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Monday, 5th January 2009
Would you like Fry's with that?

T here will never be another

sportsman the calibre of CB Fry. Time has passed and there has been an erosion of his prowess which has not happened to the likes Dr WG Grace.

Fry is best known as a cricketer but must represent one of the most extra-ordinary all round sportsman England, if not the world, has ever known.

He is not the 'run machine' which was Bradman who accumulated 6996 Test runs at an unbelievable average of 99.94 runs an innings which makes 1223 Test runs at an average of 32.18 runs an innings look rather feeble.


You cannot hold that against anyone as Bradman makes everyone's batting average look just that.

Fry cannot be considered any great Test bowler either. He managed to roll his arm over 10 times and was hit for 3 runs (Bradman even managed to take two wickets in a Test bowling career which spanned some 160 balls.)

he did jest that he only had one stroke

These figures do Fry an injustice as his batting and bowling did not seem to withstand the pressures of Test cricket. Still history is littered with people that cannot take the pressure of the 'big time' so you could hardly expect me to write a page about a 'chocker'.

Captain Charles Burgess Fry jointly held the World Long jump record for 21 years with a jump of 23 feet 5 inches in 1892.

1938 [1938]

Now we begin to get the measure of the man, and really it is only the beginning. Bradman may have a lot of records to his name, including the 1930 Columbia record release, 'An Old Fashioned Locket' and 'Our Bungalow of Dreams'. Which apparently came as a surprise to Columbia Records as they had expected he would commit to vinyl a talk on cricket.

It seems even more unlikely a Test cricketer is going to hold the World Long jump record than a cricketer is ever going to beat Bradman's test average (unless a very promising test career is cut hideously brief)

Maybe I could spin you a story about a cricketer that also leapt about a bit

Let me redress the Fry cricket balance a little as his Test record is not a true reflection of his cricket abilities. His cricket career covered the years 1892-1921 in which he scored 30886 runs at an average of 50.22 which included 94 centuries. That average puts him pretty level with the cricket deity which is JB Hobbs (avg. 50.65 with 61237 runs to his name).

Once a batting average over a prolongued period is over 50 then you are breathing pretty thin air at that height. Indeed for six seasons he led the batting averages.

In 1901 Fry scored 3147 runs with an average of 78.67 and in 1903, 2681 runs at an average of 81.3. This was his best season and one in which he added 13 centuries to his tally. And at one point made six successive centuries something equalled by Sir Don Bradman.

It should be remembered this was in a time when the wickets were natural rather than the batting tracks of the modern game and the outfield was unlikely to carry the sort of speed it does today.

Although he did jest that he only had one stroke but it went to ten different parts of the field. In 1905 Australia determined that his one stroke meant most ended up in front of the wicket on the on-side. They set a field suitable to thwart this particular scoring avenue. The result being 144 runs for the great man. This being his only century scored against the 'old enemy'

Another example of English backbone which has seemed to be lacking in most of the modern team DR Jardine achieved his one and only Test century against the West Indies against nearly five hours of fearsome 'bodyline' bowling in the 1933 Test. Jardine was convinced the leg-theory was a legitimate bowling technique and all the fuss the Australians were making was so much whining.

1934 [1934]

A charge can be laid against Fry in that the fellow was not as good as some of his posturing at the wicket would suggest. He worked at his craft which often stood in stark contrast to Ranjitsinhji who was described as making all batsmen, Hutton included, 'look like so many plebians toiling under the sun,'

The strength of England cricket at the time meant both Fry and 'Ranji' were not required in the England squad at the height of their fame. Although the less charitable amongst us can see that England selectors have not changed much over the years.

Fry's bowling hit a storm of controversy and in a world where some of the most fearsome bowlers of the sub-continent are being accused of throwing it is worth having a look at history.

Throwing was something of a national pastime in the English game during the 1880's and 1890's. It took the actions of an Australian bowler turned Umpire to put the brakes on this practice, James Phillips (1860-1930).

This was the man that no-balled Arthur Mold 16 times in ten overs in 1901.

Arthur Mold's bowling was always under suspicion and it is no secret most considered him to be throwing the ball. His 'bowling' figures beggar belief. Nine wickets for 41 in 1890, 9 wickets for 29 in 1892. In the 1895 season alone he took 8 wickets or more no less than 5 times including 4 wickets with four balls. In 1910 he took 8 wickets for no runs including 5 wickets for five balls, although this not a first class match.

He must have been like watching a chap at a coconut shy. In one of those bizarre cricket statistics he cleaned bowled Lohmann in 1896 which sent a bail 63 yards and 6 inches. Remarkable to think the game was stopped to measure this feat but it must have been.

Mold was by no means the only English bowler to be accused of throwing during this period, he was just the best at it.

Phillips did not just turn his attention to Mold but also Fry among others. In one celebrated instance Fry was no-balled nine times in succession. Fry was convinced Phillips had been sent to umpire the match with the express purpose of no-balling him and was equally convinced each and every ball he sent down the wicket was of textbook quality.

All we can say in Phillips defence is, throwing was something of a national pastime in the English game and most cricket writers of the period considered Fry's action to owe more to throwing than bowling. Pretty good defence I'd say.

The fact Fry held the World long jump record puts him in a group of one amongst fellow cricketers but there are other examples of cricketers with special talents.

He was a scholar of some weight and during his Oxford days was both the captain of the cricket and association football teams for the university as well as being the President of the Athletic club, not un-naturally representing them in Long jump and the related discipline of 100 metres.

But for an unfortunate injury it is almost certain he would have also earnt his rugby football blue for the university.

The claims he was also a fine boxer, a passable golfer, swimmer, sculler, tennis player and bizarely javelin thrower begin to sound a bit like hero worship. Raymond Robertson-Glassgow probably summed the man up when he wrote, 'I have never read C.B.F was much of a golfer, and I believe him to be an uncertain mathematician but he has fewer things he cannot do than any other man I know...'

Oxford academics which happen to have represented the university in multi-disciplines are certainly a rare but not unique breed (CJ Ottaway and Alfred Lyttelton for two)


What does set him apart is the fact he played cricket for England and also played Association football for the Corinthians, Southampton for whom he played as full-back in the FA Cup final of 1902 and also played for England in an international against Ireland in 1901.

That made 1902 quite a year for Fry as the Cup Final was two days before he scored 82 for WG Grace London County XI against Surrey just 18 short of the 100 which would have been his seventh successive hundred in first class matches.

That puts him in a very select grouping and if sporting achievement was his only achievement well worth the ink on this page. However it was not to stop there. He did fail to get into parliment but did manage to poll 20,000 votes as a Liberal candidate for Sussex.

His rank of Captain was honourary and given to him for his 40 years of service in command of the training ship Mercury much aided by his wife. Hitler also asked for his advice when setting up the 'Youth Movement'.

He also was the deputy for the Indian delegation in the first, third and fourth assemblies of the League of Nations. A place he gained because of his close assocaition with Ranjitsihji. He also edited his own monthly magazine for 50 years as well as becoming a cricketing correspondent of much style and wrote an autobiography, Life worth living [1939] amongst other cricket tomes and a work of fiction in collaboration with his wife.

In his autobiography was an intreging tale of how CB nearly became King of Albania. A delegation had been sent to find an English gentleman with 10,000 Sterling per year. Fry had the first but not the second but was always confident that if he had pressed Ranji on the point (who was well capable of funding 10,000 sterling per annum) he would have been King of Albania.

So there you have it one of the great amatuer sportsman of any period who may well have been less than the sum of his parts but could you blame him?