Jim Maxwell – The Sound of Summer

Published: 2016
Pages: 342
Author: Maxwell, Jim
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Rating: 3.5 stars

Alan McGilvray was the undisputed voice of cricket in Australia from the 1930s until his retirement in 1985. Jim Maxwell, although he took a while to fully establish himself, has been McGilvray’s worthy successor for the best part of 30 years, but that may end this summer.

In his preface to The Sound of Summer, Maxwell tells the story of how he suffered a stroke while covering the Rio Olympics. Luckily for Maxwell, due to cutbacks by the ABC, he was commentating from Sydney, based on tv pictures, instead of from the other side of the world. The stroke appears quite serious and may mean the end of Maxwell’s illustrious commentary career.

After an explosive preface The Sound of Summer follows the Maxwell story from a kid in 1950s Australia to a rather lost adolescence who unsuccessfully tried his hands at a few mundane occupations. It is obvious from the early chapters that Maxwell was always a cricket ‘nut’. In school he wrote and sold his own cricket magazine, complete with a crossword and quiz. The winner of the quiz received the princely cash reward of 20 cents, but only if his entry was submitted on an official quiz form. Shades of the ABC cricket quizzes in later years which were extremely tough, and also had entry conditions.

Maxwell’s love of cricket did not initially equate to employment. He had to apply to the ABC on three occasions before he eventually landed an internship. Apart from cricket Maxwell covered numerous sports for them including; rugby league, union, golf, and hockey at the Olympics. It may be a surprise, given his eventual status, that for a long period after the retirement of McGilvray, Maxwell struggled to establish himself as the number one ABC cricket commentator, being overlooked for Ashes series in England.

Despite the time that has expired Maxwell’s disillusionment, and perhaps resentment, at his treatment is still evident in his writing. Similar is his clear disappointment at his eventual falling out with McGilvray, which appears to have been over a ‘pissing contest’. While his treatment saw Maxwell consider a move from the ABC, all Aussie cricket fans will be glad that he stuck it out, or in his own words “when things turn sour, nothing is permanent, and there are times to just strap yourself in with the seatbelt and wait”.

The Sound of Summer is not an autobiography, although it certainly touches on aspects of Maxwell’s life, but apart from his early years his narration sticks to commentary and other matters of a cricketing interest. The best chapter in the book is that on Maxwell’s former friend and colleague Peter Roebuck. Maxwell was working with Roebuck in South Africa when his eccentric colleague died. His description of events and more personal recollections of Roebuck make for great reading. Maxwell in the end admits, given latter revelations, that he really didn’t know Roebuck that well.

In one of the last chapters in the book titled: IBL, BBL, bloody hell! –  Maxwell sums up what most Test cricket fans know. That ticket prices are too high; that the Nanny State is out of control with mid strength beer, and no glass or even umbrellas allowed in the ground, and that fans are there to watch the cricket not to listen to loud music and even louder adverts.

The Sound of Summer is an excellent and highly recommended read. The only disappointment is that we know Jim Maxwell is unlikely to be the voice of cricket this summer.







Sorry to learn (here) that Jim Maxwell had been ill. I like him a lot. McGilvrey is special to anyone of my age and older!

Comment by paul mullarkey | 8:48pm GMT 30 October 2016

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