Eyes on the Ashes

Published: 1953
Pages: 206
Author: Barnes, Sidney
Publisher: Wm Kimber
Rating: 3 stars

Eyes on the Ashes

Opinionated is the word to sum up Sidney Barnes’ musings in Eyes on the Ashes. His assertive style makes for an interesting read although he is so dogmatic that sometimes you are uncertain if you are provided with the full account of the series, or only the story that fits the Barnes agenda.

There is no lack of material for the author* in the Ashes year of 1953, although the five Test series included only one result. There are enough controversies and external events to maintain interest even sixty years after Eyes on the Ashes was written. With the Queen’s Coronation, the climbing of Everest and the execution of mass murderer John Christie.

Despite all of the above attractions, even Christie showed that it was the Ashes which were of most interest in 1953, when he asked for the Test score while he waited for the jury to return their verdict. Christie was hanged before England regained the urn after a 20 year absence when it won the fifth Test.

One of the main reasons for Australia’s loss was the lack of an opener to partner Arthur Morris. In the end 40 year old Australian captain Lindsay Hassett filled the breach, but that then put pressure on the middle order.

The best Australian opener, perhaps the best opener in the world, was sitting in the pavilion; one Sidney Barnes. The reason why the opinionated Barnes was not a member of the Australian team was because he had upset the ultra conservative and aptly named Australian Board of Control (ABC). His ridiculous trespasses saw him ousted from the game with a Test average of 63.06.

Even without Barnes, Australia should have won the series and were only thwarted by perhaps the dourest of all players, whether with bat or ball; Trevor ‘The Barnacle’ Bailey. He saved one Test with his laborious batting and another by bowling wide of the batsman’s stumps to thwart an Australian run chase.

Barnes described Bailey as a ‘petulant schoolboy’ for his behaviour and hoped with more experience he may ‘grow out of it’. There was no official complaint from the Australians in either Test affected by Bailey’s ‘go slow tactics’.

Bailey was not the only one who came under the Barnes spotlight. Keith Miller, who according to Barnes was described by his team-mates as ‘Couldn’t Care Less Miller’, ‘because of this stupid and team-spiritless attitude he has adopted towards the game on odd occasions.’ Barnes biographer and cricket historian, Ric Smith, maintains that Miller held no ill will towards Sid Barnes after the release of Eyes on the Ashes.

Barnes nickname was ‘Bagga Barnes’ and he lives up to this throughout Eyes on the Ashes, ‘bagging’ both captains, the ABC and even fellow pressman. You have the impression that the book was more of a vehicle for Barnes to rant rather than a discourse on a cricket tour. This impression is perhaps best highlighted by the fact that Eyes on the Ashes is the only tour book not to feature a single score card from the Test matches covered.

All in all an entertaining read and it’s Barnes’ opinionated style which makes it entertaining.

*Author is a loose term as all Barnes journalistic writings were ghosted.

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