runs against Warwickshire and five for 44 against Nottinghamshire, helping substantially towards a win in each case. In 1949 he fared even better, his six wickets for 49 in the Middlesex first innings and 41 not out doing much towards success over the eventual joint Champions. Continuing to progress, he made his highest score, 87, against Glamorgan in 1951, the same year in which he earned his best analysis, seven wickets for 49 against Lancashire, both at The Oval.

Besides being a director in the family business of sports goods manufacturers, Surridge maintains an interest in two farms in Surrey and Berkshire, where he grows willow trees from which are made the cricket bats he sells. - EE.

© John Wisden & Co