Preserving The TraditionMartin Chandler |
Author: Cardwell, Ronald and Anderson, Nathan
Publisher: The Cricket Publishing Company
Rating: 3.5 stars
There is much pleasure to be had on a summer’s day in the UK from wandering around the countryside, happening upon a club cricket match and, having found a comfortable vantage point, watching the game unfold for a while. The absence of any knowledge of who is playing, the individual skills of the cricketers involved or the rivalry and history between the two sides is of no importance. In many ways it is the purest form of cricket watching.
I have a fascination for cricket, and spend a large part of my leisure time reading about the game. But my reading material is almost always about the First Class game, and I rarely read about the club game, even though there are, I am assured, many interesting books and pamphlets around, even if they are rarely the work of accomplished writers.
In the circumstances I feel I should perhaps give some explanation as to why I am reviewing a book that has as its subject a modest season enjoyed by a Sydney Grade Club a hundred years ago. When I do do a bit of reading on club cricket the usual reason is it is a club I have played against, or with whom I have a degree of familiarity for some other reason, yet I have never been to Australia in my life, let alone the suburbs of Sydney where the St George club is located.
Part of the reason is undoubtedly that I have read a good deal of Ronald Cardwell’s previous titles, all of which I have enjoyed, and also the remarkable production quality of the books that The Cricket Publishing Company produces. But the main point is that I do find the game, as played by clubs in Australia, to be much more interesting than English club cricket. That in turn can only be because, certainly in days gone by, Australia’s state and Test players would regularly turn out for their clubs when not engaged in the First Class game.
Australian Grade cricket is also, as we all know, played to a high standard and always has been. One of St George’s old boys is the most famous name of all, Donald Bradman, but the man who famously averaged 99.94 in Tests, and 95.14 in all First Class cricket, did not dominate in the way one might expect. Make no mistake 91.30 is impressive, but the figure perhaps says as much about the standard of Grade cricket as it does about The Don.
But I digress. The St George Club was founded in 1911, and an excellent centenary history was published by The Cricket Publishing Company in 2010, that one written by the estimable Mike Coward. That book did, by its nature, include material concerning the club’s 1921/22 season, the significance of which is that it marked their bow in the First Grade.
Preserving The Tradition does not however go over too much of the ground already covered by Coward. Naturally there is a brief introduction, but the main purpose of the book is to tell the stories of the nineteen men who figured in the team during that 1921/22 summer, and that section takes up more than half the book. There is then an account of the matches, some statistics and, bringing up the rear, a few appreciations, reflections and other writings.
So who were the nineteen whose stories are the centrepiece of the book? There is a future Test player there, all-rounder Alan Fairfax, who was to debut in the same 1928/29 Ashes series as Bradman and who was to play ten Tests altogether. He was only 15 in 1921/22 however, and his single appearance at the end of the campaign saw him score 5 and 3* and not be called upon to turn his arm over.
The only other two First Class players in the St George side that season were, unsurprisingly, the club’s two strongest performers, both all-rounders, Ted Adams and Lyall Wall. Adams had come to the club that year as captain and recorded the club’s only century of the campaign. I was interested to note from the photograph of him that the authors have located, that he has something of the look of Victor Trumper about him. Like Trumper a New South Welshman Adams’ debut in First Class cricket had been for the state in April 1920 as a 23 year old, but a recall to the colours never came.
Lyle Wall on the other hand did have more than one chance, and has a decent enough record in the eleven appearances he had that were spread over a decade. A fine Rugby League player as well Wall’s is certainly an interesting story, and well told.
Those three apart the authors’ introduction concedes that there were three more men whose stories were fairly easy to write. The other thirteen were rather more difficult, but it is no surprise that in the final analysis the reader will not notice that. The fifty years experience that Cardwell has as a cricket historian, coupled with the enthusiasm of first time author and current St George player Anderson ensure that Preserving The Tradition does full justice to all nineteen of the pioneers.
The book appears in two versions, a high quality paperback or, for those of us who like that sort of thing, a limited edition of just nineteen numbered copies, bound in grey buckram with a leather spine and signed by both authors and nine other luminaries of the St George Club. The book can be purchased from Roger Page or Ken Piesse.