The English Aristocrat who spread the Gospel of Cricket world-wide
How was the game of cricket taken from an essentially English past time to that of an international sport played around the world?. The need to protect the Empire resulted in British troops being stationed in far flung corners of the world and there is little doubt that the Army played a significant role in its development but the main instigator in leading cricket from game suited to the playing fields of England and raising it to a sport played international level belongs to Lord Hawke. He is remembered today more for his infamous comment on captaincy made between the two world wars when he announced that ‘Pray God, no professional shall captain England’. A view that epitomises snobbery and the old school tie approach to the game.
There was much more to Martin Bladen Hawke than that for he was the catalyst in the development of the game. He was the seventh Baron in a line founded by an 18th century English Admiral and his sporting links with this country were in the captaincy of the third English cricket touring team in 1895/6 as well as the next tour which came three years later. In addition to his South African tours he personally organised during the last two decades of the 19th century, touring teams to Australia, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, North America, Canada and the West Indies. A tour to the Argentine followed early this century. Cricket followers around the world are indeed fortunate that Lord Hawke much preferred playing a good standard of cricket to making boring speeches in the House of Lords. He fully deserves the credit of developing international test cricket as we know it today.
Lord Hawke shared many of the attributes of his famous forefather, Admiral Edward Hawke. Edward’s philosophy was ‘to totally destroy the enemy whenever and wherever he can be met’. His crowning achievement was the victory over the French fleet off the coast of Brittany where they lost over twenty ships. The result was that a grateful nation created Edward Hawke a Baron. On the night of the battle, the captain of his flagship, expressed his concern in taking the 100-gun ship into a rocky bay - in darkness and in a howling gale. Edward’s response was ‘Mr Robinson, you have done your duty in pointing out the dangers, now obey my orders and lay me alongside the French Admiral’.
The 7th Lord Hawke, whilst never afraid to seek advice from his senior players both in public and in the privacy of the dressing room’ once his made was made up he acted swiftly and decisively. He was a young man of twenty two just out of Cambridge University, when he was invited to become Captain of Yorkshire. He led the side for the next twenty eight seasons, turning what he described, in his first year, as ‘a team of ale cans’ into a side that won eight county championships and in the twenty eight years he was in charge they only finished out of the top four on four occasions. Lord Hawke was an early exponent of what today would be called man management. On his appointment as captain he realised that sympathetic management and firm leadership would enable Yorkshire to develop into a formidable side playing attractive cricket.
To do this, he insisted on the highest standards of conduct, both on and off the field, insisting on improved dress and deportment. He put the clubs affairs on a business like footing and ruled Yorkshire cricket with a rod of iron. Today he would be considered as a benevolent, old fashioned autocrat who gave democracy short shift. He was however the architect of the success enjoyed by Yorkshire right up to the start of the second World War. He took strong action in his early days as captain, dismissing from the playing staff two of his top bowlers, both left arm spinners. The first, Edward Peate, was fired because of his disruptive effect on the team, whilst Bobby Peel, the other bowler, who had taken over 100 test wickets against Australia, was sacked for coming on to the field drunk and urinating on the pitch before the start of the day’s play. One wonders how the media of today would have handled that story. It is apparent that Bobby Peel weakness for alcohol was well known and that earlier he had received a strong warning on his drinking habits. Legend has it that on one occasion he bowled the first ball of the day either at the clubhouse or the sight screen believing them to be the wickets. On another occasion when he bowled England to a ten run victory in a test match at Sydney, his captain, A. E. Stoddart, had to sober him up under a cold shower before the start of play.
Three other highly promising young players, all of whom were thought to be England prospects were dismissed for misconduct. Another player, Robert Moorhouse, who had spent years on the fringe of the team and who had given loyal service to the club, was sacked after he had made no effort to take a high catch at Lords. Hawke’s law was rigid: a player was chosen to do his best for the team. If he let himself or the Yorkshire team down by dint of his personal conduct, or by the spirit in which he played the game, then he had no future in any team led by Lord Hawke. Inn his team selection he considered that there were two essentials in choosing the eleven players - good temper and good manners.
