Eileen Whelan Ash is the first woman Test cricketer to live past 100 years; Photo courtesy: Mustard TV
Eileen Whelan Ash (right) is the first woman Test cricketer to live past 100 years. Photo courtesy: Mustard TV

Norman Gordon was the oldest living Test cricketer till his recent demise. After his passing, that distinction was thought to be held by fellow South African bowler Lindsay Tuckett. However, in truth, the current oldest living Test cricketer is now Eileen Whelan Ash. Shiamak Unwalla has more.

In little more than a month, Eileen Whelan Ash will turn 103 years old. Norman Gordon was a little over 103 when he passed, thereby making him the longest-lived Test cricketer of all time.

However, it is perhaps a bit sad that she was, thus far, overlooked in the age-related record books for so long. It also says a lot about how “cricketers” are synonymous with “men.” For instance, ask a layman who was the first cricketer to score a One-Day International (ODI) double century, and they would probably say Sachin Tendulkar. And they would be wrong. Belinda Clark had scored an ODI double hundred — incidentally, it remains the highest score in ODIs — over 13 years before Tendulkar’s unbeaten 200 against South Africa.

Likewise, most people would feel that the cricketer who holds the record for fastest T20I ton is Richard Levi, who got a 45-ball century against New Zealand in 2012. However, that record is held by a certain Deandra Dottin, whose century against South African Women came off just 38 balls in the 2010 Women’s T20 World Cup.

But let us not digress. Eileen Whelan, also known as Eileen Ash, played for England Women for 12 years. She made her Test debut for England Women in 1937 and played the last of her seven Tests in 1949. She took 10 wickets in these seven matches, thereby earning the distinction of being one of the very few specialist bowlers to take fewer wickets than the number of years she played for.

Of course, this unfortunate record can be chalked out to the lack of opportunities she had. A bowling average of just 23 and strike rate of 59.4 is rather impressive and suggest that had she played more cricket, she could well have had a more prominent career. She is also the first woman Test cricketer to live past 100 years.

If, heaven willing, Eileen does pass 103 years and 27 days, she will hold the mantle of longest-lived Test cricketer. Perhaps that would help with Women’s cricket being less overlooked in the future.

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time)