VT – A Phenomenal Batsman

Published: 2022
Pages: 79
Author: Reece, Craig
Publisher: Bill Ram Publications
Rating: 4.5 stars

The appearance in the title of those legendary initials, coupled with the description that follows them, rather suggests that this title is another to add to the seemingly endless stream of books on the subject of Victor Trumper.

And I suppose in a way it is. Trumper is mentioned frequently in Craig Reece’s beautifully produced hardback book, but he is not the main focus of the author’s attention. The man whose story V.T. A Phenomenal Batsman tells is Val Thompson.

Trumper was a right handed New South Welshman from Sydney, and Thompson a left handed Victorian from Melbourne, but that apart the pair had much in common. They were more or less the same age, Trumper being 15 months older. Both were prodigiously talented, and both died far too young, although Trumper at least fitted a full playing career into his 37 years. Poor Thompson was a mere 21 when he departed this mortal coil, his First Class career not even begun.

Thompson’s career in minor cricket promised much however, and his batting attracted great acclaim, hardly surprising in light of his performance on his first appearance for the East Melbourne Cricket Club First XI. Aged just 17 Thompson produced an innings of 228 not out.

Reece has uncovered a vast amount of material on Thompson, something which, in this day and age with the archival resources now available is much easier than it once was. Of course spending his life in Melbourne cricketing circles would have helped Reece as well, but it is the way in which he presents the results of his research that is so impressive.

Studies such as this can easily become mired in contemporary quotes, and end up being repetitive. But there is nothing of that here and the narrative gives a compelling and eminently readable account of the life and times of Val Thompson, and deals particularly well with the sad circumstances that led to his passing, struck down by typhoid and, at the same time, meningitis.

A particularly interesting aspect of V.T. A Phenomenal Batsman is its epilogue, which bears the title Evaluation. This one was a potential trap, and could have rather spoiled what had gone before. Clearly it was always going to be necessary to try and put Thompson’s career in context and try and assess just how good a cricketer he was and might have gone on to become. But it was never going to be possible to come to any definitive conclusion on that one, and thankfully Reece does not try to. What he does do is draw some interesting comparisons with the other VT, contribute a few observations of his own, and then leave his reader to, if they wish to, draw their own conclusions.

As for the book itself this is an object lesson in how to self-publish. Well designed, it is printed on high quality paper and cloth bound with a dust jacket and comes with a ribbon marker stitched into the binding. Reece has sourced a fine selection of images, included all of the important statistics and provides his reader with a full index. That is the good news. The bad is that there are just 21 copies of V.T. A Phenomenal Batsman, each one individually dedicated to one of Thompson’s 21 highest scores. If, and I am not certain there are any left unsold, it is still available Roger Page’s emporium is the only place you are going to be able to get one.

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