Stan McCabe was one of Australia’s star batsmen in the interwar years. On his second Ashes tour in 1934, his performances earned him the Wisden Cricketer of the Year award.
Stanley Joseph McCabe, who last summer showed such a pronounced improvement as a batsman, was born at Grenfell, New South Wales, on July 16, 1910, so that, with already two trips to England on which to look back, he is not yet 25. He learned his early cricket at St. Joseph’s College, Hunter’s Hill, Sydney and, after a month in the second team, held his place as an all-rounder in the first XI for three years from 1924. Beyond the lessons he received from the school coaches, who were insistent upon the ball being hit hard and well kept down, McCabe owes nothing to any special instruction. After representing the Combined Great Public Schools of Sydney, he, in the 1926/27, season returned to Grenfell, and played for two seasons with the Grenfell Juniors, a club well known in the country districts of New South Wales.
McCabe was first chosen for New South Wales in 1928 as a country cricketer – a rather unusual honour – and, without meeting with any particular distinction, he also played for the Southern Districts of New South Wales at Goulburn against the MCC team under APF Chapman. About this time he moved to Sydney and, already a regular member of the New South Wales side, he appeared immediately in first-grade cricket for the Mosman Club, with which organisation he has played ever since.
To those at all closely in touch with Australian cricket in its purely domestic matches, no surprise was created when McCabe was chosen to be one of the team who came here in 1930. In Sheffield Shield engagements the previous season in Australia, he had shown himself to be a most consistent scorer. Before that he hit up 90 against the MCC team that visited Australia and New Zealand under Harold Gilligan, and he reached this country with the reputation of being a hard-hitting batsman and a useful change bowler of the quick type. Over and above these attributes he was an energetic and accurate fieldsman.
McCabe did very well on his first acquaintance with English wickets, averaging 35 in the Test matches and heading the bowling figures with eight wickets at a cost of 27 runs each. In first-class matches his figures were 32.64 in batting and 27.80 for 26 wickets in bowling. Yet, although he scored 1,012 runs during the tour, he did not once make a hundred, his highest score being 96. Still, he showed himself to be a batsman capable, by his forcing methods, of knocking any bowler off his length.
Returning to Australia with a reputation considerably enhanced, he took part in the five Test matches against West Indies but, after making 90 in the first of these engagements his form was, to say the least, a little disappointing. However, he finished up by playing an innings of a hundred for New South Wales against the touring eleven and in inter-state matches put together one splendid innings of 171 against Queensland.
In the following season when the South Africans were in Australia, McCabe averaged over 33 in the Test matches but did nothing out of the common in bowling. In Sheffield Shield matches he blossomed out with a brilliant 229 not out against Queensland while later on he scored 106 and 103 not out in one match against Victoria. Altogether, it could be said that he well maintained his form.
He was probably a better batsman than ever before during the season of 1932/33 when the MCC team under DR Jardine were in Australia. Leading off with a wonderful of 187 not out in the first Test match, he finished second to Bradman, scoring 385 runs in the five Tests with an average of nearly 43. His later performances in the representative games did not approach his first big innings but he remained good. An illness the following season followed by an operation happily did not cause him any setback and his choice for the team to come to England in 1934 was a foregone conclusion.
Watching him last summer one could not fail to be struck with the immense strides he had made in the technique of batting. In 1930 he gave the impression of still having a good deal to learn; he was inclined to be somewhat slapdash in his methods. The intervening years had clearly made a great difference in him. Losing nothing of his power, he displayed a wider and safer range of strokes. In the second match of the tour at Leicester he put together his first hundred in England, scoring 108 not out, and he followed this just afterwards by getting 192 against MCC at Lord’s taking part, with Ponsford, in a record stand of 389 for the third wicket.
Never losing his form, he played eight three-figure innings ranging from 240 to 105 not out in the course of the tour and in first-class matches had an aggregate of 2,078 runs – the highest on the side. He finished with an average of over 69 and stood third, behind Bradman and Ponsford. He was also third in the Test match averages, these five matches bringing him 483 runs for over 60 per innings and he put together 137 in the Third Test match at Manchester.
As a bowler, McCabe, although opening the attack for Australia in Test matches, was nothing like so effective as he had been four years previously. He trusted almost entirely to his inswinger with the new ball and seemed to have lost something of the quick nip off the pitch which had brought him many wickets during his previous visit.
Short and stockily built, McCabe possesses a pair of very strong arms with flexible wrists and in 1934 was a typical representative of the modern Australian batsman. He showed excellent footwork to supplement a good eye and the outstanding characteristic of his batting – whether driving, cutting or hooking – was the power with which he invested all his strokes. In this respect he almost bore comparison with Bradman; indeed, taking the summer all through it is scarcely too much to say that he instilled nearly as much fear into English bowlers as did his more famous colleague.
Going in as a rule second wicket down, he was able, by his bold methods, often to complete the discomfiture of bowlers already disturbed by the attentions of Ponsford and Bradman. His fielding remained as good as ever. Shortly after his return home to Australia he was, on Kippax giving up the position, appointed captain of the New South Wales eleven, this being made possible by the knowledge that Bradman was leaving the state to take up business in Adelaide. McCabe, therefore, has in a short space of about six years reached a very high place in the world of cricket – an honour to which he is fully entitled by his attributes as a player and his character as a man.
Stan McCabe played on for Australia until the 1938 Ashes series. In 39 Tests he hit 2,748 runs at 48.21 with six hundreds.