S. J. Southerton
Engaging in a rather strenuous programme, the team from the West Indies, who, under the captaincy of the old Cambridge University cricketer, G. C. Grant, toured England in 1933, did not, possibly, meet with the success they hoped or expected when they set out on their adventure. To come at once to the point, they played 30 first-class matches, including three against the full strength of England, and of these they won five, drew 16 and lost nine. Outside the first-class fixtures they engaged in eight of lesser importance, being successful in three of these and drawing the other five.
With no thought of damping enthusiasm in the Islands from which the members of the touring party were drawn, but rather with a view of stimulating cricketers in the West Indies to further efforts to improve their all-round ability, it must be emphasised that the team did not play as well as we in this country had been led to believe they would. For a visiting combination they were unusually favoured by the magnificent weather experienced in England during the summer. Not since the Australians were here in 1921 did the sun shine for such long periods or with such consistent power, so that for the most part the West Indies had almost their own conditions in which to play and fast wickets on which to fight out their battles.
Nowadays, it has become the custom to estimate the merits of a touring side, playing at least three Test matches, upon their performances in those particular fixtures. On the occasion of the last visit of a team from the West Indies three Test matches were played and the West Indies lost them all. In the tour under notice they were again accorded this distinction, but while the struggle at Manchester ended in a draw, the encounters at Lord's and the Oval both resulted in victories for England in an innings. At Lord's, as at the Oval, the bowling and fielding of the West Indies were satisfactory enough, but the batting proved sadly disappointing. The tourists clearly did not possess the necessary skill and, what was of equal importance, they did not convey the impression of being fitted temperamentally for matches of such an importance nature. A side enjoying the privilege of pitting their strength against the full power of England must necessarily be judged by the standard usually associated with engagements of that class, and as the West Indies lost twice and had by no means the best of the position when the other match was given up as a draw, they failed in their primary object.
In Grant they were very fortunate to have not only a clever, but an enthusiastic captain. Astute in the management of his bowling and the placing of his field, he inspired the whole team by his own admirable example, for very few men in England last summer fielded so brilliantly near the wicket as he did from the beginning of May until the end of August. His best work was done in the gully, where he brought off some amazing catches, while his liveliness in anticipation and quickness on his feet enabled him to save numerous hits which otherwise would have meant fours. He also showed himself to be a good and plucky batsman. No matter how gloomy the outlook, he never allowed it to depress his spirit; he played many admirable innings - often when matters were going steadily against his team - and generally, even if he could not command success, accomplished a rather difficult task with no small amount of distinction.
Above all, Grant himself played the game, and insisted on those under him doing so, in the most sporting spirit. As the natural outcome of this, the team were always welcome wherever they went and left behind them a fine impression of keenness, combined with modesty and unfailing good temper.
We who, rightly or wrongly, see in fast-leg theory bowling with a packed leg field a menace to our great game of cricket, can at any rate be thankful to the West Indies for showing us, as they did at Manchester in the Second Test match, what an objectionable form of attack this kind of bowling can be. Most people in England whichever way they inclined, were to a large extent ignorant of the effect it had upon cricket, and there can be no doubt whatever that the exhibition given at Old Trafford confirmed opponents of it in their views and caused hundreds who had open minds on the subject definitely to turn against it. During the Oxford and Cambridge match this type of bowling caused criticism and if there remained many advocates for its use, what occurred in the Test match at Manchester must have convinced them of its unwelcome nature. For this reason, as already observed, the tour of the West Indies, apart from the useful lessons it taught our visitors, rendered one great and, we hope, lasting service to English cricket.
