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Elias "Patsy" Hendren

Patsy’s Hat

Throwback Thursday


From Test match level right down to under-8s enjoying their first taste of cricket, protective helmets have been part and parcel of cricket for more than three decades now.

But the origins of wearing something to protect the skull go back to the pre-War era and a player synonymous with Middlesex but with strong Sussex links as well.

Patsy Hendren was one of the great pre-War batsman, playing in 51 Tests and scoring more than 60,000 runs in his career including a staggering 177 centuries.

He was also something of a character, who would liven up games going nowhere with imaginative declarations or bowling changes.

Patsy – his real name was Elias but he was called Patsy because of his Irish ancestry – was also astute in recognising, unlike some of his peers, that a cricket ball on the head could hurt. Or rather, his wife did.

In 1933 Hendren caused something of a sensation at Lord’s when he came out to bat against the West Indies' fast bowlers Constantine and Martindale in a Test match wearing a special cap.

Made by his wife, this cap had three peaks, two of which covered the ears and temples, and was lined with sponge rubber.

Two years earlier Hendren had been struck on the head by a bouncer and wanted extra protection. He said that wearing the special cap – it could hardly be described as a helmet – also allowed him to play the hook and pull shots with more confidence.

Hendren retired and turned to cricket coaching, first at Harrow School and then for four years after the War at Hove. The late Jack Oakes, who played for Sussex between 1937-51, remembers a happy-go-lucky character that enjoyed passing on his knowledge to young players: “Patsy coming to Sussex was a great boost for the county. He helped a lot of the youngsters after the War and was always smiling and joking.”

Hendren returned to Middlesex to become the county’s scorer and died in 1962.

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