Wisden 1930-1939

The Wisdener (the newsletter of the Wisden Collectors’ Club) thought it might be of interest to members to put together an outline of Wisden content and information. We are very grateful to John Pratt, who emigrated to Australia as a £10 Pom back in 1963, but who shouts louder than most at the fall of an Aussie wicket, for the following article…thank you John.

1930 – 1939

The world in this decade contained much hardship and fear. In the wake of the Wall Street crash countries manoeuvred and tinkered with the gold standard, tariffs, their currencies and any other mechanism they could contrive to gain an economic advantage over one another. In desperation, some member countries drifted away from The League Of Nations, which they saw as a toothless tiger. Japan tested its war strength in Manchuria and North East China and the Spanish Civil War erupted. Meantime the policies of The National Socialist Party were aggressively forcing favour with the community in Germany. By 1933 Hitler had taken office and his adopted country was sliding towards a terrifying racist dictatorship.

In 1935 Britain installed radar systems along the South Coast and in 1936 Germany re-occupied the Rhineland in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles and signed a coalition with Italy; the following year Britain commenced a program of rearmament; In 1938 Germany occupied Austria, Neville Chamberlain described a document he extracted from Hitler as “Peace in our time”,  and two days later Germany annexed Czechoslovakia.

Beneath this frenetic activity a sane world was endeavouring to pursue its peaceful course. Amy Johnson flew solo between England and Australia; W.C. Sellar and R.T.Yeatman wrote “1066 and all that”; Aldous Huxley “Brave New World”; Robert Graves “I Claudius”; George Orwell “Burmese Days”; P.G.Wodehouse “Blandings Castle”; J.R.R.Tolkien “The Hobbit”; Daphne de Maurier “Rebecca”; Graham Greene “Brighton Rock”, and The Dandy comic began publication. Duke Ellington penned “Mood Indigo”; The Sydney Harbour Bridge was completed. Britain introduced driving tests, George Gershwin wrote “Porgy and Bess”; Penguin books began publication and Hitler commissioned Porshe to design the Volkswagon. The BBC established high definition television, high that is, by the standards of the day given the concept was very much new technology, it was small screen, black and white, there was to be no colour until the 1970’s. In film Alfred Hitchcock produced “39 Steps” and Walt Disney entered the market with “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs”. In 1936, and much closer to home, the monarch George V passed away, inadvertently sparking the abdication and succession saga of Edward Vlll and George Vl.

Against this backdrop there was some amazing cricket being played at the highest level. Wisden reported on an unforgettable decade of the game before the world was thrust once again into global conflict.

Not surprising, perhaps John Wisden and Company had its own problems. The recession was galloping, fanning massive unemployment and gulping down company profits. Print runs of the almanack were down to around 8,000 with declining sales, and while much of the company’s business was in the hands of receivers the almanack found itself planted in a 50/50 partnership between its original owners and the publishing company Whitakers. The new partnership employed business consultants to review the format of the almanack and in 1938 a major and highly successful revamp of the annual emerged. This included the introduction of the beautiful Eric Ravelious woodcut (the 1938 is pictured left. The 1937, pictured, right, exemplifies the former style), the icon by which most people still identify Wisden. The incumbent editor Wilfred H. Brookes, although enthusiastic about the issue in its new format, appears never to have been totally committed to his vocation. He resigned suddenly at the outbreak of the war leaving Haddon Whitaker, the son of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Cuthbert Whitaker, the owner of the publishing company, to take over the editing and publishing responsibilities with the 1940 edition. Upon reflection, but for Haddon Whitaker it is highly unlikely Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack would have survived the war.

