Joe Caprani feature
Joseph Desmond Caprani
Joe Caprani was somewhat of an enigma in Irish cricket: at club level he was a heavy and consistent scorer. The first to 10000 runs in Dublin competitive cricket, he finished with 11019, a record at the time, including 4 hundreds and 86 fifties.
For Ireland however, he has to be described as a failure, managing only 125 runs from 13 innings at an average of 9.82.
At his best he was a superb player of spin bowling. Quick footed he would advance far down the wicket to stun the turn at birth or launch into his powerful drives. He was particularly strong on the on side. He also had a sound defensive technique and patience second to none. He captained each of his three clubs, winning several Cup Finals in the process, and was a fine fielder at mid on or mid off.
He often, but not invariably, opened the batting, presenting a strong defence against the fast attack. His Clontarf career ran from 1937 to 1951 and saw him reach 3027 runs. He captained them to Cup success in 1950, but arguably made a greater contribution to the victory in the Final of 1943, their first such success.
This was in the days of single innings, play to a finish, unlimited overs, cup matches. Clontarf reached 219 v Pembroke a winning score, helped by a 270 minute 51 from Joe, which included 10 fours!
For Leinster he also passed 3000 runs and captained them to two Cup Final victories: 1955 when he made a painstaking 67 and the following year when he hit 60. He had also made a half-century in 1953, when the Rathmines team regained the Cup after a 12-year absence. In all he hit 3 hundreds for Leinster, two were against his former team mates but the highest was v Phoenix, 131, at Rathmines in 1957.
In 1958 he joined Malahide and continued to score heavily, being just short of 5000 runs for them when he retired. He had passed his fifty-second birthday, when an innings of 30, appropriately at Rathmines took him past the 11000 run mark.
In domestic representative cricket, his form continued. He appeared regularly for Leinster in the old style Interprovincials and captained the South on occasions in the trial match v the North, scoring a century in one of these games.
However, as mentioned above, it was a different matter when he pulled on an Irish sweater. He could be described as being a pale shadow of the confident batsman, who was the bane of bowlers in Dublin cricket.
On his first appearance he fell to Alec Coxon for 3, as the visiting Yorkshire side swept Ireland aside before rain intervened. Coxon was just days away from his one and only Test match when he removed the Australian opener Sid Barnes for a duck. Sid made 141 in the second innings!
In all Caprani played only five double figure innings for Ireland. He passed 20 only once, top scoring with 44 v Scotland in the first innings at College Park in 1955 - a match Ireland lost by an innings. Otherwise his best score was 19, achieved twice: v MCC at Lord's in 1955, when quality leg spinner Ian Bedford swept the visitors batting aside and the following season at Edinburgh.
Why did a batsman of such evident class prove a failure for his country? Anyone who saw him bat at club level would dismiss any thoughts of temperament or nerves. As four of his matches were against Scotland he was hardly outclassed by superior opposition. His failures against Coxon and Bedford were shared with most of his team mates.
Playing MCC at Rathmines in 1948 he fell to HD "Hopper" Read, a Test opening bowler, but "Hopper" who died in 2000 aged 90, was long past his top pace. Perhaps the answer was simply pure chance. All batsmen have runs of small scores. Did Joe's simply coincide with his Irish appearances?
After retirement he became an umpire and then took up coaching. In both these thankless roles he was widely respected. In 1983, he was a popular and hard working President of the Irish Cricket Union.