World Sports Magazine Review — April 1950 Cricket

Observing the earlier pieces on the sports magazine World Sports, that is seen here , here and here, a part four features extracts by a single magazine printed in April 1950.

This specific edition was important as it comprised a celebration of the 61st birthday of Neville Cardus, composed by the terrific man himself. The piece included a photo of Cardus bowling in 1938, when old 50 but looking somewhat older. Cardus relates that he was transformed from having an institution soccer enthusiast in 1899 (“soccer” being a term restricted to the upper classes at the time) to being a die-hard cricket enthusiast by the next summer, however that he could not remember what specifically had induced this type of transformation to occur, but he had initially begun watching cricket to poke fun in the ‘la-di-da’ ones who played with such a soft match. In the process of the reminiscence, he introduced this reader to a word by which I was not previously familiar, i.e. ‘contumely”, as in ‘as we put on the grass we cried contumely in the gamers’, so (for those like me that were not previously aware) insolent or insulting language — no doubt CW’s own Neville Cardus already understood that.

Cardus grew up seeing cricket while firmly entrenched in its own Golden Age and the effect of this period clearly shaped his future writing career, as he introduced a love to cricket writing that was previously absent. He explains in detail a game which happened one Whit Monday involving Lancashire and Kent, once the visitor’s opener Cuthbert ‘Pinky’ Burnup, that was capped for England at football, rescued Kent out of 13/3 to 401/6 by scoring precisely 200 not outside — at Cardus’ view, ‘this day could be quoted as a sort of chart of the fever of cricket of this Golden Age’.

CB Fry acheived a accomplishment in 1901 that has since been equalled, by Don Bradman and Mike Procter, but not broken, which of six successive First-Class hundreds. By 1950, however, Cardus had this to say: ‘We have waxed fat on documents now; the currency has depreciated. We have lost the pleasures and blessings of innocence.’ He goes on: ‘I have no use for those who live at the past’ while reprising one of his more evocative comparisons, which he usually applied to Bradman, of their aeroplane and swallow to exemplify the difference between ‘the mechanical and the key.’

Cardus had more to say about the state of cricket in 1950 as compared to that enjoyed during the Golden Age: ‘County captains need to dictate any batsman to get out if he is not scoring quickly enough, and goes protectively into a shell because he’s approaching another “century”.’ Interesting usage of quotations there. As a shining example of the kind of batsman he favoured, he retains up Ranji: ‘an innings by him turned into a tribute by the Orient to the grandeur of this Victorian sunset and the dawn that appeared like thunder, too soon to flee down, together with the formulaic series’; I frankly can not imagine any other cricket author coming up with such a   description, or being permitted to get away with writing it for that issue.

As far as his view of the best ever, Cardus rates Hobbs as the greatest all-round batsman he’d ever seen, Trumper the most gallant, the aforementioned Ranji the very magical, Macartney the very impertinent, JT Tyldesley the very dazzling to a sticky wicket and in his best a stroke player in a million, Woolley the ‘most lordly in effortless power’, ” Spooner the funniest, Leyland the very obstinate, Compton the very populous, George Gunn the very first, Hammond the very glorious, Maclaren the very majestic, although it is no doubt Cardus’ intimate opinion which educates his estimation of Bradman as the most ‘ruthlessly reliable’.

Of those men in the opposite end of the pitch, his favorite among the fast men were McDonald, Larwood and Walter Brearley, although he finds praise also for SF Barnes, Tate, O’Reilly, Grimmett, Blythe, Rhodes, Trumble, and Noble…’ after all, as the photo above affirms, he was ‘in my way, a bowler myself”

As pleasurable as the birthday bit was, the next bit by Cardus at precisely the identical novel is more nostalgic to modern readers. Entitled ‘No Ashes, however, a good deal of Fire”, this piece includes his trailer of the forthcoming West Indies tour of England. It is prefaced by a excellent picture of a youthful looking Frank Worrell, as well as Everton Weekes and Robert Christiani, all of whom had left their debuts if the England team had staged the Caribbean a couple of years earlier.

Cardus performs a service to his readers by introducing them to several ancient West Indian cricketers, such as George Challenor, CA Olivierre and Lebrun Constantine, dad of Learie. However in so doing, he utilizes one or two phrases that are somewhat jarring to the modern reader. Although it’s perhaps cruel to judge those of a bygone era against our relatively recently accepted, but ideally more enlightened criteria of inclusion, nevertheless there are a number of eye-opening thoughts expressed in this item, such as ‘large smiles redolent of plain water melons’ as well as in describing the joys of Derek Sealy ( I presume that’s that ‘J Sealey’ refers to), building a reference to ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. I realise I might be displaying a bit too much significance, however Cardus also cautions against the ‘Old Adam” busting out that, for those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, is speaking to humans in their unredeemed state. In the end, a precursor of Tony Grieg 25 decades afterwards, though perhaps not quite as forthright, may be seen at Cardus’ summing up of this absence of openness of their 1928 visit of the West Indies cricket team to England, imagining they had been overly ‘innocent in its infancy and changes in mood…a surprising blow of bad luck! — the prognosis darkened simultaneously.’ Different times really.

Cardus does however offer Headley as perhaps being the greatest batsman of all time, ahead of Bradman, whilst also equipping him with toughening the fiber of West Indies cricket — ‘Headley lent a modern and cosmopolitan elegance to the sound foundations laid down almost single-handedly by Challenor.’

As many readers will understand, it was through the 1950 tour which Sonny Ramadhin and Alfred Valentine (referred to in his post as ‘A Ramadhin and V Valentine’) laid waste to the cream of England’s batting; it’s possible that the latter was perplexing Vincent Valentine, who also played with a few Tests prior to the war, however as our resident cricket tragic Martin points out, Ramadhin wasn’t endowed with a Christian title and has been dubbed ‘Sonny’, though he was also apparently assigned the initials ‘KT’ by an over-officious customs official prior to a Atlantic crossing. It might have been the sight of Valentine which suggested the comment ‘It is just another sign of the increased introspection that’s coming to West Indies cricket, even as it’s drawn into the ring of a planet “civilisation”, that their players are taking to spectacles.’

Nevertheless Cardus signs off with ‘Every lover of cricket will rejoice to find the West Indies holding their own with all our best’ — well, they managed that.