Por­trait of Brad­man

Brad­man’s War: How the 1948 In­vin­ci­bles Shaped Mod­ern Cricket

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Tom Gilling

FEW sports have gen­er­ated such rich and vig­or­ously con­tested mytholo­gies as cricket. Are these mytholo­gies a prod­uct of the peo­ple who play or of the peo­ple who watch and write? Or are they or­ganic to the game it­self, re­flec­tions of what Mal­colm Knox, in this mas­ter­ful book on the 1948 Ashes tour of Brad­man’s In­vin­ci­bles, calls the ‘‘ nar­ra­tive pat­tern that gives Test cricket its en­dur­ing ap­peal’’?

In Brad­man’s War Knox gives us a nar­ra­tive played out not across five days or an English sum­mer, but across decades and eras. If the main story is the tour it­self and the duck at the Oval that left Brad­man fa­mously stranded on a Test av­er­age of 99.94, the back­story is World War II, Eng­land’s ‘‘ bru­tal’’ 903 runs for seven wick­ets at the Oval in 1938, Body­line and a host of per­ceived slights and ca­reer dis­ap­point­ments that Brad­man had never for­got­ten and for which the 1948 tour would be his per­sonal re­venge.

The tour that took the Aus­tralians to Eng­land re­cip­ro­cated one 12 months ear­lier, the so-called Good­will Tour led by the am­a­teur Wally Ham­mond, which many hoped would re­gen­er­ate the game af­ter the rav­ages of world war and the bit­ter­ness of Body­line. But the pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion for both tours was money, and Brad­man, as the main draw­card, was able to set the terms and even, Knox strongly sug­gests, to bend the rules to max­imise his team’s chances of out­do­ing pre­vi­ous Aus­tralian sides (par­tic­u­larly the By Mal­colm Knox Pen­guin, 434pp, $39.99 1938 tourists) by re­turn­ing home un­de­feated.

‘‘ If Eng­land had not toured in 1946-47,’’ Knox writes, ‘‘[ Brad­man] may well have re­tired from cricket. This in turn would douse Eng­land’s hopes of hav­ing him there in 1948, the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent, fi­nan­cially, to get­ting the coun­ties and MCC back on their feet. So one thing led to an­other — if you want Brad­man in 1948, come give Aus­tralia’s cof­fers a fil­lip in 1946-47.’’

A vi­sion of sport­ing re­newal was thus com­pro­mised from the out­set by the age-old need for cash, and ide­al­is­tic prin­ci­ples were sub­or­di­nated to the per­son­al­ity and am­bi­tions of the game’s big­gest mon­eyspin­ner.

Brad­man’s op­po­si­tion in the five Test matches was the Eng­land team cap­tained by Nor­man Yardley, but the ten­sions on the field were more com­plex, and these are the deeper sub­ject of Knox’s book. He re­veals how the war fu­elled hos­til­i­ties and cre­ated sol­i­dar­i­ties not only within teams but across them. Brad­man, of course, fought his war as a stock­bro­ker, safely out of harm’s way in Ade­laide, while team-mates such as Keith Miller and op­po­nents such as Bill Edrich

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.