Home > Features > Moments in history >

Lt Col Rony Stanyforth: The first wicketkeeper to lead England

Rony Stanyforth © Getty Images
Rony Stanyforth © Getty Images

Born May 30, 1892, Lieutenant-Colonel Rony Stanyforth was an excellent wicketkeeper who served Yorkshire for close to two decades and England during both World Wars. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the first wicketkeeper who lead England.

If you think a hard-fought Yorkshireman cricketer, seldom does an amateur Etonian resembling a Greek God come across your mind; if you think a strict disciplinarian from the army, you do not visualise a man in huge gloves crouching behind the stumps. Ronald Thomas “Rony” Stanyforth was all four rolled into one.

Despite being a sound wicketkeeper — good enough to play and lead [which, possibly, was because he was an amateur] England in four Tests — Stanyforth never took the world by storm with his batting, scoring a mere 1,092 runs at 17.33 with six fifties from 61 First-Class matches, in addition to 72 catches and 21 stumpings.

What made Stanyforth stand out was his strong sense of morality, which gelled seamlessly with his sense of humour, making him an excellent leader. Ian Peebles wrote in The Cricketer: “With his [Stanyforth’s] humour, warmth and fibre he was the most entertaining and convivial team-mate yet as captain, though unobtrusively, very much in command of the situation…In the affairs of cricket the same qualities made him a splendid administrator, dauntless in what he regarded as being right, whether popular or not.”

“I don’t know how good a cricketer Major [Rony] Stanyforth is, but there can be few better speakers,” said General Smuts after he had met Stanyforth the first time. There could be few better reasons for an Englishman to lead his side, given the era.

Early days

Born in Chelsea, Rony Stanyforth was the son of the son of Edwin Wilfred Stanyforth of Kirkhammerton, Yorkshire Hall. He went to Eton and to Oxford University. He failed to get the Blues, but did a decent job behind the stumps. He made his First-Class debut against Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1914, scoring four in each innings and managing a solitary catch. War broke out thereafter, and he would not play another First-Class match for eight years.

He served the British Army with distinction in World War I, earning the Military Cross and Royal Victorian Order. Following The War, he played for Combined Services, Army and MCC. He scored 89 not out against Cambridge at Lord’s in 1923 and went to Argentina as Arthur Gilligan’s deputy in 1926-27.

MCC was expected to steamroll Argentina, but the hosts surprised them by defeating them in one of the matches at Buenos Aires. In the next match, where Stanyforth top-scored with a career-best of 91, they struck back with an innings victory. Playing for Army, he scored 57 and 61 not out against Oxford University in the summer of 1927. That winter Lt Col Stanyforth was plucked out of obscurity to lead England on their tour of South Africa: he had not played a Championship match till then.

Test debut

The Test series was a close-fought affair; England won at Old Wanderers and Newlands and drew the third Test at Kingsmead, but the hosts bounced back to square the series with victories at Old Wanderers and Kingsmead. When he went out to toss in the first Test, Stanyforth became the first wicketkeeper to lead England in a Test (Alec Stewart is the only other one to do so till date).

The Test also marked the debut of greats like Wally Hammond, Bob Wyatt and Peebles, along with Ewart Astill and Geoffrey Legge. George Geary won the first Test for England, while excellent batting by the England top-order turned a 117-run deficit into a victory for England.

After a drawn affair in the third Test, a hundred from Herbie Taylor and some hostile bowling from George Bissett and Alf Hall brought South Africa home in the fourth Test. England also lost the fifth Test, but by then Stanyforth had picked up an injury; Greville Stevens had replaced Stanyforth at the helm, and the big gloves had been passed over to Harry Elliott.

The series was a personal disaster for Stanyforth, who scored a mere 13 from six innings at 2.60 with a highest score of six not out, in addition to effecting nine dismissals. He never played another Test, and remained the only Yorkshireman to lead England between Stanley Jackson (1905) and Norman Yardley (1947).

Championship debut

The previous sentence could be misleading, since Stanyforth, despite having led England in four Tests, was yet to make his Championship debut. That opportunity came in 1928, where he played three matches against Warwickshire, Middlesex, and Hampshire. As a result the number of his Championship appearances was less than the number of Tests he had led.

Stanyforth toured West Indies with MCC in 1929-30, and played First-Class cricket till 1933, scoring seven and effecting two dismissals in his final match for Free Foresters against Oxford University.

Post-retirement

His book, Wicketkeeping, was published in 1935. He also served England in World War II in the 21st Lancers as Aide de Camp to General Alan Brooke and as GSO1 21st Army Group 1941 — 1945. He later became a trustee of MCC — a post that he held till his death.

Lt Col Stanyforth passed away at Kirk Hammerton Hall on February 20, 1964. He was 71. An extremely popular man, he was mourned by many, including his former teammates.

Peebles wrote: “Wherever he [Stanyforth] went he had a most unusual quality of commanding respect as well as deep affection. It is pleasant to record that when he revisited South Africa in recent years he received a welcome which greatly moved and delighted him. Those who, as young men, travelled with him on his original visit have special cause to mourn.”

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Bengaluru

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

West Indies tour of India 2014, Practice match

Oct 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Mumbai

Matador BBQs One-Day Cup, 2014

Oct 4, 2014 (05:00 IST)   at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014  at Bengaluru

Perth Scorchers won by 3 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 29, 2014  at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders won by 36 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Kings XI Punjab won by 7 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Hobart Hurricanes won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 27, 2014  at Bengaluru

Chennai Super Kings won by 13 runs

Photos

Cricket on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Videos

Brian Lara speaks on the art of batting

Mitchell Marsh helps Perth Scorchers clinch 3-wicket victory against Lahore Lions in CLT20 2014

Live Cricket Score Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Ish Sodhi picks two quick wickets

Gautam Gambhir becomes second player after MS Dhoni to captain in 100 T20 matches

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Have Manish Pandey’s T20 performances eclipsed his impressive First-Class record?

Asian Games Asian Games 2014 Barbados Tridents Champions League T20 2014 Chennai Super Kings CLT20 CLT20 2014 Dolphins Incheon Asian Games 2014 India at Asian Games 2014 Kings XI Punjab Perth Scorchers

Bangladesh Cricket Board: Nadir Shah ban still on

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Knights set target of 138 (D/L) in 19 overs

PCB unhappy with bouncy tracks at Dubai for Australia series

Lahore Lions out of CLT20 2014, but Pakistan should be proud of them

Chris Gayle hopes to get back in shape before the Test series against India

Gautam Gambhir becomes second player after MS Dhoni to captain in 100 T20 matches

Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 CLT20 2014: Lahore likely XI

CLT20 2014: Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 — Key Battles

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Players scoring 50-plus in both innings of a Test match most number of times

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

671 Posts | 6 Fans

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Kings XI Punjab- Final Match Highlights from IPL 2014

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Knights set target of 138 (D/L) in 19 overs

Bigg Boss 8 highlights: Payback time for Deepshikha Nagpal’s team with reverse Hijack, RJ Preetam’s team blames him for their defeat

Microsoft Windows 10 launched; Windows 9 skipped to show advances in the Operating System

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Pankaj Kapur saw son Shahid Kapoor’s Haider and said “It’s Okay”

Alcohol could leave you sleepless even after you have quit

Health Minister says UHAM to be world’s largest public health insurance programme

NGOs pursue education for all

Ello might be ad-free, but it is far from claiming Facebook’s throne

Microsoft’s Windows 10 unveiled

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here