Obituary: John Langridge

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The Independent Culture
IT IS always a familiar compliment to say that so-and-so was the best of his type never to play for England; in the cricketer John Langridge's case it was almost certainly true and, indeed, today it is difficult to understand how a player who scored 34,380 runs, hit 1,000 runs in a summer 17 times (11 times he passed 2,000), hit eight double centuries and in 1949 averaged 60 for the season, failed to win a cap. No player with more runs and catches has not played for England. If such a paragon had been available to the current selectors, they might well have chosen him, a wicket-keeper and nine bowlers to face New Zealand at Edgbaston last week.

Langridge was a member of an internationally famous Sussex cricket family. He had an elder brother, James, who played for both Sussex and England, who in turn had a son, Richard, who also played for Sussex. John was the opening bat in the family and it was this specialisation, immensely successful as it was, that counted against him when he was considered by the England selectors. In his time as a player, 1928 to 1955, he would have had have to displace one of Jack Hobbs, Andy Sandham, Herbert Sutcliffe, Percy Holmes, Charlie Barnett, Len Hutton, Reg Simpson and Cyril Washbrook, and there were other uncapped challengers.

John Langridge was also an expert slip fielder and very occasional medium- pace bowler, later becoming an umpire, where he did at last gain international status, standing in seven Test matches.

He made his debut for Sussex as an 18-year-old, on 1 September 1928, against Essex at Leyton, neither county seeking the championship, four years after his brother. He came in at number eight, Sussex having already passed 500 (James contributing 70), a nervous young man apart. He scored six and was moved up the order for the second innings, in what was a pre- ordained draw, to make 39. For two years he played mostly for Club and Ground, scored his first century (against Glamorgan) in 1931, but two years later he was opening the innings regularly with Ted Bowley. He was obviously a natural player but Sussex, not a rich county, were still happy to allow him five years to learn his trade.

Before a large August Bank Holiday crowd at Hove in 1933, he and Bowley raised 490 for the first wicket against Middlesex, still a Sussex record. In that same summer he hit 250 not out against Glamorgan at Hove and the career that was to include 76 centuries was fully launched.

He was selected for MCC's tour of India in 1939-40, which had to be cancelled because of the outbreak of war. Langridge served as a fireman and then resumed for Sussex as though strolling out again after the tea interval. His record of 768 catches has been surpassed only by half a dozen; 134 of these were made off the bowling of his brother James, the scorecard entry reading "c Jn Langridge, b Jas Langridge" so well remembered by all those who bought evening newspapers in order to read the teatime scores in the box.

He was so good an umpire that when he reached the official retirement age of 65 he was asked to continue. In 1950 he received a rare distinction, becoming one of the few non-Test players to be named by Wisden a Cricketer of the Year.

R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, writing in 1943, compared the brothers thus:

John is the finer player of strokes and the harder wicket to take . . . long in reach, supple of wrist, with the orthodoxy of a whole library of instruction, he has been too consciously the "number one" . . . like a businessman who, in the middle of a comic song or a breakdown, abruptly remembers his duties to convention and the firm.

Alan Ross, in his evocative poem "Cricket at Brighton", didn't differentiate between them:

Cricket began here yesterday, the air heavy, suitable

For medium-paced bowlers; but deckchairs mostly were vacant,

Faces white over startling green. Later, trains will decant

People with baskets, litter and opinions, the seaside's staple

Ingredients. Today Langridge pushes the ball for unfussed

Singles; ladies clap from check rugs, talk to retired colonels;

On tomato-red verandas the scoring rate is discussed.

Sussex v Lancashire, the air birded and fresh after rain.

John George Langridge, cricketer: born Chailly, Sussex 10 February 1910; MBE 1979; married (one son); died Eastbourne, East Sussex 27 June 1999.