Thommo Speaks Out
Author: Ashley Mallett
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Rating: 4 stars
By Archie Mac
06 Aug 2009
I have read every cricket book (not those specially commissioned for the children's market) written by Ashley Mallett and Thommo Speaks Out in my opinion is his best effort since his much-acclaimed biography of Victor Trumper.
The recent biographies written by Mallett of fellow contemporaries Ian Chappell and Doug Walters (see reviews on CW), while solid efforts, lacked the completeness of this biography of Jeff Thomson. Mallett although using copious amounts of quotes in all three biographies seemed to be overpowered by the quotes from the dominant Chappelli and was unable to fully capture the lovable ocker Dougie Walters.
But when it comes to Thommo Speaks Out, Mallett has judiciously combined a fast pace narrative of his subject with the occasional outspoken Thommo diatribe thrown in.
Mallett often repeats the claim throughout the book that Jeff Thomson is the fastest bowler to ever draw breath, and with the constant stream of testimonials from past Australian and international players the evidence by the end of the book is pretty convincing. Mallett had the fortune to watch Frank Tyson as a youngster and you have the feeling that the author was torn between his childhood hero and Thomson as to who should claim the mantle of the fastest bowler ever, but in the end it becomes apparent that Mallett is a Thommo disciple.
This reverence for Thommo occasionally clouds the author's judgment, he portrays CA (not known by that name at the time), as disloyal and vindictive in their dealings with Thommo and his wanting to break his contract with CA and join WSC. Even reading Mallett's favourable account of events, Jeff Thomson comes across at worst dishonest and deceptive and at best na?ve.
There is one chapter where Mallett and Thomson recount a lunch at which Thommo attends as well as Sir Donald Bradman. During the course of the day a seventy-year-old Bradman agrees to have a knock against two young quick bowlers on a fiery pitch. Thommo was amazed - he only bowled a few leg spinners - how the Don hit every deviating ball in the middle of the bat, all without the aid of any protective equipment.
It was also interesting to learn the many talents of Jeff Thomson; he has a Diploma of Horticulture is a very successfully and popular public speaker who is in high demand, and surprisingly for someone 'who just went twang.' Is rated a very good coach by his contemporaries.
The book does suffer from a number of typos as well as some annoying factual errors, for example Mallett writes Charles Bannerman was the first Australian Test captain. It was in fact Dave Gregory.
Some of Thommo's comments about former players are a little savage, but that is Thommo and not unexpected. Some of his comments are interesting such as his rating Greg Chappell as a better batsman then Sir Vivian Richards.
All in all a quality publication and should be read by all cricket fans, but be warned you may just think Thommo was the fastest of them all once you finish this entertaining book.