Wilfred Rhodes – The Triumphal ArchArchie Mac |
Author: Ferriday, Patrick
Publisher: Von Krumm Publishing
Rating: 4.5 stars
I remember an interview with Australian Iron Man Trevor Hendy, in which the interviewer stated he became exhausted just reading about the training Hendy had done to compete.
You’ll feel just as figuratively exhausted after reading about the cricketing deeds of Wilfred Rhodes. Over 1,100 first class matches, almost 40,000 runs and over 4,000 wickets, is enervating stuff. He also played from 1898 to 1930 and was still good enough to play Test cricket when into his 50s.
Towards the end of the book, author Patrick Ferriday mentions a couple of other quality biographies on Rhodes; one by A.A. Thomson and the other by Sidney Rogerson. Ferriday writes that neither could be considered ‘exhaustive’. Well that certainly won’t be a criticism levelled at Ferriday’s biography on Rhodes. It’s hard to imagine that there are any sources that he has not consulted, including the two biographies mentioned.
Despite the thorough research, Ferriday has not allowed the copious pages of stats and match reports to dominate his depiction of Rhodes. Instead they simply compliment the man. Finding Rhodes the man, was no easy task. He was a private person and anything but loquacious when dealing with the press, especially during his playing days.
Ferriday has doggedly committed himself to providing the complete picture of his subject. He covers everything from Rhodes batting and bowling technique, to his principles and attitudes to just about anything you would like to know. To indicate just how thorough the author’s quest to provide the reader all that is available on his subject, he even comments on Rhodes attitudes to changing technology.
Ferriday, for the most part, takes the traditional sequential route; for the most part, because the author poignantly starts with one of the best books in cricket literature. That is Talks With Old Yorkshire Cricketers which shone a light on the fact that most of the old cricketing heroes were destitute, having nothing to show for their years at the top of the cricketing tree.
That book was released in 1898, the same year Rhodes made his first class debut. Ferriday uses the sad end to these old cricketers to establish the world that Rhodes lived and played in. Tied to their counties and at the whim of the amateurs who ran Yorkshire cricket, the professionals were treated as servants, and often like children. The club kept part of their payments, apparently so the professionals would not waste their money, but also so the professional had little option but to stay with the same county throughout his career.
The impression of Rhodes the cricketer that I gleaned from this book is that of a man who had a gift, and by practice and determination he achieved all that could be achieved in his chosen sport. That he kept himself fit and relevant enough to achieve success with bat and ball for over 30 years is just remarkable.
A feature of The Triumphal Arch that the real cricket purist will enjoy is the short chapters interspersed throughout that provide comment on Rhodes relationship with others. These feature dissertations on his relationships with luminaries such as George Hirst, Lord Hawke, Jack Hobbs and even Sir Neville Cardus. These shorter pieces are finely written and materially add to the reader’s appreciation of Rhodes.
My favourite mini chapter was that on Rhodes and Hobbs. Firstly I was unaware that Hobbs opened more times for England with Rhodes then he did with his much more vaunted opening partner, Hebert Sutcliffe. Secondly, Ferriday makes the valid point as to why Hobbs, the greatest run scorer of all time, was given a knighthood but this does not appear to have ever been considered for Rhodes, the greatest wicket taker of all time. As Bill O’Reilly used to say – the last bowler knighted was Sir Francis Drake.
Apart from these mini chapter gems, there is also some fine prose by the author, my favourite being in relation to Rhodes yet again keeping an end tight so another could cash in with the wickets. On this occasion it was the inventor of the wrong un in Bernard Bosanquet – Rhodes provided the sun in which Bosanquet made hay.
This really should be a five star book. I subtracted half a star for a minor faux pas. The author appears to have the two South Australians’ Vic and Arthur Richardson confused. He mistakenly has Vic on the 1926 Ashes Tour and then compounds the error by referring to Vic as being uncle to the Chappells and not their grandfather. This does not in any way detract from the book, and I will be surprised if anyone, bar people who have read far too many cricket books will even notice.
*The Triumphal Arch is what might be termed as a cricket historians’ cricket book. It has absolutely everything the knowledgeable cricket literature lover would want. It places its subject in his time. It dissects not only his personality but his philosophy. It is beautifully written, researched and presented. A must have for every true cricket fan.
*The Triumphal Arch – the title is due to the fact that Rhodes started his career against W.G. Grace and finished it against Don Bradman. As in Rhodes was a link between the two greatest cricketers to have ever lived.