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Cardus at Shrewsbury

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One of the several odd incidents in the life of Neville Cardus was his spell as assistant cricket coach at Shrewsbury School (1912-16).

He wrote that he was recruited on the basis of good bowling averages in club cricket in Manchester. Needless to say, no such averages have been found!  We know something of his abilities as a playing cricketer (he specialised as an off-spinner) as I found eight scorecards of matches he played in after joining the Manchester Guardian, and it’s quite clear that he was prone to exaggerating his skill as a player. He must have already had a good command over the English language to write, successfully, an application for the coaching job.

When Cardus joined Shrewsbury in 1912 the senior coach was Walter Attewell, much older and more experienced than Cardus, though not as good a player as his cousin William Attewell, which was who Cardus wrongly thought his senior was.

We read in Cardus’s Autobiography of a change in senior coach in 1913. Cardus had the year wrong – it was 1914 – but the man was right: Ted Wainwright, who was also vastly more experienced than Cardus, having had a first-class cricket career that spanned 1888-1902, playing for Yorkshire, and five Tests for England. Cardus reckoned that he “could spin the widest off-break I have ever seen”. There is evidence that Cardus was able to produce good turn from his own bowling, perhaps the result of learning from Wainwright.

In 1912, Cardus’s first year at Shrewsbury, Wisden recorded that the school probably had a better season than their results showed, including innings defeats to Rossall and Uppingham. They had a moderate season in 1913, winning four and losing four matches, while drawing three. Thereafter, an improvement was clear: the next year was “splendid”, winning five matches, losing one and drawing five. The slimmer wartime volumes of the following two years had no specific report on the school, although they look to have competed well.

The good results for the school appear to have reflected the impact of Wainwright. His first year at the school in 1914 coincided with “the turning point of Shrewsbury’s fortunes” and he was still there in 1917, when Shrewsbury were unbeaten in school matches and, according to Wisden, were “one of the sides of the year”, this after Cardus had departed. Wainwright was to die in 1919, aged 54, and two articles in the Manchester Guardian that year are worth recording. One, in May, expressed the view that Wainwright’s work “was so admirable that the team rapidly developed from mediocrity into one of the best amongst the public schools.” His obituary in October included, “He was rather more advanced than most professional coaches in schools in that he strongly advocated back-play.” It is reasonable to think that these items were written by Cardus, paying tribute to the coaching skills of his superior.

Wainwright may well have helped improve the understanding of cricket of not only the boys at Shrewsbury but also their assistant coach. It would serve Cardus well.

The above is based on the second edition of ‘Cardus Uncovered’, now available at £10 plus p&p from whitethorn.range@gmail.com

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