Remembering the great J.T. Arthur ‘Whitty’ Whitbourne

Into the archives: J.T. Arthur Whitbourne with his sister-in-law, Annie Williamson, outside his store Kyabram Sports Depot in Allan St.

At one stage at the peak of his career, James Thomas Arthur ‘‘Whitty’’ Whitbourne was described as ‘‘the best-known player in Victorian country cricket“.

One report even stated he was ‘‘boasting a record that would never be challenged’’.

That might be the case, too, even though it is more than a century since the man they called ‘‘Whitty’’ started terrorising batsmen, firstly in the suburbs of inner Melbourne and then in the Kyabram and District Cricket Association for more than three decades at the start of the 20th century.

Details of Whitty’s bowling career in his days in inner Melbourne’s suburbs in the mid-1890s and with Lancaster and Kyabram Cricket Club from 1908 to the end of the 1930-31 season are mind-boggling to say the least.

The best way to get an idea of the magnitude of his feats as a wily spin bowler can be assessed by comparing his records with the most successful bowlers of today.

At the top level in the Goulburn Murray Cricket competition today, 50 wickets for the season would normally win the award for most wickets.

In fact, in the past 30 years or so, the association’s top wicket-taker for the season has often fallen well short of that tally.

But glancing through Whitty’s 10 years of feats recorded in his performance chart, you will notice in five of these seasons he took 100 wickets or more.

They included a somewhat staggering 169 victims at a cost of 1047 runs at the incredible average of 6.2 runs a wicket in the 1924-25 season with Kyabram Cricket Club.

His recorded bowling history then reveals he claimed 2288 wickets at a cost of 15,040 runs at an average of 6.6 runs.

Any bowler worth his salt will verify that’s an insane average over such a lengthy period.

His 2000th wicket came on the final ball of the final over of the final match of the 1927-28 season playing for the Kyabram Wednesdays against his former club Lancaster.

Some old timers might remember whose wicket it was — another wily spinner called Bill Payne, who played cricket with Lancaster into his 60s.

By the time he had finished his career in 1940 at the age of 60, the man they called ‘‘Whitty’’ had taken more than 3000 wickets.