My Country's Keeper
Author: Wally Grout
Publisher: Pelham Books
Rating: 3 stars
By David Taylor
21 Apr 2008
Australia, it seems, is a country that changes its wicket-keeper less often than its Prime Minister. The two incumbents that have held down their place for the last twenty years (contrast with England's five in 13 months) suggests that when they've got the right man, they stick with him. It means of course that there is usually someone waiting patiently in the wings. Wally Grout played 46 Tests (equivalent to perhaps 80 today) between 1957-58 and 1964-65, making his debut at 30. He had to play the waiting game twice, first with the legendary Don Tallon - his boyhood idol, perhaps only Wally called him 'the Don' - at Queensland, then with Gil Langley and Len Maddocks the Australian keepers of the mid-1950s. Throughout this book, which was written immediately after the tour of the West Indies in early 1965 - Grout's last series - he is acutely aware of the challenge from his understudy, South Australia's Barry Jarman ("Jarman's no sucker - all the more reason why he's not getting an even break").
The book is written throughout in a jocular, matey style, much as you'd have expected the writer to speak - it does wear at times and some of the gags are a bit forced. But he writes in some detail about the climax of two of the greatest Tests of the period - Brisbane 1960-61 and Old Trafford 1961 - in which he was at the centre of the action. In the tied Test he was the first of two batsmen run out going for the winning run, while at Manchester he caught Dexter off Benaud at a crucial time. Elsewere he is quite vocal about the chuckers - Ian Meckiff, he accepts, threw, but was hounded out of the game by opposition teams who saw him as a threat - while Charlie Griffith is a blatant chucker whose bowling action is no different from the throw that ran out Grout from mid-off in one Test.
And what about this fascinating excerpt, about the spinner Jack Potter, who toured England in 1961:
"It was a leg-break bowled with what you would swear was an off-break action. You had no chance of detecting it from the hand and could only hope to pick the direction of spin through the air ... Jack mixed this ball so successfully with his standard off-break that two of England's Test off-spinners, David Allen and John Mortimore, could never pick it."
So who was saying that Saqlain Mushtaq invented the doosra?
Wally Grout, who talks here about going into cricket administration or even taking up umpiring, was sadly able to do neither - he died of a heart attack in 1968. But he was surely one of Australia's most popular players of a sometimes grim period.
They called him the 'Griz'- He showed his dedication for the 'Baggy Green' by continuing to play after his Doctor warned him against it.