A weekly feature on some of Hornsey's greatest legends...
Between 1946 and 1953 Rusi Cooper bestrode Hornsey cricket like a colossus. Even in our outstanding postwar side Cooper stood out for both his weight of runs and the elegance with which he batted. 5,968 runs at an average of 85.25 (excluding 1947, where figures are not available), his stats for the club are near Bradmanesque, and his shot selection abided by one of the Don’s batting axioms: keep the ball on the ground.
For all the mountains of runs, those who played alongside Cooper could never remember a single instance of him hitting a six.
It was another batting great, Denis Compton, who spotted Rustom Sorabji Cooper (born 22 December 1922) and brought him to the attention of Middlesex cricket.
Although Rusi’s batting style wouldn’t have been suited to the IPL he was a young sensation in Indian domestic cricket, playing for both the Parsees and his native Bombay, scoring a century in the 1945 Ranji Trophy against CK Nayudu’s Holkar.
Compton, stationed with the Army in India during the Second World War, played for the Holkar in that match and had in fact, witnessed another hundred by Rusi the week before when he was playing for the Cricket Club of India. He was so impressed by Cooper’s performance that he informed Middlesex about his new discovery.
Hornsey Legends | Picture of the 1952 Hornsey 1st XI which included R.S. Cooper.
Indian players in county cricket were a rarity at the time, but Cooper was sufficiently encouraged to take up a place at the London
School of Economics in 1946 and to pursue his cricketing career in Europe.
He arrived with a letter if recommendation addressed to Colonel PS Rait Kerr, secretary of the MCC, written by KS Duleepsinhji. He played some cricket for Indian Gymkhana and for a nomadic side called the Buccaneers, playing for Hornsey on a Sunday.
He turned out often for Middlesex 2nd XI (including one match at Tivoli Road, in fact). However, as is still the case, the serious
cricket was played on a Saturday and Rusi shifted his allegiance to Hornsey’s extremely strong Saturday side and its impressive fixture list. The rest, as they say, is history.
His debut season in 1946 harvested 571 runs at an average of 114.2, and went on to make 19 centuries for the club (18 if them not
out!), with a top score of 135* against Richmond in 1950.
Cooper scored over a 1,000 runs in a summer on three occasions for Hornsey, in 1948, 1952 and 1953. Arthur Cornick said he was at his best in a run chase. He would be 30* before anyone had realised he was even off the mark, and would time a run chase to perfection.It was said that he would often win the game in the last over, with the winning runs bringing up his century.
In 1950 he scored 945 runs at an average of 157.50. This included his epic month of June 1950, when he batted 8 times, 6 not out, for 624 runs at an average of 312.00.
The golden English sporting summer on 1953 was Cooper’s most prolific and sadly his last for the club. He scored 1,117 in his 19
innings that summer at an average of 139.62 – by some distance the highest average of any Hornsey 1,000 run season.
He would make sporadic appearances for Middlesex – a final first class batting average of 52.39 confirms his talent – but happily spent his most productive success at Tivoli Road.
With such a rich vein of form in 1953 it’s little wonder that Cooper was considered very close to a call up to the touring Indian side that year for the tour of England. However he had also qualified as a barrister and decided to return home at the end of the year with his English wife.
He made a visit, anonymously, to Tivoli Road in the late 1960s. In London on business, he spent the afternoon watching the 1st XI play, without being recognised, and then slipped away at the end of the match without anyone realizing who he was.
His life and location took on an element of mystery until Johnny Bruce tracked him down in 2008. Various attempts to find him via the Indian Cricket authorities were unsuccessful and, indeed, it was not even known whether Rusi was dead or alive.
Then out of the blue, Cricinfo stated on his profile page that he was President of the Rotary Club of Singapore in 1984-85. An email was sent to the Rotary Club of Singapore and within 10 minutes a reply was received saying that the Rusi Cooper from the Rotary Club was NOT the Rusi Cooper from Hornsey CC.
It did, however, also state that the Rusi Cooper we were after lived in Bombay, and here was his ‘phone number. We rang him, and Rusi had his first contact with anyone from Hornsey for 55 years. He was delighted to receive a copy of the Hornsey Almanack which fully reflected his status as a Hornsey great and we enjoyed many conversations with him reminiscing about games and players past.
Meeting a legend | Current club captain Chetan Patel meets Rusi while on holiday in India in 2008.
Chetan Patel was about to holiday in India and was delighted to meet up with Rusi at the Cricket Club of India a few days ahead of the great man’s 86th birthday in 2008.
Chet was glad to report back on of a fabulously fit and agile enthusiast for the game with many cherished memories of some glittering years at Hornsey, on and off the cricketing field.
His cricket career had stalled on his return to India due to a serious knee injury, but he was still an avid spectator and follower of
A delightful player and person, Rusi Cooper is one of the players that made Hornsey special and a crucial part of our club’s legacy.
George Hillyard Swinstead was at the heart of not just Hornsey Cricket Club but Crouch End’s cultural life in the late Victorian and
He was born in 1860 into a renowned artistic family – his father Charles formed the Hornsey College of Art which is situated at the top of Crouch End Hill and is now part of Coleridge School. It was particularly famous in 1968 for a student demo which attracted national press attention.
His brothers Frank and Arthur were also accomplished painters.
Frank Swinstead was also a Hornsey legend playing from 1883 to 1913. He played a first class match for MCC in 1880. They were one of the five great Hornsey CC sets of brothers and rank alongside Sydney Clarke and Ben Clarke (late 19th century) and just ahead of the Patel brothers (Chetan and Sanjay) and the Gregory brothers (Ian and Joel). The Pearman brothers (Roger and Hugh) pip them at the post as Hornsey’s best ever brothers pairing.
George himself was admitted into the Royal Academy of Arts in 1881, gaining exhibition space at the RA in the following year. He was acknowledged in his early career as one of the best portrait painters in London, before proving his versatility in his later years with equally accomplished coastal and genre paintings.
He was rewarded with election to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1907 and his paintings fetch thousands of pounds when they come up at auction.
Swinstead was as talented with bat as with brush and his feats for the club stand out even in the present day. He scored three of the club’s top twenty recorded innings, and totalled 8,402 runs for Hornsey (at an average of 28.48, very high for an era of uncovered and often untended pitched) as well as 808 wickets at just 12.64.
Playing for the club between 1884 and 1902 he scored fifteen centuries, thanks to his signature big hitting – he won a game against
St Bart’s Hospital with two sixes off the final three balls of the innings, at a time when sixes were only awarded if the ball was hit out of the ground.
Swinstead also took nine wickets in an innings for Hornsey, against London Ramblers in May 1893.He left Hornsey after the 1900 season (he played a few games in 1901 and 1902) and joined Hampstead CC - we think because he moved to the Hampstead area - but Hornsey certainly had his best years.
Unsurprisingly his cricketing prowess was rewarded by stints in the Middlesex second XI. After his death on January 16th 1926 Swinstead received an obituary in that year’s Wisden, which noted his career for both Hornsey and Hampstead, as well as his authorship of The New Cricket pamphlet and “cricket menu cards much prized by collectors”.
Cricket pamphlets were not Swinstead’s sole publications, for he also found time to write a book: My Old-World Garden and How I Made It In a London Suburb.
A true Hornsey legend and a remarkable character as well as a formidable cricketer.
Hornsey Legends is a new weekly feature which will look at players from the club’s past and give an insight into the
history of Hornsey Cricket Club.