Unfortunately for the West Indies, they had to lean very heavily, if not almost entirely, upon two or three men. Headley, as a batsman, stood out head and shoulders above the rest and Martindale, as a bowler, was almost equally indispensable. What would have happened if either or both of these had fallen ill or become so badly incapacitated as Martin, who did not play after the middle of June, it is dreadful to contemplate. Without any injustice to the rest of the team, it can almost be said that in their different departments Headley and Martindale were giants. Headley's fame had preceded him, for he had not only done great things at home, but when he went to Australia in the winter of 1930-31 he proved himself the best batsman and twice made hundreds in Test matches. From what we had been told by English players who had been to the West Indies, we were fully prepared for Headley's success, but even so, he astonished most of us. In first-class matches he made over 2,000 runs with an average of 66 and played seven three-figures innings, including one of 169 not out in the Test match at Manchester where, with Barrow also making a hundred, these two players took part in a great stand for the second wicket which realised 200 runs. In all his innings Headley exhibited a sound defence and at the same time very remarkable stroke play. He was a fine cutter, but the outstanding feature of his methods was his powerful and well-placed driving, in which he very often went back on to his right leg and forced the ball away at the last possible moment. Difficult to get rid of, he became a dangerous man when well set. His figures speak for themselves, and probably he enjoyed as much satisfaction at getting a hundred on the occasion of his first appearance at Lord's against the M. C. C. as he did in scoring a century against England.
While the batting of the West Indies in two of the Test matches left so much to be desired, it was remarkable that seven men on the side made over a thousand runs, while there were ten who had averages of over 20. If not nearly so sound as Headley, Roach was easily the best man in the team to watch, his batting on many occasions being brilliant to a degree. Nothing, indeed, in the whole tour was so dazzling as the innings of 180 Roach played against Surrey at the Oval, when he reached three figures before lunch. The Surrey bowling on that occasion admittedly was moderate, but, at home from the very start, Roach cut, drove and hooked in a style seen only on very rare occasions. Had his defence been on a similar plane he would have enjoyed a wonderful season.
Sealy on several occasions showed fine power of hitting and much the same can be said of Merry, but apart from Grant himself, to whom reference has been made, the batting was inclined to be a little stodgy, and against spin bowling like that of Freeman, Marriott or Jupp, always liable to break down. Although not very high up in the batting averages, Barrow proved a very good partner to Roach to open the innings. He did not have a wealth of strokes at command, but he watched the ball closely and could drive with power when the occasion demanded.
Probably the best all-round cricketer in the side was Da Costa, who worked with untiring zeal, made many useful scores and as a bowler could always be depended upon to keep one end going. But nobody in bowling approached Martindale, who, possessed of an excellent action, often maintained a great pace and during the tour took over a hundred wickets at a cost of nearly 21 runs each. Valentine was the next fastest man, but his 36 wickets cost a lot of runs, and he was never in the same class as Martindale. The weakness of the West Indies attack was the lack of really first-class spin bowlers. Achong, left-handed, accomplished much good work and in the Test match at Lord's bowled admirably for a long spell. Probably, if the season had been a wet one, he would have come out with a much better record than that of 71 wickets for 36 runs each. He, Martindale, Valentine and Da Costa bore the hard work of the attack throughout the tour.
Undoubtedly the team suffered from the injury which kept Martin away for so long. He strained his leg while chasing a ball at Lord's in the match against Middlesex and played no more cricket during the tour. The loss of such a valuable all-round man could not fail to be very severely felt.
In the course of the season four players who did not come over with the team rendered assistance at times. The most notable of these was L. N. Constantine, professional to the Nelson Club in the Lancashire League. Among other matches, he played against the M. C. C. at Lord's and in the Test match at Manchester, where he atoned for his failure as a bowler by playing a valuable innings which may easily have saved the West Indies from defeat. G. N. Francis, a participant in former West Indies tours in this country, helped his countrymen in the Test match at Lord's, but accomplished nothing of any importance for, like Griffith, he had lost something of his pace and nip off the pitch. To sum up briefly, Grant did not have under his command anyone else approaching the class of either Headley or Martindale, and too great a responsibility rested on these three cricketers.
It only remains to add that Mr. J. M. Kidney proved an efficient and most courteous manager.
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