The greatest English sportsman of all time?

Charles Fry, known commonly as CB Fry is one of the legendary figures of English sport, and some would consider him the greatest English sportsman of all time. He was educated at Repton and Oxford and captained the university soccer, cricket and athletics teams, all in the same year.

C.B.Fry, right, with Ranji

Had he not sustained a leg injury two weeks before the Varsity rugby game, Fry would have been a ‘quadruple Blue’. He was also an excellent scholar, having gained a senior scholarship to Wadham College and gained a First in Classical Moderations. Due to his sporting commitments though he only achieved a Fourth in his Finals.

C.B. Fry, in Blackheath’s colours

An FA Cup Final with Southampton

He was a natural in several sports : playing football for England and for Southampton in an FA Cup Final, and equalling the world long jump record with a jump of 23ft 6.5 inches.

Fry joined Sussex in 1894 and when Ranji joined a year later large partnerships between the two of them became regular features of Sussex games. The two men showed contrasting styles with the  technically correct Fry against the wristy strokes of Ranji. Fry liked to study the technical aspects of the game and his powers of concentration enabled him to dominate most bowlers. He had an excellent defence, a good straight drive and was particularly good at working the ball away on the off side.

Fry scored over 2,000 runs in six different seasons between 1899 and 1905. In his best season of 1901, he scored 3,147 runs with 13 centuries including six in successive innings. In the eight seasons from 1898 Fry was twice first in the national averages, and four times second. His first-class average of 50.22 is high for a low scoring era. From 1901 he began a solid opening partnership with Joe Vine, with Vine playing the anchor role.

A regular in the England side at home

Fry did not particularly enjoy touring for he never visited Australia and only went to South Africa on one occasion. He was though a fixture in the England team in home matches from 1899 although his Test record (with an average of just 32) is not particularly remarkable when compared to his County record.

Following his move to Hampshire in 1909, Fry captained England on a number of occasions including during the triangular tournament in 1912. Fry also captained the Sussex team from 1904 until 1908 (sharing the role with C.L.A. Smith in 1906). His career batting average for Sussex was 56, which included twelve double centuries which only Ranji bettered whilst his score of 68 centuries, also for Sussex, was exceeded only by John Langridge who played many more innings than Fry (388 innings for Sussex as against 972 by John Langridge).

In 1898 Fry married Beatrice Holme-Sumner, a woman ten years older than he and together they began a joint venture – that of running the Cadet Training Ship Mercury at Hamble. It was because of this commitment that Fry moved to Hampshire in 1909 and for whom he played until 1921 when he 49 years old.

As well as playing cricket, Fry wrote several books on the sport including an autobiography and a novel with his wife. He attempted to enter the House of Commons and worked for Ranji both as his secretary in Nawanagar and at the League of Nations. In 1921 he was even considered as a future King of Albania before he decided he could not afford the required lifestyle.

CB Fry