Australians Abroad

Published: 1983
Pages: 476
Author: Whitington, RS (Dick)
Publisher: The Five Mile Press
Rating: 4 stars

Australians Abroad

A modern cricket author, once described the writings of R.S. Whitington as ‘grating.’ It is certainly not an ambiguous description, but for an author who wrote over twenty books it is simply misleading if not grossly wrong.

Whitington has a conversational style of writing in which his habit of roaming off in tangents can be frustrating but is nearly always entertaining. By the time he wrote his last book Australians Abroad R.S Whitington was at the top of his writing form. Moving effortlessly from Australia’s first tour in 1880 through to the last covered in the book against Sri Lanka in 1983. The book gives a brief description of every Test Match played in the period – approximately two pages – which includes a complete scorecard for each Test.

Whitington had strong opinions and was quite forthright in expressing them. From apartheid to Bradman he tells it how he sees it. On Bradman he has been maligned just as Bill O’Reilly and Jack Fingleton have been for daring to criticise the greatest of all Test batsman. Whitington was never as venomous as the Irish Catholics. Often praising Bradman – he wrote in this book for instance that Bradman ‘was almost unbelievably modest.’ Whitington always seemed to feel that Bradman had never accepted him, when he was a young man trying to make it as an opening batsman in the South Australian Sheffield Shield team.

Whitington writes with reverence about the players before his time. He writes with understanding about his contemporaries and he writes – as do many authors as they age – with slightly veiled contempt about the players of the 70s. His book about the Ashes Test series of 1970-71 gives an idea of his feelings when he named it Captains Outrageous? His coverage in this book of the first Test from Brisbane sums up the style of ‘Dick’ Whitington. Bored and being hurried up by a young step daughter (the author was married four times) he leaves the match on the evening of the fourth day and drives to Sydney, there his description of the match ends and the reader is left with the scorecards to work out the fifth days play.

The other idiosyncrasy of Whitington was his complete fallibility when it came to fact checking. In his book on Bill O’Reilly Time of the Tiger, when discussing the history of leg-spin he gives the birth date of that great English underhand bowler ‘Old’ Clarke as 17 March 1850 and then pontificates about why Clarke was not selected in the first Test of 1877 when he would have been in his prime. In fact Clarke had been dead for over 25 years when the first Test Match was played.

At the time of writing Australians Abroad R.S Whitington, in one of his journeys away from the narrative at hand, writes that he was preparing to produce a three-way biography of Don Bradman, Robert Menzies (cricket loving Australian Prime-mister) and Frank Packer (father of Kerry), but alas Whitington died just under a year after this, his last book, was published.

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