John Snow: 22 little-known facts about the England bowler

Born, October 13, 1941, John Augustine Snow was an English cricketer who played in the 1960s and 70s. He was one of the most formidable fast bowlers of England cricket team in the time span in between Fred Trueman and Bob Willis. Snow learnt to play cricket in three-acre grounds of the Vicarage with his father. On his 74th birthday, Abhishek Kumar picks out 22 interesting things about him.

1.  Son of a Scottish Vicar: Snow was born in Peopleton, Worcestershire to a Scottish Vicar, named William — who was a goalkeeper in Scottish Football League Club. Snow and his three sisters played cricket in the backyard when he was four.

2.  “It’s a young cricketer!”: When Snow was born, his grandfather — who was a cricket coach, called his father to say, “It’s a young cricketer!” and was given a cricket bat to chew in his childhood.

3.  Secret of his muscles: Despite being born in the period of Second World War, Snow’s childhood was completely unaffected by the happening and he used to chop down trees for firewood which helped him in gaining muscles. Frank Tyson was also once a tree-feller and it is also said that it is the best exercise for the muscles needed for fast bowling.

4.  Education: Snow got educated at Christ’s Hospital and further moved to Chichester High School for Boys before his father became Vicar at Bognor Regis.

5.  Coached by Len Bates: At Bognore Regis, Snow got trained by Warwickshire batsman Len Bates.

6.  Rugby: After completing his school education, Snow went to attend Culham Teachers Training College but since his interest was more on cricket, his studies suffered. He also played Rugby for Christ Hospital and Chichester High School 1st XVs but ended up playing cricket.

7.  Comeback: After playing two Tests for England in 1965, Snow made his comeback after his county side — Sussex, beat West Indies team in a tour match, where he played a crucial role with his ball. He took seven wickets in the first innings by giving only 29 runs and in second innings, he scalped four wickets conceding just 18 runs. With such clinical performance, Snow was called in the English team and from there he remained a part of the team for a long period.

8.  Gavaskar-Snow controversy: India won the first ever Test series in England in 1971. There were few more things that happened during the third Test. When Sunil Gavaskar and Farokh Engineer were at the crease chasing the total of 174, Engineer pushed a ball and called for a single, Gavaskar responded immediately but ended up clashing with Snow as the bowler too was going towards the ball. Snow clashed with Gavaskar intentionally.

Snow knew it would lead him to trouble and it resulted in his exclusion from team for two Tests. Later, he apologised for the same.

9.  The man who grabbed Snow’s shirt: On February 13, 1971, Snow bowled a bouncer to Australia’s Terry Jenner, which hit him on the head. One of the spectators from the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) crowd got furious and grabbed Snow’s shirt while he was near the boundary fence. Later in 1998, an 80-year-old guy named Trevor Guy admitted in the Sydney Morning Herald that it was him who grabbed him by the shirt to make sure he heard what he had to say.

10.  Clean hit: In a book by Geoff Tibballs — No-Balls and Googlies: A Cricket Companion, many stories were mentioned by Dickie Bird to the writer and one of them was an interesting anecdote during a county match. The match was played between Leicestershire and Sussex in 1960s and Snow bowled to Peter Marner with a ball made of soap. No doubt that the ball was torn apart into two. Both the sides broke into laughter and the scorebook recorded the incident with the words: ‘Ball exploded.’

11.  Snow Joke: In the same book another story by Dickie Bird says that, to break the rhythm of West Indies team in 1976, Snow tried to slow down the game by filling his pockets with breadcrumbs, which he scattered all over the ground. In no time, hundreds of pigeons gathered into the ground and as a result of which, the match was stopped for sometime and eventually ended up in a draw.

12.  Issues with captain 1: Snow always had problems with his captains, especially in county cricket. Prior to his Test debut, while bowling against Colin Milburn of Northamptonshire, Snow bowled a short-pitched ball, which the batsman hooked and forced his captain Ted Dexter to duck for covering himself at leg-slip. Dexter slammed Snow by saying, “Why don’t you pitch it up, you silly little b***er?” In reply, Snow bowled another short ball, which once again was again hooked by Milburn, but this time Dexter pouched it. As Milburn was walking back to the pavilion, Snow told his captain, “Pitch it up like that you mean?”

Although, Dexter was not amused, but supported him to the hilt on his Test debut at Lord’s in 1965.

13.  Issues with captain 2: Continuing his habit of making issues with his captains, Snow ran into another trouble with his Sussex skipper and this time it was Tiger Pataudi. Since they had no spinners to use as stock-bowlers and Pataudi asked Snow to bowl long spells, which he denied straight away and as a result of which Pataudi had to report him to the club officials.

14.  Improved Snow: During the 1976 series against West Indies, when he made his comeback to the England team, Snow got the wicket of Garry Sobers for a first-ball duck with the help of consulting his captain Brian Close. Snow in a very sarcastic way, “I can follow instructions,” which he actually was trying to convey a message about himself that he is a bit improved now.

15.  A hostile spell: After having brushes with authority, Snow bowled a hostile spell on a dicey strip, which was used for nets at Lahore. However, when captain Colin Cowdrey asked him to bowl at his full accuracy during the practice of a Test, Snow refused and preferred to preserve his energy for further. He was dropped for his attitude problems.

16.  Poet: Surprisingly, Snow was a poet too besides being an egoistic person. He wrote two poetry books — Contrasts published in 1971 andMoments and Thoughts in 1973.

17.  Controversial autobiography: Though he was a controversial character and gained criticism for his attitude, Snow never sledged or abused any batsman but wrote an autobiography — Cricket Rebel, which led to many controversies. Gaining criticisms from MCC and Sussex officials were few of the many.

 18.  Problem with Lou Rowan: Snow also had his issues with umpires, especially with Lou Rowan in the 1970-71 Ashes. After the series, Snow wrote, “I have never come across another umpire so full of his own importance, so stubborn, lacking in humour, unreasonable and utterly unable to distinguish between a delivery short of a length which rises around the height of the rib cage and a genuine bouncer which goes through head high, as Lou Rowan”.

 19.  Set up Travel Agency: After playing World Series Cricket in 1977 and retiring from cricket, Snow set up a Travel agency with the money he earned from Kerry Packer.

 20.  A 15-minute programme about his poem: It’s a known fact now that Snow was a poet too and one of his poem was one Lord’s, “penned in verse my feelings and impressions about what it is like to play at the headquarters of world cricket.” A television firm certainly got to know of that poem and arranged to film him at Lord’s in the first Test against New Zealand later in the summer of 1969. They were going to make a 15-minute programme about his poem with John Betjeman, but this was cancelled as Snow was dropped for discipline.

 21.  DVD: There is a DVD named —England Cricket Six of the Best: The Seventies, in which Snow’s 7 for 40 in the fourth Test at Sydney in 1970–71, his 48 in the fourth Test at Headingley in 1972 and his 3 for 22 in the second Test at Headlingley in 1975, featured.

 22.  “The ultimate thing in life”: At the England team’s Harrogate hotel at Leeds in 1972, Basil d’ Oliveira in an animated dinner table conversation said to Snow, “The ultimate thing in life is to play for England.” Snow replied quietly “The ultimate thing in life is death.”

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with Criclife.com. He can be followed at abhicricket.kumar and abhishekkr2593)