Scott Mason – A MemoirMartin Chandler |
Author: Smith, Rick
Publisher: Apple Books
Rating: 3.5 stars
Occasionally tragedy strikes cricket in the same way it does all other walks of life. In 2014 it hit the very heart of our historic game when not only was a popular and talented young Test player taken from us, but the loss occurred during a game of cricket. The outpouring of grief across the globe was palpable, and the ramifications ripple to this day.
At this distance in time I am no longer certain as to whether I heard about the death of Scott Mason at the time. He was an opening batsman who had just established himself in the Tasmanian side when heart disease sidelined him at the end of the 2003/04 season. He underwent open heart surgery to replace a valve. A year later he was given the all clear to return to nets, but he suffered a heart attack on his second time out, and died in hospital shortly afterwards.Well known Australian cricket writer Rick Smith knew Mason well, and the death of Hughes galvanised him into writing this very personal memoir of his old friend.
Cricket was Mason’s life, so much so that his ‘work’, other than concentrating on improving his game, involved his running a business from home that dealt in cricket equipment. He also spent a couple of summers in England, with considerable success, playing as a professional. The early chapters of the book are, perhaps inevitably given Mason’s single minded devotion to his craft, relatively pedestrian as Smith pursues a chronological course through Mason’s development as a batsman.
There are interesting features of the story though. I found it surprising that Mason’s first club, Old Scotch, chose to object when he switched his allegiance to a stronger side, and indeed that they were able to do so anyway. I assume the reason was the rules of a league both clubs were in, but it seems unfortunate that a club chose to try and stand in the way of the development of a talented young player. Later still in pursuit of stronger opposition Mason moved from Launceston to Hobart to play his cricket. There seems to have been no objection to this latter move – perhaps given that the teams did not play in the same league it was not possible, or Launceston may simply have been more realistic than Old Scotch. I would be curious to know.
A top order batsman, Mason’s game, certainly at state level, was clearly much more suited to the longer formats, and his bowling something rarely seen. Indeed in first grade cricket he took just five wickets in his entire career, and there is no suggestion that he ever used his off breaks during his summers in England. It is clear however that he was a livewire in the field, and it sounds as if he would in time have made a fine skipper.
The story of Mason’s illness is a sad and sobering one. Sad because of the failure to recover, and sobering because it would seem that had Mason chosen a different treatment option, and one which did not prioritise his return to the game, his outcome may have been rather different. I also wondered whether the illness, even though Mason didn’t know he had it, might have held back his cricket. His record suggests he was just short of the highest class, but perhaps in truth he wasn’t. I dare say however that that is a question not even a cardiologist could answer.
The fact that Smith was so close to Mason, and indeed the rest of the Tasmanian side, is clear from the final pages of the memoir which are a fine and moving tribute. The book is a nicely produced paperback that appears in a limited edition of 174 copies, a figure chosen to correspond with Mason’s highest First Class score. There are some good illustrations as well. The author is particular complimentary about a shot of one of Mason’s teammates, Damien Wright, saluting skywards as his side move towards its Pura Cup victory in the season after his death. It is necessary to read the book to understand the significance of that one however – particularly impressive to this reviewer’s eyes was the full page shot of an airborne Mason celebrating his first century, the photographer’s timing absolutely impeccable.
All told this an excellent publication and one that I imagine will sell out without any difficulty. Despite the miserable exchange rate brought about by the ill-informed and ill-advised 52% who voted to take the UK out of the EU the cost of shipping a copy to the UK is not prohibitive, so the price in Australia must be very reasonable. It would be a fitting epitaph to its subject if Scott Mason – A Memoir, were to become a collectors item.