The D’Artagnan of Australian Cricket

Published: 2022
Pages: 12
Author: Mallett, Ashley
Publisher: The Cricket Press Pty Ltd
Rating: 3.5 stars

Ashley Mallett was a writer for many more years than he was a First Class cricketer, so there may well be work that remains unpublished and will one day find its way into print. That small caveat apart however this monograph on the subject of his old South Australian captain, Les Favell, remains the last piece of work that Mallett completed before his all too early passing last October.

Back in 1970, just after his retirement from a game he had graced for almost twenty years, Favell gave his name to an autobiography, By Hook or by Cut. The best part of thirty years later and ten years after his death Favell was the subject of another monograph, this time by Alan Shiell. Over the years I have acquired both but, I have to confess, never read either.

So despite Favell playing in as many as 19 Tests I opened this one, the third and most recent offering in the publisher’s Cricketers in Print series, without knowing much about Favell beyond the fact that he was an opening batsman who captained South Australia for a decade, and who was clearly a good enough batsman to earn an extended opportunity at Test level even if, given an average in those 19 appearances of 27.03, he was not quite good enough to nail that place as his own.

What I certainly wasn’t aware of before reading The D’Artagnan of Australian Cricket was that Favell came from the Virender Sehwag school of opening batsmen, and was always on the attack. Mallett tells one story of Wes Hall being hit for six from the first ball of a tour match, and another where against New South Wales the South Australia score was 16-1 after five deliveries, Favell cutting Dave Renneberg for four boundaries before chasing a wide one and getting caught behind off the toe of the bat.

Without exception the stories here of Favell the batsman come from his long First Class career rather than those 19 Tests, but much of the content is also about ‘Favelli’ the man. Having turned up in Adelaide from Perth in 1967 looking for an opportunity to play for South Australia Mallett clearly much appreciated the support, on and off the field, that he got from his captain.

In much the same way as Mallett’s personal knowledge of the men he wrote about in The Magic of Spin impressed me there, so it does in this affectionate look back at the life of a man who, on Mallett’s account, fully justifies the comparison drawn in the title with the swashbuckling hero of the famous novel by Alexandre Dumas.

The slight difficulty I have in reviewing this one is that, being by nature a generally forgiving and generous soul, I would not dream of being critical of the last work of a man who has recently departed this mortal coil. However readers of this review do have my assurance that had I not enjoyed reading this one then I would not have reviewed it. But it is a most enjoyable read, about a man who was rather more interesting than I had imagined he was, and the style of the writing is most certainly entirely ‘in character’ as far as the author is concerned,

So The D’Artagnan of Australian Cricket certainly comes with CW’s recommendation. As with the other volumes in this series the book appears in a limited edition of seventy copies, fifty of which are for sale and available from Roger Page.    

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