Arthur Wellard : No mere slogger


by Mayukh Ghosh

Umpire Alec Skelding walked back from the pavilion to the middle at Wells, wagged a finger in mock rebuke at the batsman and said: " For heaven's sake, don't lose this ball. We've run out of them!"

Frank Woolley, in his last season for Kent, was bowling. He had been hit for five sixes in a row. Several balls had disappeared, apparently for ever, far out of the ground, and all of a sudden, there was an embarrassing shortage of replacements. 
But the batsman dutifully restrained himself and settled for a few fours after that.
Then, he took 13 wickets and made sure that they won the match.

Arthur Wellard, born on April 8th 1902, should have, by rights, played for Kent. But they let him slip away. Somerset benefited from this and Wellard served them for close to twenty seasons.
Before the war, his out-swingers were effective and, notwithstanding the ordinary slip cordon of Somerset, fetched him plenty of wickets.
After the war, the limbs ached more, and he turned to off-spin.
He was a magnificent fielder who often loitered at silly mid-off. He took catches as if he was pulling an ace from a pack.The ball was often in his pocket as puzzled spectators searched for it near the extra-cover boundary.

It was his big hitting which always caught the attention. He scored roughly one-fourth of those 12,000-odd runs in sixes. He had a routine of defending the first half-a-dozen balls he faced and then, he issued himself the license to go at everything thrown at him.
But he was at his best while playing poker. There was no one, absolutely no one, who could beat him at that.

In his book Hit for Six' Gerald Brodribb reserved pages only to flesh out Wellard's exploits.
Thirty-five years later, a Somerset fan named Barry Phillips got inspired by Brodribb's account and decided to write a biography of Wellard.
It was titled 'No Mere Slogger', first used by E.W. Swanton to describe Wellard's explosive batting.

In 2007, David Foot wrote on him as part of the series 'My Favourite Cricketer' in The Wisden Cricketer.
According to Foot, Wellard was an uncomplicated man who enjoyed playing cricket.
And then, when it rained, he produced a pack of cards. In the words of Bill Andrews: " He could remember the position of every card in the pack- he once again showed that he was out of our class."

And, of course, there's this: