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The Cricket of Abel, Hirst, and Shrewsbury

The Cricket of Abel, Hirst, and Shrewsbury
Title: The Cricket of Abel, Hirst, and Shrewsbury
Release Date: 2019-01-15
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Cricket of Abel, Hirst,
and Shrewsbury




31, West Twenty-Third Street




There appear to be hardly any beginners or habitual players who know howto profit by seeing experts at play and at work. The reason cannot wellbe that we do not look on at games sufficiently often! No, one reason isthat we have not been trained to observe with a view to personalexperimentation afterwards; and another reason is that there is verylittle time to catch and realise the different positions and movementsas they flash by. Hence the value of photographs, especially when theyare—as many of these thirty-four are—taken from behind: it is not easyto reproduce for ourselves the action as shown by an ordinary photograph(taken from in front), since it gives us everything the wrong way round.

But even photographs often fail to teach their lesson. The learner mustbe told how to teach himself from photographs. After which he will findit easy to teach himself from actual models, as soon as he knows justwhat to look out for—the feet and their “stances” and changes, and soon. It is to be hoped that these photographs, and the notes on them, andthe obvious inferences drawn from them, will train readers to studyvarious other experts besides these three, who are only a few out of ahost.

For the object of the book is not to tie any player{viii} down to any onemethod, but rather to set him on the track of independent research andself-instruction: to show him how to watch and see, and how topractise the best things that he sees, and what the best things are mostlikely to be. Not a single hint in these pages need be followed untilthe reader is convinced that what I advise is what most if not all greatplayers actually do, whether consciously or by instinct.

The volume is not intended to compete with the many excellent booksedited by those who themselves play the game well. It boasts of a largedebt to these classics, but having gathered hints from them it movesaway on altogether different lines. The best player is seldom the bestteacher of average beginners. On the principle of “Set a thief to catcha thief,” a duffer has here been set to teach a duffer, while at thesame time the whole teaching is, I hope, strictly according to theactual play of good players, as shown by observation, by photographs,and by answers to questions asked during special interviews. The threechief players (whose ascertained positions and movements are made thebasis for all the simple lessons offered here) are Abel, Hirst, andShrewsbury.

The editor of this volume used to play Cricket at school about as wellor as badly as he used to play Racquets. After his school andundergraduate days at Cambridge, he discovered many fundamental faultsin his play at Racquets—faults which abundant practice had strengthenedand fixed into bad habits—ineradicably and hopelessly bad habits, hiscritics {ix}said. He had some hints from the best professionals (Smale,Latham, and others); he studied their positions and movements carefully;then, chiefly by the help of certain easy and healthy exercises in hisbedroom for less than five minutes a day (Mr. Edward Lytteltonconstantly recommends bedroom-practice for Cricket, and quotes thesuccess of Jupp thereby), he found that he was gradually removing thosehabits, and building better habits which persisted in subsequent play inthe Court itself. Quite recently, after noticing the various positionsand movements of the great experts of Cricket (including the threeprofessionals whose photographs appear in this volume), he concludedthat there had been remarkably similar faults, and no less fundamentalfaults, in his Cricket, though of course the games of Cricket andRacquets have marked differences. He thinks that these faults were amplysufficient to account for his past failure to enjoy Cricket (that is, toimprove at Cricket), just as the other faults had proved sufficient toaccount for his past clumsiness at Racquets. He therefore devisedspecial exercises by which he might eventually be enabled to do himselfless injustice at Cricket also.[1] These he intends to practiseregularly in order to secure the bodily mechanisms of play, to make themhis very own, before he once again meets those “disturbing elements” inCricket (as in Racquets and Tennis), the ball and the opponents.{x}

Whether he will ever become a cricketer or not he cannot say—he doesnot expect to become one in less than a year or two: so numerous anddeeply ingrained were his mistakes, so execrable was his style, if he isto believe his most candid friends and enemies! But at least he cansafely say that these mistakes—which he observes to be common tonearly all duffers and most beginners—are now so absolutely obvious asto supply ample reasons for any amount of his failure in all kinds ofbatting, in all departments of fielding, as well as in bowling. He cansafely say that until he has mastered those positions and movementswhich nearly all the experts already have as a matter of course, untilhe has learnt the A B C, built the scaffolding, formed the skeleton, orwhatever one likes to call the process, he will certainly not become acricketer. He cannot reasonably expect the tree to bear fruit for a longtime yet; but he hopes the fact that he himself is practising what hepreaches will encourage others to give the method—sensibly adaptedaccording to their individual opinions and needs and models—a fair andsquare trial, as thousands have already given a fair and square andsuccessful trial to the simpler diet. The method is urged as claiming areasonable experiment before condemnation: that is all. It is not meantto harass and cramp all players, so as to make them uniform, any morethan the learning of the alphabet and of spelling is meant to harass andcramp all writers. He only describes what he believes to be the correctalphabet and spelling of words in Cricket. Out of this alphabet andthese words let{xi} each player subsequently form his own sentences andparagraphs and chapters. Let each player develop to the full hisindividual merits and specialities. But not until he has made thealphabet and the vocabulary his very own, to use easily at will, is helikely to develop his individuality satisfactorily and successfully, anymore than a builder would be likely to build a good house without goodbricks, mortar, and wood, and some knowledge and practice of the bestways of using them.

