Headley: Nascitur Non Fit
By CLR James
.....What I want to draw special attention to here is George’s play on wet or uncertain wickets. Here are his scores on such wickets in England;
V Northhamptonshire: 52 out of 129 (Other high scores: 32 and 15)
V Yorkshire: 25 out of 115 (Other high scores: 25 and 16)
V Nottinghamshire: 66 out of 314 (Other high scores: 54 and 51)
V Lancashire: 66 out of 174 (Other high scores: 29 and 18)
V Leistershire: 60 out of 156 (Other high scores: 22 and 19)
V Leveson-Gower’s XI: 35 out of 251 (Other high scores: 70 and 44)
V Surrey: 52 out of 224 (Other high scores: 58 and 52)
V Yorkshire: 61 out of 234 (Other high scores: 72 and 28)
V England: 51 out of 133 & 5 out of 4/43 (Other high scores: 47 and 16 & 13 and 11)
V Somerset: 0 out of 84 (Other high scores: 45 and 17)
V Gloustershire: 40 out of 220 & 5 out of 162 (Other high scores: 50 and 28 & 43 and 26)
In those 13 innings George passed 50 seven times. Three times only he scored less than double figures, and in his other three innings his scores of were 25, 35 and 40. I believe those figures would be hard to beat. Look at a similar list made for Bradman by Ray Robinson in his fascinating book 'Between Wickets';
Brisbane Test: 1 out of 66 (Top scorer: Woodfull 30 n.o)
Sydney: 15 out of 128 (Top scorer: Fairfax 40)
Notts Test: 8 out of 144 (Top scorer: Kippax 64 n.o)
Northants: 22 out of 93 (Top scorer: Bradman 22)
Glouster: 42 out of 157 (Top scorer: Ponsford 51)
Perth: 3 out of 159 (Top scorer: McCabe 43)
Melbourne: 13 out of 19/2
Sydney: 1 out of 180 (Top scorer: Rowe 70)
Lords Test: 13 out of 118 (Top scorer: Woodfull 43)
Brisbane Test: 0 out of 58 (Top scorer: Chipperfield 36)
Sydney Test: 0 out of 80 (Top scorer: O’Reilly 37 n.o)
Middlesex: 5 out of 132 (Top scorer: Chipperfield 36)
Yorkshire: 42 out of 132 (Top scorer: Bradman 42)
In fifteen innings Bradman passed 50 only once, 40 only twice, and 15 only four times. His average is 16.66. George’s average is 39.85. You need not build on these figures a monument, but you cannot ignore them.
Bradman’s curious deficiency on wet wickets has been the subject of much searching comment. George’s superior record has been noticed before, and one critic, I think it was Neville Cardus, has stated that Headley has good claims to be considered an all wickets the finest of the inter-war batsman.
I would not go that far. It is easy to give figures and make comparisons and draw rational conclusions. The fact remains that the odds were 10 to 1 that in any Test Bradman would make 150 or 200 runs, and the more runs were needed the more certain he was to make them. Yet if Bradman never failed in a Test series, neither did George. I believe Bradman and Headley are the only two between the wars of whom that can be said. Hammond failed terribly in 1930 in England and almost as badly in the West Indies in 1934-35.
But there is another point I wish to bring out. Between 1930 and 1938 Bradman had with him in England Ponsford, Woodfull, McCabe, Kippax, Brown, and Hassett. All scored heavily. In 1933 and 1939 West Indian batsan scored runs at various times, but George had nobody he could depend on. In 1933 his average in the Tests was 55.40. Among those who played regularly the next average was 23.83. In 1939 his average in Tests was 66.80. The next best batsman averaged 57.66, but of his total of 173 he made in 137 in one innings. Next was 27.50. It can be argued that this stiffened his resistance. I do not think so. And George most certainly does not. ‘I would be putting on my pads and sometimes before I has finished I would hear that the first wicket had gone.’ This is what he carried on his shoulders for nearly 10 years. None, not a single one of the great batsman, has ever been burdened for so long......