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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hassett, Arthur Lindsay (1913–1993)

by Tom Heenan

This article was published online in 2020

Lindsay Hassett, 1949

Lindsay Hassett, 1949

National Archives, A1200:L11826A

Arthur Lindsay Hassett (1913–1993), cricketer, was born on 28 August 1913 at Geelong, Victoria, youngest of nine children of Edward Hassett, accountant, and his wife Frances, née Favarger, both Victorian born. Though Catholic, Lindsay was educated (1924–32) at Geelong College, a Presbyterian school, where he excelled at sport. Playing cricket for the first XI from 1927 to 1932 (captain, 1930–32), he scored a school-record 2,335 runs. He was also the school tennis champion (1929–32) and a member (1929–32) of the first XVIII football team (captain, 1930–32).

While still at school, Hassett joined the South Melbourne Cricket Club in November 1931. In February the next year he was selected in a Victorian Country XI, scoring an unbeaten 147 against the touring West Indians. He made his debut for Victoria in February 1933, but he was dropped after several low scores and not recalled until the 1935–36 season. Consolidating his position in 1936–37, he notched his maiden first-class century (127) against the visiting New Zealand side in November 1937. A nimble-footed, right-handed stroke-player, like many of the best batsmen he was short, at five feet six and a half inches (169 cm). Selected in the 1938 Australian team to tour England, he struggled in Tests, though he guided Australia to victory and the Ashes with an invaluable 33 at Leeds, and finished third in the tour averages. His form peaked after his return to Australia, where he aggregated 967 first-class runs in 1938–39 and 897 in 1939–40, but the war interrupted his career.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 23 September 1940, Hassett served in the Middle East (1941–42) with the 2/2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Papua (1942–43) with the 2/4th Anti-Aircraft Battery, and New Guinea (1943–44) with the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Regiment. On 9 May 1942 at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Geelong, he married Tessie Irene Davis, a clerk. In August 1944 he joined the staff of the AIF Reception Group (United Kingdom), which repatriated former prisoners of war. He led the Australian Services team against a strong English XI in the Victory Tests in 1945, drawing the series 2–2. Returning to Australia via India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the team struggled against a Test-strength Indian XI, despite Hassett’s strong batting performances. Having risen to warrant officer, class two, he was discharged from the AIF on 20 February 1946 in Melbourne.

Hassett was selected in the Australian team that toured New Zealand in March 1946 but, with (Sir) Donald Bradman absent for the tour, he was overlooked for the captaincy in favour of Bill Brown. He was, however, appointed Victorian captain later that year, and as Bradman’s deputy for the 1946–47 series against England. Aged thirty-three, he scored his maiden Test century (128) in the opening Test in Brisbane. Against a weak Indian attack in 1947–48, he made his highest Test score, an unbeaten 198 in Adelaide. No longer the pre-war stroke-player, but a dour run accumulator, he scored 310 runs at an average of 44.28 per dismissal in Test matches during the 1948 tour of England, and 1,563 runs at 74.42 in tour matches. Named among Wisden’s five cricketers of the year, he was praised for his ‘cheerfulness and leadership’ (Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1949, 88), which contrasted with the solitary, win-at-all-costs Bradman. The journalist Ray Robinson credited Hassett with ‘keeping the 1948 side ticking over as a companionable party’ (Robinson 1950, 25). Although he captained the team in nine tour matches, winning seven, the Australian Board of Control doubted his leadership qualities. He was too informal and anti-authoritarian, and a Catholic in a game controlled by Protestants and Freemasons. After Bradman retired, however, Hassett was appointed captain over Arthur Morris on the final casting vote.

