Colin Blythe had the perfect start to first-class cricket, taking a wicket with his first ball. For 15 years the slow left-armer plied his trade for Kent and England, ending with 2,503 wickets at an average of 16.81, including 17 for 48 in a day against Northamptonshire, a County Championship record.
But as his career ended with the outbreak of the First World War, and he was killed near Passchendaele in 1917, his descendant John Blythe Smart’s opening statement – “Most people have heard of Colin Blythe” – is an exaggeration born of enthusiasm. Smart’s account is long on facts but short on interpretation.
Blythe played far fewer Tests (19) than expected because he was plagued by nerves on big occasions, possibly exacerbated by epilepsy. So to say “Blythe would wish to be remembered for his cricket rather than his health” misses the point that the latter was central to the former.
Christopher Scoble’s ‘Colin Blythe: Lament for a Legend’ (SportsBooks, 2005) examines this in detail; read both for a rounded view of the Blythe spirit.
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