Stewie Dempster

CHARLES STEWART DEMPSTER, who accomplished such great things in batting for the New Zealanders during their tour here last summer, was born at Wellington, New Zealand, on November 15, 1903. When he came here with the first team in 1927 he showed himself to be a very sound, capable batsman, and those who took part in the tour to New Zealand under the captaincy of Harold Gilligan all said how greatly he had improved. Few people in England, however, were quite prepared for the astonishing form he displayed last summer.

Owing to the wet and dismal weather the conditions generally, even for a player who had been here before, were all against a batsman from the Dominions doing himself real justice. Dempster, however, was in his stride at once, opening the campaign with an innings of 212 against Essex at Leyton and although, owing to a strain, he was out of the side for six matches in July and August he never really looked back, and ended the tour (so far as the first-class games were concerned) by hitting up 122 at Scarborough. In between these scores he played five other three-figure innings including one of 120 against England at Lord's.

These performances, therefore, are sufficient in themselves to show that in Dempster, New Zealand possessed the best batsman that country had ever produced. It is not too much to say that he stood out by himself yet, with success so constantly coming to him, he remained entirely his natural self, modest to a degree about his own skill and abilities.

Dempster as a batsman was eminently workmanlike in his methods, and he possessed the great advantage that he could suit his style to the necessities of the moment. Primarily, however, he was, without being at all rash, aggressive.

Good footwork enabled him to get to the ball on a slow wicket and he had almost every stroke at command, being very good in his driving, and skilful in turning the ball away on the leg side. In his defensive strokes he had the merit of playing with a very straight bat. Over and above his success as a batsman, he proved himself a smart and reliable fielder on the off side.

While living near the Basin Reserve, at the age of ten, he first had the idea of playing. He went from the Primary School into the school representative eleven for Wellington when he was thirteen and earlier on had played in junior boys matches in 1914 and 1915. Then, before he was seventeen, came club cricket for Wellington. In 1920 and 1921 he appeared in State cricket and he has played for Wellington ever since.

When A.C. MacLaren's team was in New Zealand he was twelfth man for his country. The following season he played for New Zealand and has done so until the present time. Dempster is practically a self-taught batsman. As he himself said: "I have never had any coaching but it was not until I came to England in 1927 that I learned cricket. That tour not only taught me not to do certain things which I had been in the habit of doing, but, more important still, the experience of English bowlers on English wickets opened my eyes to the real possibilities of how to make runs."

While appearing in club cricket he once made three hundreds in succession, his best score being 121. He has only made one century in the matches in connection with the Plunket Shield Competition. He thinks that, owing to the pitches being harder, batting is easier in New Zealand than in this country.

© John Wisden & Co