The suggestions are one and all based upon the practice or the teachingof successful players. Of the three special models here, not one has theadvantage of superior height, and at least one had not the advantage ofathletic physique. The instructions point out the apparent foundationsof batting, bowling, and fielding, and, by contrast, the apparent faultsto which the natural duffer like myself is liable. It is hoped thatcritics and other readers will kindly offer every possible hint andcorrection.

Each true lover of games, whether he play or watch or both watch andplay, must see that if this way be good—this mastery of the instrumentsof play, in addition to the usual net-practice and games—it surelywill improve the health and physique of the nation; will bring in morerecruits for Cricket; will enable the busy man to keep up at least hismuscular, if not his nervous apparatus, so that he need never getconsiderably out of practice or training, and need never, as too manythousands have done, give up the game merely because he has not{xii} time toplay the game itself regularly. The editor feels assured that anyfeasible five-minutes-a-day system like this, which may tend to spreadthe greatest of games more widely, and to raise our national standard ofskill, enjoyment, and physique, will be received by every patriot in thespirit in which it is offered; namely, as perhaps useful for most, andprobably healthy and harmless for all. Every sensible person will agreethat if the game is going to be played at all—and it certainlyis—then it is worth playing well, and therefore worth learning welland practising well.

Whether these exercises and general hints will help towards myend—towards a game better played all-round (in batting, bowling, andfielding), better watched, and so better enjoyed—experience mustdecide. But all will concede that these exercises are not less pleasantand wholesome than those of drill and dumb-bell and strain-apparatus;that they are far better adapted than these are as a preparation for thenoblest of sports and for much of daily life itself, since theyencourage not mere strength and vastness of muscle, but also fullextensions in various directions, promptitude to start in any requireddirection, rapidity to carry the movements through, endurance to repeatthem, self-control to keep or recover poise in spite of the fulness andrapidity and promptitude and unforeseenness of the motion; to saynothing of the corresponding mental and moral excellences. If the systemdemands only a few minutes each day then in so far as it is correct—andit will be gradually{xiii} corrected as observations and criticisms pourin—it will prove well worth while, especially on wet days (which arenot unknown in England), and in winter, for those who do not grudge manyhours a day to Cricket itself with all its waitings and watchings anddisappointments.

The system is the chief new feature of this book, which, however, doesnot by any means underestimate the equally essential coaching byschoolmasters and professionals and others, and net-practice andpractice-games as an addition to the system and as the test of itsmerits or demerits.

These ought we to do, and not leave the other—the system which teachesthis very alphabet of Cricket—undone, especially to-day when themajority of people are cooped up in cities without the chance of apractice-game or even of a net. The plea is not for uniformity of style,but for reasonable mastery of the spelling of words before we writeessays; for a system of self-teaching and self-correction; for a systemof training and practice when regular play is out of the question; for adrill which fathers and uncles may teach their children and nephews; fora healthy and interesting use of odd minutes which would otherwise bewasted or worse than wasted.{xiv}


1. Mr. C. B. Fry’s advice in “Cricket” (just published by C. ArthurPearson, in 1903) should be carefully read. He says: “To train hismuscles for heavy weight-lifting is precisely what a cricketer ought notto do. . . . It is remarkable how much a player can improve himself . . . . bysimply practising strokes with a bat and no ball or bowler. But thisis easily understood when you perceive that the actual correctness of astroke, so far as the movement of the feet and of the arms is concerned,is entirely independent of the ball. To make a stroke with the correctaction and to time the ball are two distinct things; both are necessaryin a match, and you can learn the second only with a ball bowled atyou; but the first you can certainly to some extent acquire by merechamber drill.

“It is also worth knowing that much may be done with a ball hanging bya cord from a beam or a tree. A little ingenuity renders practice at theswinging ball quite valuable.”

2. The death of Shrewsbury in May, 1903, has been a great loss toCricket and cricketers. His enthusiasm, his mastery of certainmechanisms of batting, his calm confidence and patience, his gentlenessand good nature, made him an almost unique personality in the world ofCricket.{xv}


Editors’ Prefacevii
I.Batting and Running 1
III.Fielding and
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