The 1930 Wisden tells us that Hobbs and Woolley dominated the batting in the 1929 season while “Tich” Freeman had become a prolific wicket taker, bowling in excess of 1,500 overs per summer and securing well over 200 wickets each time he did so right through and including the 1935 season. The sun was setting on these champions and as well as their successors, Sutcliffe and Hammond performed during the decade, it was the Australian Donald Bradman, with his insatiable quest for runs, who was the difference between the two
Test teams at the highest level of the game. In 1930, on his first tour of England he scored 2,960 runs from 36 innings at an average of 98.66. In the Test matches alone he made 974 runs at an average of 134.14. Another notable batting performance during the year was K. S. Duleepsinhji’s 333 in 5 and a half hours against North- amptonshire at Brighton. In 1932 Sutcliffe and Holmes put together an opening stand of 555 for Yorkshire
against Essex at Leyton, it could have been a lot more had  the 44 year old Holmes not been suffering with an arthritic back throughout his innings. Another exceptional batsman to emerge during this decade was the West Indian, George Headley his run scoring was only contained by his lack of opportunity. West Indies played only 19 test matches during the course of the ten years 14 against England and 5 against Australia.

During this period Wisden was served by three editors. C. Stewart Caine who passed away in 1934. His successor. Sydney J. Southerton expired after overseeing two issues and was followed by Wilfred H. Brookes. All three of these gentlemen in their Wisden notes spoke eloquently on the vagaries of the English weather, the lbw law, marled wickets, the perilous state of county cricket finances and the eight-ball over. They had an excellent grasp of the game, enjoyed contact with its hierarchy and understood the politics. Test cricket was their other major subject and the Anglo Australian Tests gave them plenty to get their teeth into, especially the 1932-33 tour (featured in the 1934 edition, pictured, right). The colourful communications from officialdom and the ill feeling of both protagonists simmered for several years, even today it occasionally re-emerges. There have been many fast bowlers who attacked the body since then but for some reason the so called “Bodyline” tour has become the benchmark for intimidating Test match bowling. Trueman, Tyson, and Snow; Lindwall, Lillee and Thompson; a plethora of West Indian quicks; Heine and Adcock the South Africans; they have all done it at times but it seems only Jardine and poor Harold Larwood have entered the history books as villians for adopting the practice.

There is interesting comment early in the decade’s editor’s notes about a trial approved of by umpires but received with less enthusiasm by players, the bones of which were that if a batsman snicked a ball pitched in line wicket to wicket he could be given out lbw upon an appeal being lodged. The trial continued in county cricket for four years and then seems to have petered out when the lbw law was changed in 1935.

The Wisden of 1937 contains an interesting piece of trivia concerning a rain ruined match played at Trent Bridge, apparently G.O. Allen (pictured, left) batted for 30 minutes, however, his innings occupied time on each of the three days of the match, when the game ended he had scored six not out! It was in this same season that J. H. Parks of Sussex completed a unique double scoring 3003 runs and taking 101 wickets. In 1938 the Kent batsman Arthur Fagg became the only player ever to score a double century in each innings of a first class match. It was also 1938 that saw the first broadcasts of a Test match on Television. During the sunset of this decade four new names began to appear on the England scoresheet, Compton, Edrich, Hutton and Washbrook, they were about to lose five years of their cricketing lives although Hutton had already stamped his name on immortality with his record innings of 364 against Australia at the Oval in 1938.

In this decade the almanack’s obituary section is decorated with the passing of many significant contributors to the game’s history. C. I. Thornton received a tribute by Lord Harris in the 1930 issue, also the Wisden in which the passing of W. A. Bettesworth, S. E. Gregory, A. A. Lilley, James Lillywhite, J. M. Read and W. J. Cottrell. The Rev. V. P. F. A. Royle and Sir Arthur Conen Doyle are also recorded.

The following year tells of the deaths of Charles Bannerman, J. W. H. T. Douglas (lost at sea), J. T. Tyldesley and G. A. Fawlkner of South Africa. In 1932 the almanack recorded the passing J. J. Kotze, C. T. Studd and Sammy Woods. The 1934 Wisden is particularly sad with the losses of Lord Harris and F. S. Ashley Cooper. Other deaths in this issue include J. M. Blackham, G. G. Hearn, W. A. Lockwood and F. C. Cobden whose underarm   bowling carried Cambridge to victory in the university match of 1870 when he completed a hat trick in the last over of the match to dismiss the last three Oxford batsmen.

