|Substitute fielders are as old as cricket itself.|
|by Gulu Ezekiel|
|Sep 12, 2005|
The controversy over the use of substitute fielders by
England in the Ashes series is nothing new. In
fact, it goes back 75 years.
England are in fact the only Test playing nation which
name a 12th man who is then often released back to his
county side as first-class cricket goes on full steam
even during a Test series. And counties resent some of
their big names cooling their heels in the England
team pavilion while their sides are engaged in crucial
England then are forced to call on young members of
the ground staff who are apprentices with the county
where the Test match is being played.
Often these youngsters have never played first-class
cricket before pulling on an English shirt and sweater
in their temporary roles.
Ponting’s argument at Trent Bridge was that England’s
fast bowlers were constantly going off the field for a
quick break between spells. They would be temporarily
replaced by fit, young men.
It was at this same ground exactly 75 years that a
young man on the Notts ground staff by the name of
Sydney Herbert Copley took a magnificent catch as a
substitute that turned the tide of the Test match.
According to the book Bradman: The Illustrated
Biography by Michael Page, Australia were battling to
save the first Test after being set a target of 429
runs on the final day.
“Harold Larwood was suffering from some passing
indisposition and did not feel well enough to field.
Normally, of course, he would have been replaced by
the selected twelfth man. Instead, the English captain
APF Chapman asked Australian captain Bill Woodfull’s
agreement to replacing him with a member of the Notts
ground staff, named Copley. In Australia, such a
procedure would have been unheard of.
But Woodfull agreed and it transpired that Copley was
a much more athletic character than England’s twelfth
man. At mid-on he took a fantastic diving catch, low
down, as he rolled over, to dismiss Stan McCabe.
Certainly Woodfull had consented to Copley fielding,
but the incident raised something of a storm about the
English custom of not rigidly adhering to the
originally accepted twelve men.”
McCabe was out for 49, Australia were all out for 335
and lost the match by 93 runs. They however won the
Copley was never heard of again. He played just one
first-class match in his career and died in 1986, at
the age of 81.
Page’s version of the incident is however disputed by
Anglo-Australian author and cricket historian David
According to Frith, Copley was in fact the 13th man.
The 12th man was Duleepsinhji who was already on the
field, substituting for the injured Herbert Sutcliffe.
Other substitute fielders down the years have more
than played their part in Test matches.
India'’s Gursharan Singh played just one Test and one
ODI in his career, both in New Zealand in 1990.
However, it was seven years earlier that he had
created a bit of cricket history by taking four
catches while substituting for the injured Roger Binny
in the third Test against the West Indies at Ahmedabad
in November 1983. Three of those came off the bowling
off Kapil Dev in the second innings in which the
Indian captain captured 9 for 83. India were beaten by
That record was equaled in August 2001 by Pakistan’s
Younis Khan against Bangladesh in the Asian Test
championship match at Multan. All came in the second
innings and all off leg spinner Danish Kaneria.
New Zealand'’s John Bracewell holds the record for
ODIs, also four vs. Australia at Adelaide in 1980.