Just not cricket : A J Hunting ahead of his time

A J Hunting was an inventor and  innovator, an entrepreneur and sports promoter. His most successful venture was the development and promotion of speedway racing in the 1920s. In 1933 Hunting sought to build on his speedway success with a new venture. Cricket at that time was strictly an amateur sport. Queensland had been admitted to the Sheffield Shield competition in 1926 and the first test match played in Brisbane took place in 1928. There had been calls to speed up the game of cricket to make it more attractive to the public and attempts had been made to develop a one-day format for the game but Hunting was the first to attempt to introduce professional cricket in Australia. Hunting floated his proposal in June of 1933 as reported in the Brisbane Telegraph.

Discussion on professional cricket and its possibilities has been going on quietly in Brisbane for some time and it is believed that a number of influential business men have shown a live interest in the project, and a good deal of capital has already been subscribed towards the venture. It is proposed to conduct a series of local matches between professional teams to commence at 2 o’clock on Saturday afternoons and conclude at 5 p.m. Fast, brisk scoring will be ensured in those 3 hours by reason of the fact that four completed innings will be seen and each man will be paid by results. In these matches a provisional scale of such payments has been drawn up whereby every man who hits a six will receive £2 and every boundary stroke will bring him 2s.; every run scored is worth 3d. Every wicket clean bowled 7s. 6d., l.b.w. 5s. and in the case of a catch bowler and catcher will receive 2s. 6d. each, fieldsman, and wicket-keeper will share the rewards for a run out. In every case each man will receive 5s. appearance money whether he scores or not. The rate of scoring in any big cricket this season has been less than one run a minute. It Is believed that in this professional cricket the runs will come at the rate of 2 1/2 runs per minute, so that more than 450 runs will be scored in the afternoon.

In August 1933 Hunting set up a company, Professional One-Day Cricket Limited, hoping to present the first professional match in September in Brisbane and subsequently to establish the professional game in the other states.

ONE DAY CRICKET (1933, August 29). The Canberra Times

ONE DAY CRICKET (1933, August 29). The Canberra Times

He faced considerable opposition from the cricket establishment with one Queensland Cricket Association official giving a scathing assessment of the idea in The Telegraph.

Describing the proposed system of professional cricket as a “sideshow” and a “circus,” Mr. F. J. Bardwell, chairman of the Warehouse Division of this Queensland Cricket Association, In a strongly-worded reply, refutes the charges levelled against him by Mr. A. J. Hunting in a statement which appeared in “The Telegraph” on Saturday night. Mr. Hunting bad claimed that Mr. Bardwell had wished the venture “good luck” in the early stages. … “In my early conversations with Mr. Hunting,” he stated, “I was just as definite in attempting to discourage him in his scheme as he was confident of success. The closest I came to wishing him ‘good luck’ was in my parting words at the conclusion of our last conversation when I said: ‘Well, if you succeed you deserve success, as in my opinion you are facing insurmountable obstacles.’ “

Despite this opposition Hunting succeeded in recruiting sufficient players for four teams, including a number of former Queensland players such as fast bowler Gordon Amos and wicket keeper Leonard Waterman seen here taking a catch to dismiss Donald Bradman off the bowling of Eddie Gilbert in 1931.

Eddie Gilbert and Donald Bradman at the Woolloongabba Cricket Ground, 1931, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 33596

Eddie Gilbert and Donald Bradman at the Woolloongabba Cricket Ground, 1931, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 33596

The actual competition got off to a bright start with some 800 people turning out at the Exhibition Ground to see the opening match between the Bohemians and the Pioneers. The Brisbane Truth reported the match with great excitement.

SWISH! SWISH! 500 RUNS IN 200 MINUTES (1933, October 8). Truth

SWISH! SWISH! 500 RUNS IN 200 MINUTES (1933, October 8). Truth

Photographs of the match (1933, October 8). Truth

Photographs of the match (1933, October 8). Truth

Hunting’s one-day cricket venture took off with a bang but the flame burned all too briefly and by 25 November 1933 The Telegraph was asking if professional cricket was on its last legs.

Professional cricket, as it was Introduced by the one-day cricket syndicate in Brisbane appears to be on its last legs. Public support, which in the early stages was greatly in excess of that afforded ordinary club cricket, has shown a tremendous decline and, at the match staged last Saturday there were less than twenty spectators present. The teams too, were short of players and one of the most prominent cricketers connected with the scheme stated during the week that he had no intention of taking any further part in the matches. It is understood that a meeting of the players is being held to-day when a decision will be reached as to whether they will carry on the “peppier” type of cricket by contributing towards the weekly expenses.

The players who took part in the competition suffered for their participation in the competition by being banned from official matches by the Queensland Cricket Association. Appeals to the Association to reinstate the players fell on deaf ears despite the fact that none of the players had apparently been paid apart from A.C. Wright who had received 10 shillings for scoring a six in the opening match. A letter was also forwarded to the Queensland Cricket Association suggesting that the ban on the players should be lifted to allow them to play in district and minor grade matches. It was pointed out that the men had not received any money for their services.

Professional one-day cricket was an idea whose time had evidently not yet come and it was not until 1977 that professional one-day was revived by Kerry Packer with somewhat more success.

A J Hunting is one of the Queensland innovators featured in our current exhibition Magnificent Makers in the Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery until 3 June 2018.

Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland