Cricket's Unsung Legend
Author: James Brear
Rating: 3.5 stars
By Archie Mac
12 May 2013
Still uncertain whether he should commit to write a book on Jimmy Matthews, author James Brear found a serendipitous meeting with two of his subjects' relatives at a cemetery, sealed the decision. It seems before he commenced his research, Brear was unfamiliar with Matthews' unique place in Test cricket. Jimmy is still the only player to claim two Test hat-tricks in the same game. To add to this he claimed the hat-tricks on the same afternoon, and they were the only wickets he took in the match.
Even the most ardent cricket tragic would not know too much more about Matthews than this, other than he claimed the South African wickets, playing for Australia in a Test match in England during the ill-fated and never repeated triangular Test series of 1912.
The 1912 Australian team is often considered to be the worst team ever sent abroad, after six automatic selections refused to tour. The six; Messrs: Victor Trumper, Clem Hill, Vernon Ransford, 'Tibby' Cotter, Warwick Armstrong and 'Sep' Carter, were in an acrimonious dispute over the control of the game with the newly formed Australia Board of Control. While the loss of 'The Big Six' weakened the team considerably, Brear, by dint of research, is able to demonstrate that the team was reasonably successful until quite late on the tour and are far from the worst team to have toured England.
The belief that the side was one of the worst behaved tourists is also somewhat debunked by the author, with hardly a complaint made during the tour, and some rather less than salacious accusations made by the tour management on their return home.
Matthews seems to have avoided too much controversy during the trip, and as he did throughout his life, appears to have displayed pro-social tendencies. His life on the surface presents as typical for the time. He married young, had a large family, worked in a nondescript profession, and played footy in the winter and cricket in the summer. Unfortunately Jimmy also suffered what a lot of former Test cricketers suffered, and that was money problems. Testimonials and collections were organized for him, but still he teetered on the edge of pauperism throughout his later life.
Tragedy also followed Matthews, with a number of his nine children dying from illness in their young twenties and his wife also passing at a relatively early age. Matthews too suffered from poor health which necessitated operations and periods in hospital. Perhaps the only good thing about the IPL is that we may not have to read about so many former cricketers living their later lives in impecuniousness situations.
Author James Brear has written a well researched and engaging story of a former Test cricketer that most will never have heard of, and as such fills a gap in Australian cricketing literature. The book is well produced, without typos and has been released in a limited edition of 400 copies, 100 of which have been numbered and signed by both the author and Jimmy Matthews' sixth son, Archie. Copies of the book can be purchased from www.cricketbooks.com.au, and in the UK via Boundary Books and JW McKenzie.