Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Reads IV: Brightly Fades the Don by Jack Fingleton

I must openly admit that I am obsessed with vintage cricket books and the deep history of cricket 1940-1960, the players, the stories, the war and the courage to return from it. These books to me read more like fairytales of gentlemen in white who grace the field of play with poise and passion, but never forgetting the sacrifice of those before them.

It was a great joy to get my hands on such a book though a very helpful cricket captain of mine, who did admit to almost missing a prior engagement thumbing though the chapters of this book. The story itself told though the eyes of Jack Fingleton, a fine cricketer himself, is the tales of the 1948 last tour of Bradman in England and follows the invincible team as they travel from Perth to London and all the counties in-between.

This book is far from a love in of Bradman quotes, Fingleton discusses each region in terms of its supporters, grounds, culture and tactics. His descriptions of the rise of a young Ian Harvey paints a vivid picture to the reader and his praise for Arthur Morris gives light to this incredible team.

Toward the end of the book, Fingleton gives a variety of England writers a chance to comment on Bradman. Some praise the Don for his clinical skill, his superb eye, his thirst for runs; others counter with the belief that Bradman was not as good a batsman on "sticky" or damp pitches as Jack Hobbs had been. Still others mention the difficulty they had interviewing Bradman. RC Robertson-Glasgow writes, "Bradman had as many angles as a polygon; and, like that monster of geometry, Don was born to perplex students; and bowlers."

This book to me is one of the best winter reads I have had this off season, and I implore everyone to search, beg or borrow this book from anyone you know that might have a copy. As you slowly release the pages from though your thumb, and let the words enter your imagination, think of today and how much different a world has changed since the type-writer printed those words.

A little bit more on the author: Jack Fingleton
After his death, the cricket people of Canberra decided to honour their famous son by installing a scoreboard at the Manuka Oval. The MCG was being remodelled at the time, so the old and very serviceable MCG scoreboard was moved to Canberra. The ceremony was conducted by the Governor-General.

Tim Caldwell, the former chairman of the Australian board, who did much to restore Australia-New Zealand playing relations, remarked to Lindsay Hassett, still the dapper, impish one, "Old Fingo would have liked that, having the Governor-General do the commemoration."

"Ah," said Hassett, "but would a one-eyed New South Welshman like Fingo enjoy being marked by a bit of second-hand Victorian furniture?"

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