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The Sheffield Shield champion Jack Badcock was born on April 10, 1914. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at one of the strangest Test batting careers of all time.
Clayvel Lindsay “Jack” Badcock was one of the stalwarts of Australian domestic cricket in the 1930s. Short and stocky, he was an extremely hard hitter of the cricket ball; an extremely versatile batsman, he hit the most powerful cuts, hooks, and pulls when anything was dropped short, and lit up the ground with his booming, ebullient drives when the ball was pitched up.
In A History of Tasmanian Cricket Roger Page wrote that Badcock was “short, thick-set, and possessing forearms that (Harry Wadsworth) Longfellow’s blacksmith might have envied… his usual game was a slow start, risking nothing with length bowling before taking the attack… his sound defence, ideal temperament, snappy footwork and keen sense of a loose delivery enabled him to crush most bowling.”
Bradman himself added that Badcock was “a lovable and completely unspoiled personality — a great cricketer whose failures in the Tests in England in 1938 detract somewhat from an otherwise splendid record.”
The fact that his career coincided with the likes of Don Bradman, Stan McCabe, Bill Ponsford, Bill Woodfull, Bill Brown, Jack Fingleton, Alan Kippax, and Keith Rigg did not help Badcock’s cause. To be fair to the selectors, he did not do justice to the opportunities, ending up with one of the most unusual batting careers in history, scoring a hundred and 11 single-digit scores (including four ducks) in his 12 Test innings.
Only three men have scored less Test runs than Badcock in a career involving at least one hundred: Andy Ganteaume (113, one innings), Winston Place (144 runs, six innings), and Billy Griffith (157 runs, five innings). Badcock’s 160 runs had come in, as mentioned above, 12 innings at an average of 14.54. He also stands third-worst in the list of batsmen with at least one hundred after Saqlain Mushtaq (927 runs at 14.48) and Xenophon Balaskas (174 runs at 14.50). Additionally, barring Ganteaume Badcock remains the only other batsman to have scored a hundred and have never scored a two-digit score.
For a man with such an ordinary Test record, Badcock had an excellent First-Class career, scoring 7,371 runs at 51.54, scoring runs with ease in both Australia and England. His conversion rate (26 hundreds, 21 fifties) was excellent.
Jack hailed from a family of farmers in Exton, Tasmania, and was the second of three children of Lindsay and Lily May (née Cox) Badcock. He dropped out of the local school at an age of 13 to join his family at their farm; he was also playing for Exton Club in the Westmorland Association at that time.
Lindsay had prepared a concrete pitch in the backyard of the Badcock residence to encourage his son. Badcock grew at a rapid rate, topping the averages chart in Westmorland Association in the summer of 1927-28. Two seasons later he got a contract from Esk Club in the North Tasmanian Cricket Association (NTCA); just before the season started, however, he got a call-up from North of Tasmania for a match against their Southern counterparts.
In February 1930 (he was not even 16 then) Badcock made his First-Class debut against Victoria at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG); he scored 18 and ten, and generally had an ordinary season. The next two seasons, too, passed without much happening for Badcock; then came 1933-34 — the season that propelled Badcock into the first rung of Australian batsmen.
He started the season with three matches against Victoria, scoring 25 and 107 at Hobart, 274 (out of 429) and 71 not out (out of 129 for one) at Launceston, and 104 and 40 at MCG. Still not content, Badcock scored 105 and 24 against an almost full-strength Australian XI (the attack included Tim Wall, Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, and Clarrie Grimmett) at Launceston. From five matches that season, Badcock amassed 803 runs at 89.22.
He moved to South Australia, the next season. His first season (517 runs at 39.76) thereafter, but jumped back into form in the next. One would think that the 150 against New South Wales (NSW) and the 91 against Queensland in back-to-back innings would have been enough, but the real performance came against Victoria at home.
After the tourists were bowled out for 201, Badcock dominated a 210-run opening stand with Roland Parker. Bradman failed, but Badcock did find support, first in Alfred Ryan (with whom he added 198) and then in Charlie Walker (with whom he added 119). When he eventually fell to Ross Gregory after 587 minutes of batting he had already scored a career-best 325 (with 34 boundaries). Bradman declared immediately after the wicket and South Australia won by an innings.
South Australia won that season’s Sheffield Shield rather comfortably. Bradman topped the runs chart (with 739) while Badcock came second (with 622), our hero averaged 124.40 to Bradman’s 123.16. Nobody else in averaged even half of them in the entire tournament.
England came along that season, and Badcock was quickly drafted into a Western Australia Combined XI for a tour match at the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) Ground. Against an attack consisting of Bill Voce, Gubby Allen, and Hedley Verity, Badcock top-scored with 167. A few days later he top-scored again, dominating the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) attack with 182 at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG0. Two weeks later, he won a Test cap in first Test of the historic 1936-37 Ashes at The Gabba.
