In 1963, Sir Neville Cardus named six Giants of the Wisden Century: Sydney Barnes, Donald Bradman, W. G. Grace, Jack Hobbs, Tom Richardson and Victor Trumper. That was in Wisden’s 100th edition and the list looked back at a century of cricket.
Then, Cardus wrote of Hobbs: ‘His style became as serenely poised as any ever witnessed on a cricket field, approached only by Hammond (another great player whom I have been obliged to omit from my Six!)’.
Why was Wally Hammond left out?
Fifty years on, it’s worth looking at this ‘other giant’, the one who didn’t make it.
Wally Hammond was born in Kent but played for Gloucestershire. He played for England from 1927 to 1947. Today, if you asked an under-19 cricketer, from Kent or Gloucestershire, who Wally was, he’d probably shake his head. Of course many of Wally’s successors were greater because they saw greater odds. Still, his ‘gallery’ makes for compelling viewing.
Wally’s 22 Test tons place him ahead of Gooch, Boon, de Silva, Kirsten, Mark Waugh, Greenidge, Lloyd, Haynes, Gower, Atherton, Laxman, Ganguly, Hutton and Hobbs.
Wally’s 7,249 Test runs place him ahead of Bradman, Hobbs, Hutton, Ganguly, Greg Chappell, Jayasuriya, Azharuddin, Viswanath, Denis Compton, Abbas, Ranatunga and Ian Chappell.
Wally remains the fastest to reach 7,000 Test runs (off 131 innings); Sehwag is a close second (getting there in 134 innings) and Sachin a close third (in 136 innings). Pietersen and Cook, stragglers in comparison, took 150 and 151 innings respectively, to get there.
Among batsmen who hit the most sixes in a single Test innings, Wally is 4th in Test history, just behind Akram, Astle and Hayden. He is ahead of Cairns, Gayle, Gilchrist, Viv Richards, Sehwag, Jayasuriya and Afridi. Wally once hit 10 sixes in a single innings in 1933; playing in the Bradman era, he hit over four times the number of sixes that Bradman did.
Among batsmen who scored the most in a Test series, Wally’s 905 runs in the 1928-29 series against Australia is just behind Bradman’s 974 but ahead of Mark Taylor, Neil Harvey, Viv Richards, Lara, Gavaskar and Sobers.
Like Bradman, Wally’s giant shadow from the 1930s falls on the cricket fields of today and may well linger on the fields of tomorrow. Playing in the same era, Wally was unbeaten on 6 more occasions than Bradman was. His highest score was higher than Bradman’s highest. He had 11 more half-centuries than Bradman had. He hammered 21 more sixes, took 78 more catches, bowled 7,809 more balls and bagged 81 more wickets than Bradman did. But who would quarrel with a list of giants that included Bradman and ignored Hammond?
There is more to Wally’s legacy on the field even if there’s less to say for his legacy off it. Presumably it’s the former that should count for more in such lists?
Wally’s inglorious comeback in the 1950s may not have endeared him to many. Small wonder that Knighthood, granted so readily to lesser cricketers, eluded him. Off the Test field, Wally may have lacked the finesse and charm of Jack Hobbs but on the field he scored 1,839 more runs, 7 more tons, bagged 82 more wickets and took 93 more catches than Hobbs did. What ‘obliged’ Cardus to choose Hobbs over Hammond? We’ll never know but it offers us pause when we try and measure greatness on the field.
Now, 150 years after Wisden started recording and rewarding greatness in cricket, can we take a minute to salute the other giant; the one who wasn’t counted?
Rudolph Lambert Fernandez is the author of a new non-fiction book, ‘GREATER THAN BRADMAN: celebrating Sachin, the greatest batsman in cricket history’. www.greaterthanbradman.com Follow him on Twitter @RudolphFernandzPublished 16 Mar 2014, 13:23 IST