Jack Ryder

RYDER, JACK, who died at the age of 87 on April 3, had been taken ill two days after the Centenary Test, at which he was the oldest ex-player present. Much though he accomplished, his career was a trifle disappointing. Competing with a number of great players, he was merely a good one, whose place was never quite secure and who fell below the incredibly high standards of his contemporaries in fielding. In his first season for Victoria, 1912-13, he took thirty wickets at 15.40 and it seemed that a new star had arisen. He also had a batting average of 33. Bowling fastish right-hand, he ran the ball away and could also make it lift. In the next season his wickets cost more, but he did one outstanding all-round performance, taking seven for 88 in the first innings against South Australia and scoring 36 not out and 105. In 1914-15 his batting average rose to 85, but his eight wickets cost him 28.62 runs each.

When cricket was resumed after the war, it was clear that his bowling promise was not going to be fulfilled. Thenceforward, he was only a change, used on his tours in England to relieve the leading bowlers in the lesser matches: in Tests against England his thirteen wickets cost 48.66 apiece. Nevertheless he played in all five Tests against Douglas's side in 1920-21, though his highest score was only 52 not out and his average 18.85. Doubtless his innings of 54 and 105 in the second match for Victoria against the Englishmen kept him his place in the last two Tests. But it must have been a disappointment when in England that summer he did not get a place in a single Test.

Against Arthur Gilligan's side in 1924-25 a bad back put him out of consideration for the first twoTests, but in the third, coming in at 119 for six, he made 201 in six and a half hours, a remarkable effort of concentration for one who was primarily an attacker, and followed it with 88 in the second innings. In fairness it must be said that the English bowling was gravely depleted: Tate, Gilligan and later Freeman were off the field and Woolley was handicapped by a weak knee. Freeman, as tough a little man as ever stepped on to a cricket field, fainted with pain when one of Ryder's on-drives which he was attempting to catch hit him on the wrist.

In England in 1926 Ryder was again a disappointment: he had a respectable record for the whole tour, but did little in the Tests. Nevertheless in 1928-29 he was made captain against Chapman's side. Few men can have had a more difficult assignment. Collins, Bardsley, MacArtney, Taylor and Mailey had retired, Arthur Richardson was in England and Gregory and Kelleway broke down in the first Test and played no more. Under the circumstances the surprise was not that Australia should lose the series 4-1 to a strong side, but that they should recover so quickly as to regain the Ashes in England in 1930. For their failure in Australia no blame could attach to Ryder. He simply had not the material nor was he well served by the Selectors: he himself made 492 runs with an average of 54.66, including a century in the third Test. After this considerable surprise and some resentment was caused when he was omitted from the 1930 team for England. No doubt his co-selectors (he was himself now a Selector) felt that, if he went, he must be captain and that for that Woodfull was the better choice.

Ryder continued to play for Victoria until 1931-32, captained an unofficial Australian side on a tour of India in 1935-36 and was a Selector again from 1946 to 1970. He also did much to help young players. Standing over six foot, he was almost entirely a front-of-the-wicket player with an immensely powerful drive. He was certainly more effective in Australia than in England. His highest score was 295 against New South Wales in 1926 when Victoria compiled the record total of 1,107.

© John Wisden & Co