During the tour of South Africa in 1949–50, players appeared more relaxed under Hassett’s leadership. Australia won the series 4–0 and Hassett, despite bouts of tonsillitis, scored 402 runs at 67.00. In 1950–51 he led Australia to victory over Freddie Brown’s touring Englishmen in what E. W. Swanton described as ‘a conspicuously friendly tour’ (1951, 18). Hassett proved a ‘charming opponent’ and ‘tactful diplomat’ (Swanton 1951, 18), but his captaincy was under fire. The journalist A. G. Moyes found his batting dreary and his tactics ‘bewildering’ (1951, 240), while R. S. Whitington dismissed him as a ‘clock captain’ (1969, 164). Hassett remained consistent with the bat and was the leading Australian run-scorer in 1950–51 (366 runs), and during the 1951–52 tour by the West Indian team (402 runs).

In 1953 the forty-year-old Hassett led a team of unproven youngsters and fading veterans to England. He again topped Australia’s Test batting aggregate and averages, but the team lost the series 1–0. Uncharacteristically, he requested the removal of a leading English umpire, Frank Chester, for the final Test, and was openly critical of the younger Australian players’ performances. Yet he remained gracious in defeat and retained his devil-may-care humour. After a waiter spilled dessert over Hassett’s jacket and trousers at London’s Park Royal Hotel, he removed them and continued eating in his underpants.

Hassett was a popular captain, a great middle-order batsman, and a greater ambassador. His teammate Keith Miller considered him to be the ‘most popular cricketing ambassador of the age’ (Miller 1954, 56). In a career shortened by war, he played 43 Tests, captained Australia 29 times, and scored 3,073 runs at an average of 45.56. His 10 Test centuries came after the age of thirty-three. In 216 first-class matches he amassed 16,890 runs at 58.24 with 59 centuries. Appointed MBE on 1 January 1953, he was honoured with a testimonial match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to mark his retirement. In presenting Hassett with the cheque for £5,503, Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies remarked: ‘I don’t know that we have had a better representative abroad in recent years than Lindsay Hassett’ (Argus 1954, 7).

In retirement, Hassett concentrated on the Melbourne sports store that he had opened in 1949, which he expanded to several branches before selling the business in 1959. He wrote for Australian and British newspapers during the 1950s and 1960s and joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s commentary team in 1956. An authoritative voice, he grew critical of what he saw as Test cricket’s declining standards in the 1960s and the boorish player behaviour of the 1970s. Retiring from broadcasting in 1981, he moved to Batehaven on the New South Wales south coast, where he pursued his interests in fishing and golf. Survived by his wife and their two daughters, he died there on 16 June 1993 and was cremated. He was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in 2003. The Lindsay Hassett Oval at Albert Park, Melbourne, is named for him.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne). ‘Duke Wanted to Applaud Hassett the “Envoy.”’ 28 February 1954, 7
  • Fingleton, J. H. W. The Ashes Crown the Year: A Coronation Cricket Diary. Sydney: Collins, 1954
  • McHarg, Jack. Lindsay Hassett: One of a Kind. East Roseville, NSW: Simon & Schuster, 1998
  • Miller, Keith. ‘Comment.’ Sun (Sydney), 14 January 1954, 56
  • Moyes, A. G. The Fight for the Ashes 1950–1951: A Critical Account of the English Tour in Australia. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1951
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, VX38843
  • Robinson, Ray. ‘Hassett More Relaxed than Bradman.’ Herald (Melbourne), 5 October 1950, 25
  • Robinson, Ray. On Top Down Under: Australia’s Cricket Captains. Stanmore, NSW: Cassell, 1975
  • Swanton, E. W. Elusive Victory: With F. R. Brown’s M.C.C. Team 1950–51: An Eyewitness Account. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1951
  • Whitington, R. S. The Quiet Australian: The Lindsay Hassett Story. London, Melbourne: Heinemann, 1969
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. ‘Five Cricketers of the Year: Lindsay Hassett.’ 86 (1949): 88–90
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. ‘Obituary: Lindsay Hassett.’ 131 (1994): 1343–45

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Tom Heenan, 'Hassett, Arthur Lindsay (1913–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/hassett-arthur-lindsay-29684/text36720, published online 2020, accessed online 23 September 2020.

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