George Bonnor: The great hitter


George Bonnor was not a very successful batsman. He did not reach double figures in the last 10 of his 30 Test innings, and in 11 of his earlier 20. However, on the rare occasions that he did get going, as he did during his 128 at Melbourne in 1885, it would be a breathtaking sight. His reputation as a great hitter made him the primary drawcard in the old Anglo-Australian encounters. And then there was his mere presence.

Six feet six inches in height, he towered above all and sundry in the cricket field, and gave the ball a mighty thwak. In fact, before Fred Grace caught him off a steepler at The Oval in 1880, there was time enough for the batsmen to run three.

Yet, in spite of his great height, his proportions supposedly were near perfection and every movement seemed to be touched by divine grace. He had the agility of a cat and could sprint like the perfect athlete.

John Ruskin called him “a young god”, which perhaps did justice to the cricketer but not to the abilities with the pen of that master of English prose.

E.V. Lucas yielded his quill with more flourish when he recalled of “the mighty Bonnor, immensely tall, with golden hair and beard … this superb figure, like a god from another planet …”

Finally there is the story, related by the slightly untrustworthy narrator AA Thompson: "An English peer who visited him in Australia said that he was the most perfect physical specimen of humanity he had ever known. Not that peers are necessarily experts on standards of physical beauty, but this one was in a better position than most to know what he was talking about because, when his lordship paid him his historic visit, Bonnor was in his bath."

George Bonnor was born on February 25, 1855.

Text: Arunabha Sengupta

Illustration: Maha