Less publicised at the time were his efforts on behalf of his players, most of whom came from poor backgrounds and who had little in the way of skills outside of playing cricket. Under Hawke’s leadership, Yorkshire were the leaders in promoting the welfare of their professional playing staff. They established summer and winter pay agreements, the county scorer was retained on half pay out of season. Benefits and pensions were introduced with two-thirds of the receipts from a players benefit match being held in trust to ensure that a man had something to fall back on when he retired from the game. In addition Lord Hawke introduced a system of merit marks, which were in fact bonuses awarded for exceptional playing performances, not only in terms of figures but also taking into account the playing conditions and the standard of the opposition. Hawke was not a rich man but many of the bonus payments came out of his own pocket. His philosophy of man management was simple. ‘The more players are respected, the more they respect themselves’. No county treated its professionals as well, but conversely no county expected so much from its professionals as Hawke’s Yorkshire.
His personal interest in each individual player and in his welfare gained for Lord Hawke, over the years, respect and loyalty from every member of his team. In establishing the Yorkshire identity he devised the teams distinctive white rose badge, the eleven petals signifying the members of the team. In addition, Hawke allowed his own personal colours -Cambridge blue, Oxford blue and gold to become the clubs colours. He captained his county from 1883 to 1911,serving as President for forty years, beginning in 1898 when he was still captain and continuing right up until his death in 1938. He also served the games national interests being in turn Treasurer, Trustee and President of the M. C. C. Another innovation of his was to take the authority of test selection away from the local test ground authority to the M. C. C.. Needless to say he then became the chairman of national selectors.
As a cricketer he was a better batsman when his career record would suggest. His family motto was ‘Strike’ and that was the style of his batting low down in the order and hitting his way out of trouble. Yet he was good enough to score 13 centuries in all with a top score of 166 which he achieved in a record breaking stand for the 8th wicket of 292 runs with the safe same Bobby Peel who he later dismissed. This is still the English record and has stood for over 100 years. He did not bowl at all and was a reliable if not an athletic fielder. Without doubt though his forte was captaincy and under his leadership Yorkshire were the premier county. Living up to his family motto they played attacking cricket whether batting or bowling and he engrained this into the psyche of the Yorkshire sides.
His first tour of South Africa was sponsored by Abe Bailey, later to be knighted, and who at the time was a leading member of the Rand Stock Exchange and a prominent Johannesburg businessman. When the tourists arrived in Cape Town the infamous Jameson raid took place and the team were stranded for nine days until a telegram was received from Bailey confirming that they must proceed up to Johannesburg. On arrival expecting to be met by their host they were approached by a gentlemen who announced that ‘he was very sorry that Mr Bailey was not here. He was in gaol’. He had been arrested for his part in the raid and was later to be fined two thousand pounds. This did not deter Lord Hawke.
In leading his tours overseas, Lord Hawke personally organised each in the greatest detail. The main purpose was to win the hearts and minds of the people and he always stressed that the social side of touring was as important as the cricket and included in the itinerary diversions far removed from the game. On both tours to South Africa he arranged an audience for the team with President Paul Kruger whilst they were in Pretoria and personally invited him to attend the cricket, which offer was politely declined by the President. On the first visit he did manage to persuade President Kruger to allow the team to visit the leaders of the Jameson Raid, including Abe Bailey, who were languishing in gaol in Pretoria. The visit to the prisoners was arranged in style with a formal dinner laid on, prepared by the Pretoria Club, followed by an evening of poker before the prisoners returned to their cells. Needless to say the winner of the money, some ninety pounds, at card table was Lord Hawke.
