Captains

England beat the West Indies in Nottingham today; and in doing so won the test series 2-0; and will remain the number one test side in the world.

It was professional and it was efficient. When firing on all cylinders, and when they are playing at home, this English test side is a machine.

The biggest positive for England, in my opinion, was Andrew Strauss getting back into the runs. Cricket, like most sports, needs a leader on the field; and when that leader is struggling, I think it affects the entire side. But dropping him was not the answer either, as captains need to be long term fixtures in the side; and England have a long term problem when it comes to captain turnover:

Since they first started playing test cricket in 1877, England have had 79 different test captains. That works out to a new captain once every 20 months or so. In comparison, Australia, who has been playing test cricket just as long, have only had 43 different test captains.

Australia’s test winning percentage since 1877: 43.6%

England’s test winning percentage since 1877: 35.63%

And so the point here is: what’s good for Andrew Strauss is also good for England. They are going to need him playing confidently later this summer against South Africa as well as when they travel to India this fall.

I firmly believe that those two test series will define this team’s legacy.

*

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It was originally known as Decoration Day to honor Union soldiers killed during the American Civil War – but in the 20th century the holiday was extended to cover those killed in all American conflicts.

I talk a lot about war and conflict here on LimitedOvers, mostly because the countries involved in cricket have bloody pasts. But I have never really talked about all of the cricketers killed in wars, mostly the Great War and World War II. And while none of them are American, this is a cricket blog, and so I thought I would take the time to honor the test cricket playing soldiers that lost their lives fighting for their country:

In the Great War, 12 cricketers with test caps were killed:

Colin Blythe, England, died on 8 November, 1917, near Passchendaele, Belgium

Major Booth, England, died on 1 July 1916, near La Signy Farm, France

Frederick Cook, South Africa, died on 30 November 1915, Cape Helles, Gallipoli Peninsula, Ottoman Empire

Tibby Cotter, Australia, died on 31 October 1917, near Beersheba, Palestine

Reginald Hands, South Africa, died on 20 April 1918, Boulogne France

Kenneth Hutchings, England, died on 3 September 1916, Ginchy France

Bill Lundie, South Africa, died on 12 September 1917, near Passchendaele, Belgium

Leonard Moon, England, died on 23 November 1916, near Karasouli, Salonica, Greece

Claude Newberry, South Africa, died on 1 August 1916, France

Arthur Edward Ochse, South Africa, died on 11 April 1918, Middle Farm, Petit Puits, Messines Ridges, France

Reggie Schwarz, South Africa, died on 18 November 1918, Etaples, France

Gordon White, South Africa, died on 17 October, Gaza, Palestine

In World War 2, nine test playing cricketers were killed:

Dooley Briscoe, South Africa, died on 22 April 1941, Kombolcha, Ethiopia, Italian East Africa

Ken Farnes, England, died on 20 October 1941, Chipping Warden, Oxfordshire, England

Ross Gregory, Australia, died on 10 June 1942, near Gaffargaon, Bengal, India

Arthur Langton, South Africa, died on 27 November 1942, near Maiduguri, Nigeria

Geoffrey Legge, England, died on 21 November 1940, Brampford Speke, Devon, England

George Macaulay, England, died on 13 December 1940, Sullom Voe, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Sonny Moloney, New Zealand, died on 15 July 1942, Ruweisat Ridge, El Alamein, Egypt

Maurice Turnbull, England, died on 5 August 1944, near Montchamp, France

Hedley Verity, Englands, died on 31 July 1942, Caserta, Italy

Each of the links goes to their Cricinfo entry. Each one is worth your time.

Ken Farnes of England was arguably the most famous cricketer killed in war. He was born in 1911 and played in 15 tests, taking 60 wickets for an average of 28.65. He was Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year in 1939.

In 1940, he joined the Royal Air Force. He was killed when his plane crashed in Oxfordshire during a training exercise.

Update: thanks to Martin of Very Silly Point for pointing out that Hedley Verity has a better case for being the most famous cricketer killed during wartime.

Test cricketers are not even the tip of the iceberg, of course, and unfortunately, as countless first class cricketers were killed in both wars. Cheers, boys. Hopefully, wherever you are, the pitches are lively and the beer cold.

Enjoy your day off, America.

 

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5 Responses to Captains

  1. Martin says:

    I’d argue Hedley Verity has a better claim to being the most famous cricketer killed in war, one of the best spinners of the pre-WWII era.

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  3. Russ says:

    For what it’s worth, a quick glance through the scorecards of the 1912 and 1913 Australian tours to North America turns up one American/Canadian WWI death (actually, a post-war service death). Ralph Leslie Melville, killed in France serving in the Canadian Infantry, 4th March 1919.

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