Playwright Ben Travers was at the height of his fame with several of his popular farces already successful at the Aldwych Theatre. He could afford to relax in the winter, travel with the English cricket team and watch the game he loved with the very core of his soul. And he could also afford a pair of high quality binoculars when he went down to Australia to follow the Ashes series of 1928-29.
In the second Test at Sydney, Wally Hammond finally branded the game with the seal of his enormous talent, scoring his first hundred on his 10th appearance. He made it a huge one.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘the charm and variety of his strokes could not be conveyed by figures’, but nevertheless it amounted to 251. Seldom had the ball been glimpsed travelling at a faster clip than it did off his redoubtable willow, especially when he executed some of his spectacular drives. And according to Travers, the innings left no marks on his bat apart from a perfectly circular indentation, plumb in the middle of the blade.
Travers also recalled how Hammond made his way towards him every time the players left the field, even in the breaks during his own 461 minute marathon. The Gloucestershire great would borrow the field-glasses, and his enhanced eyesight would sweep across ladies’ enclosure of the stadium,in which sat some of the most beautiful women in the world.
An appetite for runs and an eye for beauty.Handsome of face, immaculate in his whites, debonair with the bat, languid in the covers, sublime in the slips, classical action with the ball. And the most dapper of men off the field, with infinite charm reserved for the coquettish lass, a superb dancer eagerly sought as partner by the most desirable of women… Hammond did look the very image of the Boy’s Own Hero.
Wally Hammond was born on June 19, 1903
Text: Arunabha Sengupta