Against All OddsArchie Mac |
Author: Piesse, K and Browning, M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Many will not remember but back in the day there weren’t Test series played in Australia every season. This was the case in the summer of 1966-67 and Against All Odds is the story of the Victorian cricket team and their underdog victory in the Sheffield Shield.
While there was no home Test series that summer, Australia were touring South Africa (they lost emphatically) and five of Victoria’s best were on the tour – Bill Lawry, Keith Stackpole, Ian Redpath, Bob Cowper and Graeme Watson. The team that was left was a combination of unknowns and a couple of nearly men, at the time anyway, in Alan Connolly and Ken Eastwood.
This mishmash of talent was skilfully pulled together by the captain, Jack Potter. Most of the players agreed that Potter was the best captain they ever played under and he was to use this man management talent to later become a well respected coach.
The tactics employed by Potter (Pottsy) and embraced by his young team appear ahead of their time and add to Potter’s reputation as a teacher and thinker on the game, and all this for $7 a day. With such poor financial reward it is no wonder so many talented cricketers from this period retired before the age of 30.
The book takes us through each game but rather than a perfunctory ball by ball description the authors have chosen to focus on a couple of different Victorian players and their perspective of the match in question. These brief depictions are unique and take you into the Victorian dressing rooms and explore the frailties of the players.
Alan Connolly claimed the most wickets for Victoria and his efforts not only helped his team to the title they catapulted him back into the Australian Test side. It seems that Connolly was bowling reverse swing throughout the season without actually realising or understanding how. One wonders what might have happened to fast bowling if he had unlocked the secret before Sarfraz Nawaz.
Apart from Al Pal (Connolly) we meet all the Victorian participants including some real characters in wicket keeper, Ray ‘The Slug’ Jordan; Bruce ‘The Tonker’ Thomas and John ‘The General’ Grant, a fast bowler who didn’t quite make it to the next level. In fact it seems they all had nicknames which sometimes made it hard to follow who was who, although this is mitigated by an excellent index that provides all the players’ monikers.
In following an Australian domestic season Against All Odds is a rare beast in Australian cricketing publishing. Perhaps this is because of the, in relative terms, truncated nature of an Australian domestic season. The 1966-67 season, for example, featured just eight shield matches per state. England on the other hand has produced some fine books on domestic seasons such as Mods & Blockers; 8 Days a Week; It Never Rains, but then in years gone by the Championship has on occasion comprised as many as 32 matches, and to date has never seen less than 16 games played.
It is to be hoped that the quality of Against All Odds, will see a proliferation of similar books on domestic Australian cricket seasons. The book is available from Ken Piesse at www.cricketbooks.com.au and is in a limited edition format of 221 copies.