From Flock to Baggy GreenMartin Chandler |
Author: Haigh, Gideon
Publisher: Australian Wool Innovation Limited
Rating: 4 stars
Anyone with a half decent cricket library will own a few books with Gideon Haigh’s name on the spine. Haigh has written extensively on the game and the acquisition of a full collection of his output is a laudable aim for a cricketing bibliophile, albeit a rather more difficult one than it should be for those of us who live in the northern hemisphere.
Any search for some of the ‘Australia only’ titles in Haigh’s oeuvre will teach the seeker that our man is nothing if not versatile. In addition to his cricketing titles he has also written extensively on business and commerce, as well writing what look like a couple of interesting true crime books. The latter is of no relevance here, but the business expertise is, as Haigh has produced a fascinating essay on the links between cricket and the wool industry, the importance of which to the Australian economy was something I must confess to having never really appreciated before reading From Flock to Baggy Green, although perhaps I should have.
The story Haigh has to tell started in the last year of the nineteenth century. For the third time in 2018 Joe Darling is amongst the dramatic personae of a cricket book, albeit this time in a supporting rather than starring role. It was the Australian touring party that Darling led in England in 1899 who first started playing in the ‘uniform’ that all its successors have donned.
Haigh goes on to chronicle the ups and downs of the wool industry and also the lives and careers of a few of the many cricketers who have been involved in it. Those featured include Roger Hartigan, a man whose full flowering as a batsman was prevented by his business commitments. Between the wars two fascinating and neglected Test cricketers were heavily involved in the industry. The first was Harry ‘Bull’ Alexander, whose sole appearance as a fast bowler was in the fifth ‘Bodyline’ Test, and he was followed by Jack Badcock, a batsman with a fine First Class record who scored a century at the MCG in 1936/37, but failed to even get into double figures in any of his other eleven Test innings.
After the war that most obdurate of opening batsmen, Ian Redpath, was a wool man, as more recently were a whole family of Marshes, as well as Brad Hogg. All the stories are skilfully woven together and, the acid test of any monograph such as this, leave the reader wanting to know much more about the characters who feature. Sadly Hartigan, Badcock and Alexander have so far eluded the attention of Australian biographers, but another man featured, Tom Wills, whose First Class career ended a year before the inaugural Test Match, has been covered and Haigh’s mention of him has propelled Greg De Moore’s biography to the top of my ‘pending’ pile.
From Flock to Baggy Green is an excellent read and highly recommended even if, unexpectedly, it does contain a mistake. I am sure that neither man in the photograph on page 43 is Colin Cowdrey, but the man examining a carpet with the Australian High Commissioner in 1965 is familiar – Les Ames perhaps?