InvincibleArchie Mac |
Author: Rogers, Martin
Rating: 4 stars
As an Aussie it was a shock when Gideon Haigh’s amusing book, The Vincibles about the lowly Yarra’s cricket team, had its named changed for UK readers to Many A Slip. This was presumably because the Poms didn’t know the legend of Bradman’s ’48 team, known throughout Australia as The Invincibles.
It’s a pity the Poms didn’t hear one of Sam Loxton’s passionate and garrulous after dinner talks on the Invincibles, because if there was a player who epitomised the spirit of the Greats of ’48 it was Loxton. He was not the best batsmen, but he was one of the most entertaining. He was not the best bowler, but he had a big heart and gave his all. He was not the best fielder, but he was the most enthusiastic.
The 1948 Invincibles tour was clearly the crowning glory of Loxton’s career. In the end he only played 12 Tests, but during that ’48 tour he began two great friendships. The first was with Sir Donald Bradman. Loxton held the Don in such reverence that when he was buried it was with a letter from Bradman tucked into his pocket. The other was “my little mate” – Neil Harvey. Loxton said he looked after him on the ’48 tour and just kept looking after him for the rest of his life. The three friends were at one time the selection committee for the Australian team.
If you had to sum up Invincible in one word it would be ‘thorough’. Author Martin Rogers seems to have spoken to someone in the know or researched just about every part of Loxton’s life. Where most books wind down soon after their subjects cricket association is complete, Invincible goes on to provide a complete dissertation on its subject’s life.
And what a life Loxton lived. Three marriages, a cricket career, a star Aussie Rules footballer with the Saint Kilda Aussie Rules team, a long political career, and then towards the end of his life, he teamed up with his old mucka Harvey to zigzag the country for after dinner discourses about cricket. As always, Loxton’s passion and tale telling ability saw him steal the show.
The overriding message from the book was that Loxton was a larger than life character who had a passion for life and in particular cricket. At one stage he appears to have lost his love for the game. This was due in part to the changing level of sportsmanship which culminated in the Chappell underarm controversy. Loxton resigned his position as national selector, left his home state of Victoria and moved to the Gold Coast in Queensland.
Thankfully, Loxton again found his love for the game on the Gold Coast, which is incidentally where Rogers lives, and yet again made a lasting impression on all those he came into contact with in that city. This is the first book by Martin Rogers I have read. I am confident, given its quality, that it won’t be the last.
It would seem that there are not too many of the Invincibles* who are yet to have a full biography written. This book certainly fills a lacuna in crickets’ rich written history. It is available from Ken Piesse at www.cricketbooks.com.au and it is beautifully produced, as are all the books from this publisher.
*Ashley Mallett has just released a biography on Loxton’s ‘little mate’ – Neil Harvey (Neil Harvey – The Last Invincible). The publisher, Hardie Grant Books, are kindly sending the Mac a review copy.