Invitations to players to join his touring parties were much coveted, even though travelling anywhere at that time was considered a real hardship. His teams played matches in the Australian outback and near the Khyber Pass on the Indian sub-continent. In South Africa in addition to arranging fixtures at all the main centres, he took his teams to Matjiesfontein, Cradock, Graaff Reinet, Kingwilliamstown, Grahamstown, Bulawayo and Mafikeng. The match at the last town had to be cancelled as their were not enough locals to raise a cricket team. In Bulawayo the game was played on a grassless field which only 36 months before had served as the parade ground for the warriors of Lobengula, the Matabele King. A matting wicket was laid on a large if rather rough outfield. This did not deter Lord Hawke from arranging a sumptuous meal at the Bulawayo Club on the last evening of the match attended by both teams. The menu consisted of Oysters Clear Turtle Soup Scotch Salmon Schrimp Sauce Cream of Chicken Lamb Cutlets and Spinach Roast Turkey and Ham Pheasant Grouse Wild Duck Fruit Jelly Gipsy Trifle Anchovy Titbits Strawberry Cream Ices
Not a bad dinner in what was then the wilds of Africa, washed down with some very fine wine. But his Southern Africa tours were not without adventure. Near the Transvaal border on their first visit, the train was surrounded by an armed Boer Commando. It took all Lord Hawke’s diplomatic skill to allow the team entry into the Republic. He arranged for a demonstration of the game of cricket and then presented the Boers with two cricket bats after which the team were allowed to proceed having made good friends with the commando’s.
On the second tour one match was delayed by a swarm of locusts invading the field, and the first Test could not take place due to ‘unpleasantness’ between the Transvaal cricket administration and their counterparts in Port Elizabeth. The fixture was changed to that of one against the Cape Colony. The next adventure was that their train’s brakes failed causing it to collide with another train, the players suffering minor injuries, but they were able to complete a successful tour winning fifteen of their matches and drawing the other two games.
On completion of this tour Lord Hawke, on his return to England, arranged that a South African side would tour that country in 1900 and that a match was arranged at Lords against the West Indian side who would be visiting England at the same time. Unfortunately the Anglo-Boer War broke out and prevented the South Africans from touring until the next year and this early opportunity, which might of changed the course of cricket development in this country, was lost.
Lord Hawke, as a man, had the reputation of being a generous and loyal friend with the gift of good fellowship which he maintained was acquired on the cricket field. He was very much a man of the Victorian era being god fearing, decent to the core and did what he believed was right, saying what he thought, regardless of the consequences. Cricket to him was not merely a game, it was the embodiment of everything that was best in the British people. He felt it was above politics, a bridge that crossed the divides that separated the races of the Empire, and he believed that taking cricket to all corners of the Empire was not his recreation but his duty. To him cricket was a mighty power for good in the world and throughout his life he did his utmost to ensure that no man used it otherwise. That he clung to his Victorian principles in the fast changing world of the 1920’s caused him to be out of step with the majority of people. His infamous dictum on the professional sportsman in a leadership role caused a major storm of protest at the time and has tended to distort perceptions of him. What caused his outburst was that in 1925, Cecil Parkin, a professional who was on tour in Australia as a member of the M. C. C. team, attacked the captaincy of A. E. Gillingham, who was leading the side. Lord Hawke responded to what he believed was unfair criticism. That year at the A. G. M. of the Yorkshire Cricket Club, which he considered as his personal fiefdom, he told members ‘Pray God, no professional shall ever captain England. I love and admire them all but we have always had an amateur skipper and when the day comes when we shall have no more amateurs captaining England, it shall be a thousand pities’.
With the passage of time it is perhaps easier to understand, if not agree with, what he was trying to say. Cricket has been professional for many years now and it is apparent that he was endeavouring to defend a system which was rapidly becoming obsolete.
Sources: 1.F. S. Jackson A Cricket Biography. - P. Coldham. 2.Pageant of Cricket. - David Firth. 3.Long Innings. - P. B. Warner. 4.Cricket Heroes. - Edited by Peter Hayter. 5.A Life worth Living. - C. B. Fry 6.Double Century:The Story of the M. C. C. and Cricket. - Tony Lewis. 7.Wisden Book of Cricketers Lives. - Compiled by Benny Green. 8.The Golden Age of Cricket 1896-1914. - David Firth. 9.History of South African Cricket. - M. W. Luckin. 10.The Illustrated History of County Cricket. - Eric Midwinter. 11.The Complete Who’s Who of Test Cricketers. - Edited by Christopher Martin-Jenkins. 12.The Cricketer Book of Cricket Eccentrics and Eccentric Behaviour. - Edited by Christopher Martin-Jenkins. 13. Old Gold. - Thelma Gutsche.