The following year saw the departure of the Wisden editor C. Stewart Caine, Ranjitsinghi (pictured, left), Lionel Palairat, the Sugg brothers and the tragically youthful Australian batsman Archie Jackson. Peerless cricketers seem to have stopped dying for the 1935 issue with the notable exception of M. Nicols of Worcestershire aged 29. However, they were at it again in the 1936 issue which records the demise of another Wisden editor Sydney J. Southerton. He was accompanied by H. Baldwin, W. Brockwell, F. S. G. Calthorpe, the Australian umpire R. W. Crockett, C. P. McGahney and Frank Mitchell.

The 1937 bible accounts for Bobbie Abel, B. J. T. Bosanquet and G. H. Simpson Hayward – the last significant underarm bowler (apart from Trevor Chappell, of course). In the 1938 Wisden we learn of the passing of G. W. Beldham of Middlesex, the photographer and first class cricketer whose artistry provided wonderful action shots of the players of ‘the golden age’. His glorious shot of Victor Trumper was without doubt his greatest gift to cricket. Other notables to pass away that year include Walter Brearley, G. Dennett, A. E. Relf and Ted McDonald (the result of a motoring accident). The decade concludes with the deaths of five great cricketers, Lord Hawke who receives a tribute from Sir Stanley Jackson, H. V. Horden, R. M. Poore, H. Tremble and E. F. S. Tylecote.

Journalism and guest articles were kept to a minimum until the revamp of 1938. There was the usual rump of statistical analysis of great player’s careers, however, the articles that made it are full of interest. In 1930 Sir Frederick Toone contributed “Australian tours and their management”;  In 1931 Sir Francis Lacey provides “Lords and The M.C.C.- Thirty years of history”; In 1932 Lord Hawke  (his portrait, entitled, ‘The Father of Yorkshire Cricket’, pictured, right) trawled through “Fifty years of Yorkshire County”; We are enlightened in 1933 by Frank Chester with “The umpire’s point of view”; 1934 was dominated by the bodyline series; 1935 “The Hobbs era” by the man himself plus the Right Hon. Mr Justice H. V. Evatt penned “Australian Cricket”; 1936 R. V. Ryder wrote “Trials of a county secretary”; 1937 H. D. G. Leveson Gower regaled readers with “Recollections of Oxford cricket”. The revitalised 1938 Wisden provided seven articles in all, G.O. Allen on “Wickets”,  Justice Evatt on “Bradman”, A. W. Shelton on “Trent Bridge”, A. P. Freeman on “Spin bowling”, E. Hendren’s “Reflections”, Ms. V. M. M. Cox on “Womens’ Cricket” and lastly an article entitled “Parliament of cricket-M.C.C. 1787-1937”. The following year is not quite so perfuse but we do get D. G. Bradman’s wisdom with “Cricket at the crossroads”, Frank Woolley with “My happy cricket life” and A. E. R. Gilligan with “Cricket Conundrums”.

Let us now return to life. Who were the successful domestic first class cricket clubs of the thirties? Well Yorkshire dominated the Championship with six flags followed by their bitter rivals Lancashire with two, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire took out one each. In Australia Victoria won five shields, New South Wales three and South Australia two. In South Africa the Curry Cup produced a tie between Natal and N.E. Transvaal, Natal won the cup outright twice as did N.E. Transvaal, and Western Province won it once. New Zealand’s Pluncket Shield was claimed by Auckland four times, Wellington three times, Canterbury twice and Otago once.

During the decade there were 81 Test matches played, twenty-eight ended in a draw. England won twenty-six, Australia twenty-one, South Africa four, West Indies one and one was abandoned.

Which almanack would I pick? It is starting to get a bit expensive but without a doubt the 1934 with the furore of the 1932-33 tour of Australia. All the comment the drama, the emotion and the hot air make it an amazing journal, since it remained throughout what we all love Wisden for, an honest recorder of the facts, Sydney J. Southerton at his absolute best.