Joe Darling: 15 interesting facts to know about the legendary Australian captain

Joseph “Joe” Darling, born November 21, 1870 in Glen Osmond, Adelaide, was an Australian left-handed batsman who also has been one of the finest captains of Australia. He played 34 Tests in which he accumulated 1,657 runs at an average of 28.56, with three centuries and eight fifties. Darling, who was regarded as one of the best left-handed batsmen of his era, had a good defence and was also a decent driver of the cricket ball. Darling was a contemporary of the great batsman KS Ranjitsinhji and also played some matches against him. On his birth anniversary, Bhaskar Narayan takes a look at 15 interesting facts from the life of the cricketer who passed away a year after the conclusion of second world war.

1. Early days

Joe Darling was born in Glen Osmond, a suburb in the city of Burnside in Adelaide, South Australia. He was the sixth son of John Darling and Isabella Ferguson. His father was a farmer who also traded in food grains. Prince Alfred College was his alma mater. Many other cricketers including Clement Hill, Chappell brothers and Greg Blewett have also received education at this institution.

2. Prodigy

When Darling was just 15 years old, he smashed a record breaking 252 in an inter-college match. This was against arch-rivals St. Peter’s College.

[Note: George Giffen held the record of the highest score for the state at 209 runs before Darling. Clement Hill, Darling’s junior by seven years, later broke his record by making 360.]

3. Father’s initial objection to cricket

Darling’s father John resented his son pursuing cricket as a profession. To take him away from the game, John sent him to play Australian Rules football. He led his team to win the South Australian Football Association premiership when he was just sixteen-years-old. John also sent the young Joe to Roseworthy Agriculture College, the first college in Australia which taught agriculture. It is now one of the colleges of University of Adelaide. Darling then got employed in a bank and later also worked at his father’s wheat farm. When he was in the final year of his teen-age, he got selected to South Australian team. However, John did not allow him to take time off the field and play cricket. Later, his father got interested in the game and helped in the construction of the Adelaide Oval Cricket Ground and allowed him to pursue his interest in cricket.

4. Other professions

Darling’s cricket was often hindered due to his farming business. As a farmer, he grew wheat in South Australia. He became an affiliate of many organisations related to agriculture and also worked as a pastoralist and opened a shop selling sports gear for some time. His wool business gave him good dividends and many a times he was amongst the top in the sales of wool in Hobart, Tasmania. He also initiated the movement to eliminate rabbits which caused a lot of damage to crops in his time.

After 16 years of his retirement from international cricket, he entered politics. He stood as an independent candidate in the Tasmanian Legislative Council elections. He was a good orator and held his seat in the Council until his death. Darling was an associate of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works for nine years, starting from 1937. Post-retirement, he continued playing cricket provincially and also entered into coaching. He also contributed cricket articles for the Weekly Courier. In his final year, he alleged that there was bribery in Tasmanian Forestry Department. A commission was set up; its pronouncement came after Darling’s death. It verified Darling’s accusations by finding two officers of being involved in corruption.

5. Nicknamed ‘Paddy’

Although having a medium height, Darling had an athletic physique. His uncanny resemblance to Australian boxer Frank “Paddy” Slavin earned him the nickname ‘paddy’.

6. First to score three centuries in a Test series

In Ashes 1897-98, he smashed three centuries in the five-match series against the touring English team. These were the only three hundreds he scored in his career, although he has eight fifties too.

7. First left-handed batsman to hit a Test hundred

In the first Test of Ashes 1897-98, Darling made his first century. He scored 101 but ended up on the losing side. With this, he became the first left-handed batsman to score a Test hundred. In the match, Ranjitsinhji smashed 175 in the first innings for England.

8. First batsman to hit a six in Tests

Darling became the first batsman to hit a six in Test cricket when he got to his century with a six in the third Test of Ashes 1897-98. The rule at that time was that the ball needs to go out of the ground to fetch a batsman six runs, otherwise he will get four runs. Darling made 178 in the match which Australia won by an innings.

9. First to score 500 in a Test series

In 1897-98 Ashes, Darling made 537 runs with the help of three centuries. With this, he became the first batsman to score 500 runs in a Test series. He averaged 67 in the five-match Test series.

10. Fastest hundred against England

During Ashes 1897-98, in one of his knocks he blasted the fastest century by an Australian batsman against England in a Test. This was the final Test of the series, in which Darling got to his century in just 91 minutes (tally for the number of balls were not kept during that time). He remained unbeaten on 160 and helped Australia win the match by six wickets.

11. First to hit a six in England

In 1902, he led Australian team to England. He cracked 52 runs in one of the Tests. In his knock he cleared the ground on two occasions, thus becoming the first batsman to hit a six in a Test in England.

12. Two captains, same birthday

It was Ashes 1905. Darling led the Australian team while Stanley Jackson was the skipper of England. Jackson was also born on November 21, 1870. This was first time in cricket history that two opposing captains shared the same date, month and year of birth. It has never happened since.

13. Wrestling to decide the toss

There is an interesting incident that took place in Ashes 1905. England’s captain Stanley Jackson won all the tosses in the five-match series. He opted to bat first on all the occasions. This was the first time it happened in Test history. Darling came to the field and said “I’m not going to risk the toss this time, except by wrestling.” He challenged the English skipper for a bout of wrestling. Jackson said, not him but George Hirst would fight. However, wrestling didn’t take place and the usual toss was conducted. As always, Darling lost and the English batted first.

14. Captained Australia in 18 Tests

Darling was Australia’s skipper in 18 of his 31 outings in Test cricket. His captaincy record stood for a long time, until it was broken by Don Bradman in 1948.

15. Personal Life

Darling married Alice Minna Francis, who was 23 years junior to him. The couple had 10 sons and five daughters. He bought a property, Claremont House in 1919, which had a portrait of cricketer Victor Trumper and the bat with which Trumper played in 1899. Darling was survived by his wife and 12 of his 15 children at the time of his death on January 2, 1946 at Hobart, Tasmania. The cause of his death was Peritonitis (inflammation inside the abdominal cavity). After the funeral, he was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery.

(Bhaskar Narayan is a reporter at CricketCountry and Criclife. He passionately follows the game and is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. His Twitter handle is @Cricopathy)