Melbourne-born Bert Kortlang ran away from home at the age of 18 and clocked up more shipping miles than any other cricketer in the opening three decades of the 20th century. Between 1910 and 1912, he appeared in 17 first-class cricket matches for Victoria. Between 1922 and 1927, he played 15 matches for Wellington in New Zealand. He also played for an Australian XI in 1911 and for a New Zealand XI in 1924.
He played first-class cricket for Victoria (1910–12) and was selected for an Australian XI against South Africa in 1910. A decade later, he spent four seasons in Wellington (1922–27) and was picked to represent New Zealand against Melbourne CC in 1924. Bert Kortlang was a reliably consistent performer with the bat; he ended his career with an impressive first-class average of just a nudge under 50. After finding his way in life, he ventured to New Zealand in the 1920s, where he established a reputation for vanishing to unknown places at the end of each summer.
The reason for his sudden departures and subsequent surprise reappearances, not well understood at the time, can now be revealed. The wandering lifestyle he chose led him to be dubbed the Globe-Trotting Cricketer. In the days before air travel, Kortlang played club cricket on both the east and west coasts of the United States and Canada and has enjoyed stints in Bermuda and Argentina in a career spanning 1902-29.
Altogether, he played around 350 competitive games on cricket fields around the globe and rattled up almost 20,000 runs along the way. A natural sportsman, he was also proficient at billiards and baseball and made his mark in both sports. In later years, he became a sports journalist, radio commentator, coach, and administrator in the sports he enjoyed.
The man with a restless spirit had numerous occupations, from gold mining to journalism, and he dodged some near-death experiences over the years. This in-depth biography of Bert Kortlang is an entertaining story, full of adventure, that explores his sporting career in Australasia and also extends to the cricket scene in North America and other worldwide locations. Jan, his daughter, was born in January 1937 in Perth. Jan’s godfather wasDon Bradman, a good friend of Kortlang.
From the 1890s to the 1930s, Bert Kortlang traveled widely around the world, playing cricket wherever he went. Most of the reasons for his travels and the means by which he financed them remain unknown. Afterward, Sir Pelham Warner wrote: “He pops up everywhere; one hears of him here, one hears of him there.”