John Douglas

DOUGLAS, MR. JOHN WILLIAM HENRY TYLER, born at Clapton, Middlesex on September 3, 1882, was drowned on December 19, 1930, in a collision which occurred in the Cattegat between the steamships Oberon and Arcturus. Together with his father, Mr. J. H. Douglas, Mr. Douglas, when the accident occurred, was a passenger on the Oberon returning to England from a business trip.

Johnny Douglas, as he was known in nearly every country where cricket is played, had a remarkable career. He was not only a fine cricketer but an even greater boxer and he attained some fame at Association football, appearing for the Corinthians and the Casuals and gaining an A.F.A. international cap. While it was as a cricketer that he made his name a household word in so many parts of the world, he came to the front as a boxer when still at Felsted by his doings in the Public Schools' Championship. Later on, as he developed physically, he reached the highest class as a middleweight and in 1905 won the Amateur Championship while in 1908 he carried off the Olympic Middle-Weight Championship by beating in a memorable encounter the Australian Snowy Baker. So level were the men at the end of three rounds that neither judges nor refree could arrive at a decision and after an extra round the margin was of the narrowest.

Douglas learned his early cricket at Moulton Grammar School, Linconshire. He was in the Felsted Eleven in 1898, 1899, 1900 and 1901 and captain in the last of these years. It is curious, in view of the stolid batsman Douglas became, that when at Felsted he was coached by T. N. Perkins, a notable hitter in his Cambridge days. Douglas first appeared for Essex in 1901--the year he left school--and had a most disheartening experience in his opening match being bowled in each innings by George Hirst's swerver without making a run either time. He saw little of county cricket during the next year or two and for some time afterwards was merely a useful all-round player. By 1908, however, he had thoroughly established his position in theEssex eleven and three years later he showed he had about him the possibilities of an international player. He became captain of Essex in 1911 and continued to hold that post until the close of the season of 1928. In that summer of 1911, he enjoyed a great personal triumph in the Gentlemen and Players match at Lord's, scoring 72 and 22, not out, and taking seven wickets. This performance suggested he was the man for the big occasion and that he often proved in subsequent years. He had been out to New Zealand as a member of the M.C.C.'s team in the winter of 1906-07, distinguishing himself there with both bat and ball, and in the autumn of 1907 he had formed one of the side Marylebone sent out to the United States and Canada.

Heavy responsibility was soon thrust upon his shoulders for P. F. Warner, who had been appointed captain of the team which went out to Australia in 1911-12, falling ill after the opening contest, the duties of leadership devolved upon Douglas. The First Test Match was lost but, the side enjoying the services of those exceptionally fine bowlers, S. F. Barnes and F. R. Foster, the other four were won and so Douglas returned home with his reputation as a captain established. Strangely enough in the following summer--the season of the Triangular Tournament--when he might well have played for England in all six Tests, Douglas did not get a chance until the last match with Australia. For all that further honours soon fell to him as he was chosen to captain the M.C.C. team in South Africa in 1913-14 when four Test games were won by England and the other drawn. After the War, in the course of which, getting a commission in the Bedfordshire Regiment, he reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, Douglas was appointed captain of the M.C.C. side that visited Australia in 1920-21 and lost all five Test matches. He played for England against Australia in the five Test contests of 1921--in the first two as captain and in the remainder under the leadership of Tennyson. Finally he accompanied to Australia the team sent out under A. E. R. Gilligan in 1924-25 but played a very small part in that tour.

Possessed of exceptional defensive skill and inexhaustible patience, Douglas was a batsman very hard to dismiss. Sometimes, so intent was he upon keeping up his wicket, that he carried caution to excess and became tiresome to watch. Indeed, with his rather cramped style and limited number of strokes, he could never be described as an attractive player. Still there could be no question about his ability to face an awkward situation or about the soundness of his methods and, although so chary of investing his play with enterprise, he was able to hit with plenty of power on either side of the wicket. As a bowler he was a much more interesting figure. Distinctly above medium pace, he could keep at work for hours without losing either speed or length and to a new ball he imparted, late in its flight, a very awkward swerve to leg. Always extremely fit, Douglas, even at the end of the hottest and longest day, scarcely knew what fatigue was and, if--strangely enough for a first rate boxer--by no means quick on his feet in the cricket field, and therefore apt to miss the chance of making a catch, he never spared himself. As to his abilities as a captain on the field, opinions differed and he certainly was more brusque of manner than might be wished in a leader, but eloquent testimony in his favour was always forth-coming from players, professional as well as amateur, who had served under him on tours in other lands. To balance any lack of restraint in expressing his views about a blunder, he possessed that saving grace of humour which enjoyed tales against himself. How thoroughly he realised his limitations was shown by his remark An optimist is a man who batting with Johnny Douglas, backs up for a run. On one occasion Douglas batted an hour and a half for eight, not out, against Kent at Canterbury but, in so doing, he saved his side from defeat. His highest score was 210, not out, for Essex against Derbyshire at Leyton in 1921. In company with A. E. Knight of Leicestershire, he put on for An England Eleven against the Australians at Blackpool in 1909 no fewer than 284 for the first wicket.

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