Obituary, 2009

Vic Wilson


Bob Appleyard, Vic Wilson and Len Hutton in London before heading out for the tour of Australia, London, September 15, 2008
Vic Wilson [center] became Yorkshire's first professional captain in 78 years when he inherited the job from Ronnie Burnet in 1960 © Getty Images
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WILSON, JOHN VICTOR, died on June 5, 2008, aged 87. Vic Wilson became Yorkshire's first professional captain in 78 years when he inherited the job from Ronnie Burnet in 1960. In his three seasons in charge, he led Yorkshire to two titles and a near miss. The extent to which this was due to Burnet's groundwork, a strong team, Surrey's decline or Wilson's own leadership remains - like most issues in Yorkshire history - a matter of debate. Fred Trueman never forgave Wilson for sending him home from Taunton for oversleeping; but most contemporaries found it hard to dislike a captain who was quiet, pleasant and unruffled, qualities not always present in Yorkshire cricket.

In his opening Championship match in charge, Wilson forced a result at Hove by declaring the first innings with no wickets down. Unfortunately for him, Sussex won, and thereafter his captaincy was more often criticised for caution rather than for recklessness. The same went for his batting. Wilson emerged from his family farm near Malton and the Bradford League after the war and in the early 1950s began to be seen as a potential England player. He made a magnificent unbeaten 130 at Old Trafford in the August Bank Holiday Roses match in 1954 when almost everyone else struggled on a damp pitch, and became a late addition to the Ashes touring party, ahead of his fellow-Yorkshire left-hander Willie Watson. Wilson never played a Test but was twelfth man throughout the series, and a regular presence on the field: some believe his selection was deliberately engineered by the captain Len Hutton because of his brilliant catching, especially at short leg. "He had the biggest hands you've ever seen," said his team-mate Ted Lester. Wilson's batting fell away in the late 1950s - after 1956 his seasonal average was always below 30 - and Yorkshire dropped him for a while in 1959 just before handing him the captaincy. But he was unperturbed when he played and missed, and often made his runs when they were most needed, which gained him respect, as did his personal qualities. "He had strong principles and in a quiet way he succeeded. Vic was always straight down the middle," said Bob Appleyard. Abstemious and home-loving, Wilson returned to the farm whenever he could, and spent the off-days during his career and the rest of his working life in the production of carrots.

© Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
 
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