#3 Archie Jackson
Cricket is a cruel game. Death is crueler. When they combine together, they become even crueler. It becomes the cruelest when death filches a 23 year old. English grammar doesn’t allow me to go any further to state how cruel when death takes away a dotting, humble, graceful young cricketer besotted with sportsmanship.
Many believe that Archie Jackson, had he continued to live, would have become the best Test batsman of all time. But the cruel god picks the most beautiful flowers first in his garden.
Archibald Jackson was a Scottish born Australian cricketer who made his debut for Australia at the green age of 19 in 1929. Faced up with the pace of Harold Larwood, the young Jackson scored 164 in the first innings, becoming the youngest Australian to score a century on debut. Don Bradman batting beside Archie advised him to be careful as he closed in on a century, but Archie didn’t want to let go off his gracefulness as he drove Larwood drove through the covers.
Larwood would later write, “He cover-drove me to bring up his hundred… That ball was delivered as fast as any I had ever bowled previously. That glorious stroke has lived in my memory to this day for its ease and perfect timing. I am sure that few among the many thousands present sighted the ball as it raced to the boundary.”
However, tuberculosis clutched him firmly, as the deteriorating health made him renege on various matches. His poor health never allowed him to deliver his best. But his gracefulness and swashbuckling stroke making defied to evaporate.
In the 1930 Bodyline series, the youngster had to sit out for most part of the series. He managed to make it into the XI during the fifth test and compiled a spunky 73 facing the ballistic Bodyline bowling.
He was beaten and bruised. But Archie Jackson insists on good sportsmanship. Harold Larwood, when writing about the youngster, wrote that the Poms considered Jackson as one of them and the young Aussie was never shy to pass words of appreciation when the oppositions bowled or fielded well. Even after being struck by the soaring balls, Jackson uttered to Larwood, “Well, Harold, it’s only a game, but what a grand one we’re having today! I hope you’re enjoying our battle as much as those spectators seem to be. You know, you’ve hit me almost as many times as I’ve hit you! I wish you’d drop one a little off line occasionally.”
But those were the highlights of a promising career cut short by the hastened messenger from the heavens as Archibald Jackson succumbed to his disease in 1933 aged 23 and 164 days. Many believed that Archie was better than Bradman, but a premature death helped Bradman win that rivalry and elope with the sobriquet of the best batter ever.