Fast Bowlers I've Known
By R. M. (Bob) CROCKETT, the World-famous Cricket Umpire
Ernie Jones Acclaimed the Fastest — Australians have faced greater men than Larwood and Voce without flinching - 'Squealing' was discountenanced in pre-War days — Australia favored for the Ashes.
WHAT is all this fuss about fast bowling? It has so captured the public mind that one might be forgiven for thinking that Jardlne and his men had introduced something new Into the glorious game of cricket. It is highly amusing to have an awe-stricken Australian steal to my side (I usually sit under the canopy in the members' reserve at the M.C.G.) and ask with oh! so serious an expression, 'What do yon think of this fast bowling attack? ls it playing the game?' Of course, it is. There have been fast bowlers in the past who, by comparison, would have made Larwood a medium-paced bowler.
Batsmen were hit in those days, but nobody complained! I recall that on one occasion W. Barnes (not Sid the bowler) was hit by an Australian bowler, who offered his apologies. Barnes, how ever, brushed them aside with 'Serve me dam well right; haven't I got a bat in ma band?' And that was the philosophy of the great batsmen of other days. Today our batsmen go out to bat covered with armor almost like a knight-at-arms. There is the thigh padding, the chest protector, and a covering for the forearm. Perhaps they have caught the spirit of ancient days, and believe that they, too, must slay a dragon. To me this extra protection suggests a lack of courage, a dearth of enterprise and no confidence
— summed up, an inferiority complex. Although I have seen fewer than a dozen international fast bowlers I believe I have seen the best the game has produced. To name the men I have been associated with, there were Tom Richardon, W. H. Lockwood, and Arthur Fielder, of England; and for Australia Ernie Jones, Albert Cotter, Jack Gregory, and Ted McDonald. Here was talent that might have over-awed any batting list, but the contemporary batsmen accepted fast bowling as part of the game.
Batsmen were hit very often, but there was no outcry; and many a sound pasting the bowlers received? I recall a game in South Australia where Victoria were the visitors. Ernie Jones was rolling them in at his top pace, but was meeting with little success. Jim Giller, who can be found still at the South Melbourne Cricket Ground was piling on runs at the expense of 'Jonah.' Ernie had been hit to every part of the field, and after such an over he could contain himself no longer. 'Bob, this chap is making me look like a school boy. What am I to do?' he asked.
Now Jones was the fastest bowler of all time, and a good bowler at that. He was yards faster than Larwood,
yet the batsmen of his day played him with confidence, and more often than not hit him about. 'Jonah' hit many batsmen, but be scorned the suggestion that it was deliberate. Nor would any batsman of that day have believed that Jones was bowling at his body. Both accepted the knocks as part of the game. On one occasion in England Jones hit Jackson, the English captain. While Jackson was writhing in pain the late Harry Graham went across to Jones and asked, 'Where did you hit Mr. Jackson?' He laid a slight emphasis on the Mr. That was 'Jonah's' cue. In the stomach, of course; where did you think I would hit the Honorable MB. Jackson?' The Englishman Lockwood was a devil may care fellow. On one occasion, to win a wager, he jumped off a boat into the Sydney Harbor and tried to swim ashore. Tom Richardson had plenty of pace, but here is a secret. I always had a suspicion that be threw his fastest ball. I was never sufficiently sure to no-ball him, but I never ceased watching his delivery. To illustrate what I mean by the initiative by oldtime batsmen, Harry Graham and Albert Trott were forced to face Richardson on a damaged wicket in Sydney. It was dangerous work, and many a resounding clout both batsmen received. The Little Dasher, as Graham was called, made light of the bowling, and knocked up a sound hundred. Albert Trott was not out for 76. The Englishmen were very disappointed at not having captured Trott's wicket, and Brockwell remarked, 'We have never been able to get Trott out in a Test match'.
