Bradman, Benaud and Goddard’s CinderellasArchie Mac |
Author: Whitington, RS 'Dick'
Rating: 3.5 stars
The title, once you have perused the book, makes sense. R.S. Whitington (RSW), loved to go off on a tangent in all of his works and here, in what is primarily a tour book, he writes short pen portraits of Bradman, who was chairman of selectors at the time and Benaud, who announced his retirement during the South African tour of Australasia in 1963-64. Trevor Goddard was the South African captain and the Cinderellas refers to the fact that RSW, and many others, thought SA should have won the series against Australia instead of the one all draw that transpired.
The blame for SA failing to win the series, in the opinion of RSW, is the defensive influence of their manager Ken Viljoen. RSW refers to Viljoen’s negative tactics and his control of Goddard throughout the book. He was also critical of Viljoen for his treating the players like children and enforcing curfews. RSW asserts that it would have been easier not to write censoriously of the SA manager and avoid the resulting controversy his comments generated.
RSW was in a unique position to write this book, having just returned to live in Australia after a few years residing in SA. He was close enough to both camps to be able to elicit confidences from both sides and respected enough to have his advice heeded when he suggested field changes to assist the SA spinners. The author also felt free to criticise the Australian team and highlights the paucity of the bowling attack handed over from Benaud to the new Australian captain: “Bobby Simpson inherited a gun but there were no bullets in it”.
RSW writes that the publisher’s brief was to keep this book to 75,000 words. This might explain why there are no score cards reproduced for any of the eight Tests described (five in Australia and three in NZ). How many words RSW would have utilised if he had been given a free reign would be interesting, but one would think well over 150,000. After all even with a restriction of 75,000 he takes until page 152 to commence his coverage of the first Test.
Instead of cricket we have a chapter dedicated to the differences of living in England, SA and Australia and the variances in the inhabitants. RSW also delves into apartheid. There were anti-apartheid demonstrations during the tour, and while RSW doesn’t support the practice some of his comments are at best condescending to the black people of SA. For example he refers to them as ‘children’, although he clearly believed this to be an altruistic interpretation.
Further diversions feature such topics as cigarettes and the then recent medical evidence that they were carcinogenic. RSW writes that as so many of the Australian team were employed by cigarette companies that all the players and press corps were provided with free smokes. RSW also complains that taking his two sons to a day of Test cricket cost the exorbitant price of over one pound.
The NZ portion of the tour is crammed into just 16 pages as RSW was clearly running out of his 75,000 word allocation. Although with the go slow tactics employed by the Kiwis, the series did not produce a result, it was probably a good thing that he kept his account brief.
As always RSW is immensely readable and while his roaming style and habit of expressing his opinion as fact will not endear this book to all readers, at least he can never be accused of sitting on the fence or of being dull.