Bob Crisp in 1935
|Full name||Robert James Crisp|
28 May 1911|
Calcutta, Bengal, India
|Died||3 March 1994
Colchester, Essex, England
|Test debut||15 June 1935 v England|
|Domestic team information|
Source: Cricket Archive, 21 December 2009
Robert James Crisp DSO MC (28 May 1911 – 3 March 1994) was a South African cricketer who played in nine Tests from 1935 to 1936 before living for a while in England. He appeared for Rhodesia, Western Province, Worcestershire and South Africa. Though his Test bowling average lay over 37.00, Crisp had a successful first-class cricket career, with 276 wickets at 19.88. Crisp holds the distinction of being the only bowler in first-class cricket to have taken four wickets in four balls more than once.
Crisp was born in Calcutta, Bengal in India. He made sporadic appearances for Rhodesia between 1929 and 1931, taking only seven wickets before moving to Western Province for the 1931–32 season. He took 33 wickets that season at 14.93, including an eight-wicket haul against Griqualand West. He took three more five-wicket hauls in his 26 wicket-haul during the 1932/33 season, and scalped 27 more batsman in the 1933/34 season, including a career best 9/64 for Western Province.
Crisp toured England in 1935, taking 107 wickets in all at 19.58. He took 5/99 at Old Trafford for South Africa to help earn his team their first victory in England. This was one of eight five-wicket hauls on the tour. 13 of those wickets came in his five Test matches, at 34.15. He returned to South Africa to take nine expensive wickets at 45.33 – seven of these across four Test matches against Australia before returning to England once more and taking a four-wicket haul in a first-class match that summer. He toured Ceylon and Malaya with Sir Julien Cahn's XI in the 1936/37 season, taking six wickets in the first-class match against Ceylon, before returning to England once more in 1938 to take 44 wickets for Worcestershire including a spell of 5/0.
World War II and later life
Crisp served during World War II in the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, later writing two books documenting his experiences: The Gods Were Neutral and Brazen Chariots, the latter of which is considered one of the classic memoirs of tank warfare. These books covered his combat during the early part of the war, first during the British retreat in Greece, then the victory that followed in North Africa. He was decorated for his bravery during the North African campaign, and was also wounded there, nearly dying several times from shrapnel in his skull as well as subsequent infection. Bernard Montgomery, commanding, intervened to restrict Crisp's decorations given the latter's disrespect for authority. Crisp ended the war with a Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, and four "Mentioned in Dispatches".
He was also noted for his serial womanising and "crooning in the nightclubs" of Alexandria, and his wide-ranging travel – including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (he is the only Test cricketer to have climbed it twice) and swimming Loch Lomond. He went on to a career as a journalist, writing for Wisden and several newspapers. He helped found Drum for black South Africans. He sailed Greece, farmed minks in England, and wrote for the East Anglian Daily Times.
During the 1970s, Crisp was diagnosed with cancer, and responded by walking around Crete for a year supporting himself by selling his account to the Sunday Express. He remained outspoken on apartheid, advocating "a federation of semi-autonomous states, black and white" and arguing that "nothing else is feasible." The end of segregation "startled" him. He lived to see South Africa reintegrated into the international Test scene before dying in 1994.
Crisp wrote a number of books, including:
- The Gods Were Neutral: A British Tank Officer's Very Personal Account of the Ill-Fated Greek Campaign in WWII, 1961
- Brazen Chariots: An Account of Tank Warfare in the Western Desert, November–December 1941, 1959, ISBN 978-0-393-32712-0
- The Outlanders: The Men Who Made Johannesburg, 1964, ASIN: B0000CM9IW
- Zen and the Art of Donkey Maintenance, 2015, Bloomsbury, compiled from his travel journalism serialised in the Daily Express in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
- "Player Profile: Bob Crisp". Cricket Archive. Retrieved 19 December 2009. (Subscription required (. ))
- Firth, David (December 2009). "Survival of the fastest". Wisden Cricketer. Wisden. 7 (4): 14.
- "Vijay Cricket's darkest day". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
- "First-class Bowling in Each Season by Bob Crisp". Cricket Archive. Retrieved 20 December 2009. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Test Bowling in Each Season by Bob Crisp". Cricket Archive. Retrieved 20 December 2009. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Player Profile: Bob Crisp". CricInfo. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
- Frindall, Bill (2009). Ask Bearders. BBC Books. p. 135. ISBN 978-1-84607-880-4.
- Bob Crisp at ESPNcricinfo
- Bob Crisp at CricketArchive (subscription required)
- "The life of the most extraordinary man to play Test cricket" by Andy Bull