The tactics of the fast bowlers of the past varied according to their natural swing; how ever, they wasted little time in bowling outside the stumps. They attacked the batsman's defence all the time. Fielder, whom I consider to be the best fast bowler I have seen
, would pitch on the stumps, but his outswerve would carry the ball away outside the off stump. Fielder lacked concentration, but for this I blame his captains. They allowed him to maintain a general plan of attack. Often the field was not set for a surprise move by Fielder, and his figures suffered. Had his captain made him concentrate, as Noble or Armstrong would have done, the field and the bowler would have worked in harmony and with greater success. Fielder was a right hander with a high delivery. He ran a fairish way, and the delivery of the ball was full of body swing. His ability to make the ball swerve and nip made him dangerous. - As I have already said, Ernie Jones was the fastest bowler I have seen. He took a long run and throw his whole weight into the delivery. Jones, although bowling with such pace, was able to turn the ball back from the off.
He was a great comedian — a man with whom it was a pleasure to play. Nevertheless, he played the game hard, and would never apologise if he hit a batsman. He just smiled, and made ready for the next delivery. Jones believed that it was the batsman's fault if he was hit. It was a view the bats men hurried to accept themselves. We could do with a little of that spirit today. Albert ('Tibby') Cotter, in some respects, resembled Jones, but his delivery was lower.
The manner in which he made the ball kick up at the last moment always puzzled me. Cotter kicked higher than Jones, and on one occasion R. E. Foster and Johnny Tyldesley were having a hot time. Foster said to Tyldesley in my hearing, 'It is not worth while trying to play this fellow, Johnny; look after yourself.' I mentioned the conversation to several of his team-mates, and they were disgusted with Foster's attitude. 'Haven't we had to play Tom Richardson on worse wickets than this?' asked one. Anything savoring of a squeal was discountenanced by the pre-war batsmen. - The greatest fast bowling attack either country has sent into the field was that supplied, by Gregory and McDonald. They were great bowlers here, but in England were almost unplayable.
The manner In which Gregory made the ball kick and the immaculate length of McDonald was the combination ideal for unsettling opening batsmen. Yet I have never thought for a moment that either bowled at file man. Both hit batsmen and hurt them, but it was part of a Test match. Neither man, however, placed a leg field. Great as Larwood and Voce might be, Australian batsmen have met even greater without flinching. The only left-hand bowler comparable with Voce was F.R. Foster. Foster was a really dangerous bowler, and in Adelaide repeatedly pitched outside the off stump and repeatedly hit Trumper on the legs. For a moment Trumper was annoyed and ac cused Foster of bowling at his body.
When I pointed out that Foster was pitching outside the stumps, and that it was his swing that was doing the damage, Trumper was satisfied and apologised. Foster swung the ball so much that I never gave an L.B.W decision in his favour. One of the most promising fast left-handers Australia has produced was J. R. Massie of New South Wales. War injuries ruined what might have been a brilliant career. If you are searching for the Ideal fast bowler you must find a man who has strength and stamina. His delivery- should be high and his nip from the pitch a feature. Above all things, he must be intelligent rather than mechanical. Today cricket is replete with bowlers who are mechanical but who lack cricket instinct. I think it is a bogey to excuse mediocre bowling by blaming the wickets. A good bowler is a good bowler on any wicket. A fast bowler is essesntial but previously the mainline of attack was the spin bowlers. The fast bowler should be considered in the light of an unsettling influence, and any team that relies solely on fast bowling is a weak team.
I consider Ironmonger to be the best bowler among the English or the Australians.
He is a terror under any conditions, but if the wicket is damp or worn Ironmonger is almost unplayable. Some have questioned his delivery. I have taken particular pains to study Ironmonger's action, and have no doubt as to its fairness. It Is absurd to question his bowling.The batsmen of today rank with those of other years, but I would qualify this by pointing out that the bowlers of today are not nearly so good as the bowlers of the pre-war generation.
Farther, today some really good batsmen are content to allow the runs to come along as opportunities are presented. They lack initiative. Their forefathers made the opportunities that presented them with the runs. Our batsmen should master their footwork and not be content with the repertoire of two or three scoring strokes. Too often I have seen bowling that has been anything but hostile treated with great respect. Batsmen of today should get to the ball more quickly and steer it through the unguarded places in the field. There is nothing like batting enterprise to unsettle a strong attack. Who will win the Ashes? I still like Australia, but time will tell.
31 Dec 1932 - Fast Bowlers I've Known