Though the Test began in the most dramatic of manners with Ernie McCormick having Stan Worthington caught-behind off the first ball of the Test, Maurice Leyland’s 126 propelled the tourists to 358. Opening batting with Fingleton Badcock hit a boundary, but was cleaned up by Allen for eight. Chasing a near-impossible 381 on a “sticky” Australia were bowled out for 58 in 12.3 overs (16.3 six-ball overs) by Voce and Allen, who bowled unchanged. Badcock scored a five-ball duck: his only consolation could have been the fact that he faced two balls more than what Bradman and Fingleton did between them.
The second Test at SCG did not witness any change in Australia’s fortunes: Wally Hammond’s 231 helped Allen declare at 426 for six, but caught on a wet wicket, Australia were bowled out for 80 (after being 31 for seven). They were not helped by the fact that Badcock could not bat due to illness.
Leo O’Brien opened with Fingleton again as Australia followed-on. This time the hosts batted better (Fingleton, Bradman, and McCabe all went past the 70-mark), but were bowled out for 324 and lost by an innings. Batting at six, Badcock managed a 17-ball two, before Allen trapped him leg-before.
The third Test, of course, is remembered for Bradman’s 270 and his record 346-run sixth-wicket stand with Fingleton. England lost by 365 runs, and the series turned dramatically. Bradman scored 212 in the fourth Test at Adelaide Oval to take care of England’s 42-run lead; England lost by 148 runs as Fleetwood-Smith returned figures of six for 110. Badcock missed both Tests, but was brought back after he scored 136 against NSW at SCG.
It all came down to the decider at MCG: Bradman batted first, scoring 169 and adding 249 with McCabe (112). Coming out after the duo, Badcock made merry in the company of Gregory, and the pair added 161 in quick time before the former was caught off Voce. Wisden wrote that he “hit with great power and scored fluently in the manner of [Patsy] Hendren.” He had scored a 223-ball 118 with 15 boundaries — the only time he went past ten in his Test career.
Gregory was caught by Verity off Ken Farnes (all three of them later died in World War II). Australia piled up 604 before Fleetwood-Smith demolished England for 239 and 165 as Australia became the first side to win a five-Test series after trailing 0-2. They still hold the record.
Badcock was selected to tour England and he started off on a high, scoring 67 in the traditional tour opener against Worcestershire at New Road. With 198 against Leicestershire at Aylestone Road and 186 against Cambridge University at Fenner’s Ground in his next two innings, Badcock showed that even early May was not enough to deter his immense appetite for runs.
He failed spectacularly in the four Tests he played in (Old Trafford was washed out without a ball played), scoring nine and five at Trent Bridge; a three-ball pair at Lord’s; four and five not out at Headingley; and a duck and nine at The Oval. In all he scored 32 runs at 4.57, and never played another Test.
On the other hand, Badcock did remarkably well in the tour matches: he scored two more hundreds — 112 not out against Gentlemen of England at Lord’s and 110 against Somerset at Taunton. In all he finished the tour with 1,604 runs at 45.82, next to only Bradman (2,429 runs at 115.66) and Brown (1,854 at 57.93) in terms of both runs and average.
Badcock struck form the moment he landed home, scoring 51 not out for Bradman’s XI against Rigg’s XI in a benefit match at MCG. He followed it up with 271 not out against NSW and 100 against Queensland in his next two innings, thus reaching an average of 422.00 before the season took off properly. South Africa claimed the Sheffield Shield again (it was not easy this time), and Badcock finished the tournament with 489 runs at 97.80.
The next season set off with Badcock scoring a breakneck 249-minute 236 with 16 fours and four sixes against Queensland at home, but he did little else of note. The next season — the last before the War broke out — saw him get into another amazing run as he scored 120 and 102 against Victoria at MCG, 25 and 172 against Victoria at home, and 105 for McCabe’s XI against Bradman’s XI at MCG in five consecutive innings.
He followed this run with 40 in each innings (he top-scored in the first) against NSW at home; unfortunately, The War broke out after this match, and Badcock never played another First-Class match. He was only 26. His final season had seen him amass 659 at 73.22, and all his four fifties had been converted into hundreds.
Though Badcock played in several fund-raisers for The War, recurrent bouts of lumbago made him return to his farm. On April 6, 1942 he married a forewoman called Carol Dawn Cramond in Melbourne. He spent the rest of his life farming generally away from cricket, indulging himself in his favourite pastimes like fishing, shooting, and golf.
Badcock passed away suddenly at Exton on December 13, 1982 (at 68 years 247 days) and was survived by his wife and daughter and two sons. In 2009, a life-sized silhouette of Badcock’s was unveiled at the Westbury Cricket Ground, Northern Tasmania, which was also Badcock’s home ground.
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