New Scottish Cricket Hall of Fame inductees
An advisory board, led by Cricket Scotland historian Neil Leitch, analyses the merits of all of the nation's internationalists before making recommendations for the inductees to Cricket Scotland.
During the Royal London One Day International game between Scotland and England, two more famous Scottish cricketers were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Sadly, with players of such a bygone age we can only look at records as a barometer of ability, but these speak eloquently enough in the case of Robert Wills Sievwright.
By any measure the Arbroath-born player is a true cricketing colossus, his international career spanning the best part of three decades while a marathon 43 years in the club game only ended in 1947 when he collapsed and died at the crease while batting for his home-town team – at the age of 65!
A late developer, Sievwright was 30 when he made his First-Class debut, but he quickly made up for lost time, claiming a clutch of illustrious victims with his teasing left-arm spinners. One of the most notable scalps was the great Jack Hobbs in a match between Scotland and Surrey, when Sievwright claimed five wickets, prompting Wisden to report that the Scot had bowled “with much skill.”
By then Sievwright was becoming accustomed to lavish praise, having made his mark by taking 6- 60 against the Australians. Sievwright’s victims in this match included the prolific Charlie Macartney but it was Macartney’s opening partner Warren Bardsley who described his tormentor as “one of the best spin bowlers I have ever faced.”
This of a man who earned his living as a master joiner and could only take time off to play the game he loved on a Saturday afternoon!
Sievwright saved many of his finest performances for matches against Australia, whom he faced a total of six times while he also played twice against South Africa during just eighteen capped appearances.
The quality of his opponents makes it all the more remarkable that he claimed a remarkable total of 81 wickets for Scotland at an impressive average of 23.70. If it is these high-profile performances which do most to justify his place in the Hall of Fame.
Sievwright’s club career is also worthy of note - and not just for its astonishing longevity. He remains the highest wicket-taker in the Scottish club game, having greedily garnered 2,242 dismissals. He took ten wickets in an innings on four occasions, the last of them against Aberdeenshire at the age of 54.
A master of spin and flight, when he wasn’t taking wickets, Sievwright could be relied upon to keep things tight for his captain as his international average indicates. Club cricketers naturally found him even more of a handful and in the 1928 season he averaged a miserly 4.97 for Arbroath United.
He was elected president of the SCU in 1932, but continued playing until that fateful day in
1947 when he was batting with his son, Arthur, against Perthshire. Having just hit and run a three, he stood ready to face the first ball of the next over but collapsed at the wicket.
It is possible, even now, to imagine the eulogies: “It’s how he would have wanted to go.”
Perhaps - but one suspects that the outfoxing of another completely befuddled batsman would have been his preferred final act!
It is apt, in a year when Scotland qualified for a World Cup, that George Salmond should be the latest inductee to the Hall of Fame.
Salmond, after all, was the man who led this country to a memorable first appearance on the global stage, masterminding an arduous qualification campaign in Malaysia in 1997 before lining up against the best sides in the world in England two years later.
If that was one of the crowning glories of an illustrious career, it was merely one of many.
Yet his international career hardly had the most auspicious start, the top order batsman nervously striding to the Titwood crease to face the touring Indians in 1990 - and returning one ball later.
It was a setback from which Salmond quickly recovered as he went on to amass 3,307 international runs, still ninth on the all-time list.
These were invariably accumulated stylishly and rapidly by a batsman who whose electric running between the wickets often appeared to intimidate opposing fielders.
If his record against county opposition and in the few ODIs that he played is modest, Salmond’s statistics in the longer format bear comparison with the very best, his average of 46.74 being the highest of any Scotland player who appeared in a minimum of ten First-Class matches.
His 181 against Ireland in 1996 remains the third equal highest individual score for the national team, behind only fellow Hall of Famers Iain Philip and Rev James Aitchison.
Salmond was also arguably Scotland’s first genuinely world-class fielder, a whippet in the covers or at mid-wicket whose athleticism and safe hands were responsible for many a dismissal.
It is Salmond’s record as a captain which surely confirms him out as one of the greats of Caledonian cricket.
Due to an innate sense of both fair play and fun, it was easy to be fooled by such nicknames as Gentleman George and Genial George which easily and alliteratively attached themselves to the Scotland skipper.
However, many an opponent discovered to their cost that there was a ruthless streak to Salmond, borne at once of an acute will to win and a keen tactical acumen.
These attributes were never more gloriously displayed than in the crucial third place play-off in Kuala Lumpur when, defending a modest total, Salmond kept applying the pressure and a succession of Irish batsmen succumbed to it, allowing Scotland to claim the final place at the 1999 World Cup.
He captained his country on 104 occasions and enjoyed a win percentage of 35.58% - almost identical to the record of his successor Craig Wright, the only other player to reach three figures at the helm.
Salmond proudly and with typical distinction represented his home-town Arbroath for much of his club career.
George Salmond was above all a sportsman in the truest sense of the word and a superb ambassador for Scottish cricket.