George Lohmann, Pioneer Professional

Published: 2007
Pages: 352
Author: Booth, Keith
Publisher: SportsBooks Ltd
Rating: 3 stars

George Lohmann, Pioneer Professional

My uncle who is a prolific reader (he has no internet, no TV, no phone) once told me he reads at least the first 100 pages of each book he picks up. Well after 100 pages of George Lohmann, I was about ready to give up.

I am not 100% sure why, maybe it has something do to with the opinion of E.W. Swanton when he wrote;
‘There are those who profess an interest in juvenile memories. I can only say that, as a reader, I have usually either skipped or skimmed impatiently through the early years even of great men. The middle teens, surely, are time enough to start the story’.

The first 100 pages of this book deal a lot with where George Lohmann and his family were living, plus a rather perfunctory account of the early years of Lohmann the county cricketer, and rather more annoyingly an equally perfunctory account of his early Test matches and his first two tours of Australia.

But just when I was about to despair Booth gives a detailed account of W.G. Grace’s tour down under in 1891/92, in which Lohmann features strongly and Australian cricket sees the establishment of the Sheffield Shield.

From then on the book is first class, with Booth (or his wife, who does most of the research for her husband) having seemingly read everything of relevance pertaining to Lohmann. One publication that is often quoted is; Cricket – a weekly record of the game. I have not collected these in the past, but am very tempted too after reading some knowledgeable quotes in this book.

Booth gives some insightful descriptions of the Lohmann bowing action and mind set, as well as presenting a strong case for Lohmann as the greatest bowler in the history of the game. He still holds the best Test average and best strike rate.

The author also paints George Lohmann as one of the first professionals who was both educated and articulate. Although he briefly flirts with the supposition that Lohmann may have been a homosexual.

Reading the book you know that sooner or later, despite all of the success Lohmann was destined to die of tuberculosis at the young age of 37. With no known cure at the time (1890s) Lohmann was sent to South Africa to recuperate and hopefully to make a full recovery.

Although in the Veld for health reasons, Lohmann performed sterling work for the game of cricket in South Africa, as a player, coach and manager of a tour of England. His prot?g? James Sinclair was one of the earliest stars of South African cricket.

A player who knew his own worth, Lohmann was prepared to stand up to the Surrey county club, and was involved in a number of disputes with the club. The most famous was in 1896 when Lohmann with some other professionals went on ‘strike’ before the third Test match which was held at the Oval. The professionals demanded ₤20.00 instead of the standard ₤10.00. The Surrey committee promptly replaced the offenders, and forced George to write a letter of apology.

You can not imagine the need for another biography on the great Surrey bowler for a number of years, so thorough is this effort from Keith Booth.

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