Birth centenary of the wonderful Stan McCabe
Friday the 16th is a day to celebrate for cricket lovers as it marks the birth centenary of Australia’s Stan McCabe, one of the most scintillating batsmen of all time. Nicknamed Napper, stylish Stan scored 2748 runs at 48.21 and took 36 wickets as a medium-pacer, and 41 catches in 39 Tests.
The statistics are neither Bradman-esque nor Sobers-like, but it was the swashbuckling way he played under crisiss that made him an immortal.
According to Don Bradman, McCabe played the finest innings he saw.
This was in the first Test in Nottingham, 1938, when McCabe blasted 232 in less than four hours when only 68 runs were scored at the other end.
England had declared at 8 for 658 and Australia was struggling at 6 for194. On this famous occasion, skipper Bradman begged his team not to miss a ball for “you’d never again see batting to equal it.”
On McCabe’s return to the pavilion, Bradman gripped his hand and said, “I would give a great deal to be able to play an innings like that, Stan!”
Describing him as a thoroughbred racehorse, Bradman wrote in ‘Farewell to Cricket’ (1950), “Here was a lovely player. He, like me, was a country lad but his cricket was all polish and grace … Such cricket [during the Nottingham Test] I shall never see again, nor shall I ever feel competent adequately to describe this elegant display.”
Wrote Neville Cardus in the ‘Manchester Guardian’: “Today McCabe honoured the first Test with a great and noble innings. He changed the gravest situation with the ease of a man using a master key… He blinded us with fours in an over from [Doug] Wright; his innings became incandescent. One of the greatest innings ever seen anywhere in any period of the game’s history; moving cricket which swelled the heart.”
This innings was not a one-off wonder.
In the first Test of the Bodyline series in 1932 in Sydney, McCabe had defied the dreaded Harold Larwood with an unbeaten 187 when no one else registered a 50 for Australia.
Another innings critics rave about was McCabe’s unbeaten 189 against South Africa in the 1936 Johannesburg Test.
He was a prolific scorer for NSW in Sheffield Shield, his best season being 1931-32. He followed his 229 not out against Queensland with 106 and 103 not out Vs Victoria to average a phenomenal 438.00.
And how would Stan McCabe have gone in Twenty20 cricket? In 1930, the 20 year-old Stan rattled up 173 runs with 18 sixes at Gympie in a non-first-class match.
During the tour of USA at Cowichan in Vancouver in 1932, he hit one ball so hard in a knock of 150 that it fractured a small bone of a woman spectator.
Six balls were lost during the innings.
He stopped playing cricket after World War II and was in the sporting equipment business. His end was tragic. When 58, he died from a fall from a cliff near his home in Mosman, Sydney.
Eulogised England’s opening batsman Len Hutton: “It would be hard to think of a greater Australian batsman. He had qualities that even Bradman hadn’t got. I always liked to watch him bat and he was a most likeable fellow.”
McCabe was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in 2002. And on 5 January this year he joined cricket legends Richie Benaud and Fred Spofforth as his statue was unveiled at the SCG.
The best tribute to McCabe came from Cardus in1930s: “He is in the line of [Victor] Trumper, and no other batsman today but McCabe has inherited Trumper’s sword and cloak.”
Thus, according to Cardus, it was McCabe and not Bradman, Wally Hammond or Bill Ponsford who had inherited Trumper’s crown.
How would McCabe compare with modern greats Vivian Richards, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Matthew Hayden, each averaging over 50 with the bat in 100 plus Tests and playing many incandescent innings?
I’d love to hear Roarers opinions?
Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.
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