Round The WicketArchie Mac |
Author: Edrich, Bill
Rating: 4 stars
Round The Wicket is split into two parts, the first a brief autobiography and the second a discourse on the Ashes tour of 1958-59.
The book begins with the author’s description of a mission in his Blenheim light bomber, of which he was the commanding officer, over Germany in World War two. This was a dangerous mission, with a number of the bombers failing to return and was considered one of the most perilous of all bombing raids carried out by the allies. Bill Edrich received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) medal for his part in the daring raid, and his near death experience is often attributed to his ‘live life to the full’ attitude on his return from the War.
Edrich was certainly a hedonist and attributes his love of a good party to his being left out of the England tour to Australia in 1950-51, and his failure to be offered the captaincy of his country. He had organised a party during a home Test match against the West Indies in 1950, and the English selector, Bob Wyatt, had caught him returning late to the hotel. Edrich was later informed of his omission from the Australian tour and believes the incident also contributed to his never captaining England.
The author is not afraid to express his opinions on any subject or legend of the game and openly criticises both Bradman and Walter Hammond for their respective tactics in the first Ashes series after the Second World War. These and many other subjects are candidly discussed in the first half of Round The Wicket.
The second half of the book deals with the 1958-59 Ashes tour to England that Edrich covered as a journalist and is no less sensational. England had arrived for the series as the best team in the world, only to be thumped four nil by a new look Australian team led by first time Test captain Richie Benaud.
Edrich freely expresses his opinion on every aspect of the tour. The English captain, Peter May, is described as reticent to attack and not up to the hegemony role when the pressure was on. In contrast Edrich is full of praise for the ever aggressive Benaud. He does not hold back on the suspect actions of a number of the Australian bowlers as well as their drag under the back foot no-ball law. There is a picture in the book of Ian Meckiff in delivery stride. His front foot, which is yet to land, is so far over the popping crease that Mohammad Amir’s famous overstep would not have raised an eyebrow let alone the umpires arm in 1959. Edrich misses no one is his tour recap from umpires to administrators, to some of the world’s great cricketers including Jim Laker. This ‘take no prisoner’ style makes for an interesting read.
Overall Round The Wicket is entertaining despite the passage of time mainly because of the personality of Bill Edrich, who was one of the bravest of men and cricketers. He was also a one man party. A war hero, who once bowled his popgun medium paced bouncers at the then fastest bowler in the world Ray Lindwall, knowing full well what was to follow at his unhelmeted head, and a man married five times who once fell asleep on the field during a First Class cricket match. The latter has surely never been done before or since, and sums up a man who stuck to his motto and lived life to the fullest.