The Pupil and The Master

Published: 2020
Pages: 116
Author: Cardwell, Ronald and Cattlin, James
Publisher: The Cricket Publishing Company
Rating: 3.5 stars

You may become confused looking at the front cover of this book which reads: The Pupil and The Master – Charles Kelleway and Victor Trumper. From what I can gather there is only a passing link between the two players. That is, they both played for NSW and in two Test series together. There is never any suggestion that Kelleway modelled his game on Trumper or that Trumper saw Kelleway as his prodigy.

Both authors are unabashed fans of Trumper so perhaps they just wanted to take the opportunity to mention their hero. A better subtitle would have been to highlight the fact, as pointed out by the authors, that Kelleway was the link between the two most iconic Australian batsmen. Kelleway was the only Australian to have played Test cricket with both Trumper and Bradman.

The book itself is up to the normal high standards of both the publisher and the two authors and is a pleasure to peruse. I only noticed one minor factual error and a couple of typos.

Charles Kelleway, is probably best remembered as a poor man’s Jack Gregory of the 1920s. Gregory was a genuinely quick bowler, destructive batsmen, and a dynamic slips fieldsmen. Kelleway on the other hand, was a naggingly accurate supporting fast medium bowler, dour batsmen and a solid all round fieldsmen.

The book starts off slow, as it appears there is not too much information about the young Kelleway, although of interest he attended the same school as ‘Tibby’ Cotter and Warren Bardsley.

Things really pick up once Kelleway enters the Great War. Not only was he a decorated war hero he also wrote letters back to Charles Davis, author of the popular sporting paper The Referee. Davis prints many of his letters and this gives us some valuable insights to the Kelleway character.

Kelleway also begins writing for newspapers and is not reticent about offering his views. A recurring theme of his writing is the struggle for first class cricketers in Australia to afford to play the game. Kelleway missed a number of first class domestic matches and also made himself unavailable for the 1921 Ashes tour, citing work commitments.

It would seem Kelleway had a contrary personality which appears to be the main reason he was removed as captain of the AIF Australian team. This team played matches in England, South Africa and Australia, straight after the Great War. Kelleway returned home to Australia after just six matches with the AIF team. Kelleway, who had reached the rank of captain in the army, was replaced by Lance Corporal Herbie Collins in controversial circumstances. 

There was also strong speculation in contemporary media that Kelleway was not selected in the 1926 Ashes touring team captained by Collins, due to his difficult personality. One of the claims insinuated that Gregory had refused to be selected if Kelleway was in the team. Kelleway took the unprecedented step to publically write to the Board of Control to clear his name. The Board (now CA) indicated that the team had only been selected on cricket skill.

The 1926 Ashes team had a few questionable selections, as apart from Kelleway, who had a solid 1924-25 Ashes series, Alan Kippax who topped the batting averages in First Class cricket three out of the previous four seasons was also overlooked. Kelleway was still not finished as a Test cricketer however and held on long enough to play with Don Bradman in his first Test.   

This is a fine little publication, and you will learn a lot about a cricketer who was ahead of his time. Kelleway practiced assiduously and kept himself in peak physical condition, well before this was demanded of elite players. He was the sort of player who the average punter could relate to. He was not a great batsmen, bowler or fieldsmen, however he drew every ounce of talent from his skills and reached the top of the game he loved.      

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