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Stroke of Ge­nius: Vic­tor Trumper and the Shot that Changed Cricket Gideon Haigh (Si­mon & Schus­ter, £18.99)

Pho­tog­ra­phy trans­formed our un­der­stand­ing of sport­ing ac­tion. Pho­to­graphs re­vealed that horses do not run, as paint­ings had it, with all four legs spread-ea­gled as well as how crick­eters played their shots— of­ten to equal as­ton­ish­ment.

W. g. grace dis­missed a fol­lowthrough as ‘bunkum’ un­til pi­o­neer­ing sports pho­tog­ra­pher ge­orge Bel­dam shot grace in his fol­lowthrough. as re­spected cricket his­to­rian Peter hart­land proved, grace was pos­si­bly the best bats­man of all time.

to many, Don­ald Brad­man is aus­tralia’s great­est bats­man; for oth­ers, it’s Vic­tor trumper. Brad­man’s ex­cel­lence is eas­ily trans­mit­ted through sta­tis­tics, but trumper’s re­lies on some­thing ethe­real—the grace and beauty of his stroke mak­ing.

‘trumper is per­haps the most dif­fi­cult bats­man in the world to re­duce to words,’ wrote C. B. Fry. ‘he has no style yet he is all style. he de­fies all the ortho­dox rules, yet every stroke he plays sat­is­fies the ul­ti­mate cri­te­rion of style— min­i­mum of ef­fort, max­i­mum of ef­fect.’

gideon haigh’s el­e­gant, dis­cur­sive work is a study of ‘trumper’s va­lence in cricket’s mythol­ogy and im­agery’ as strangely lit­tle is known of the sub­ject’s life—re­ports of trumper’s death in 1915 dis­agreed as to whether he was 36, 37 or 38.

the story is propped up by mistyeyed rec­ol­lec­tions; vi­gnettes, such as the fac­tory owner who de­creed that a win­dow bro­ken by a trumper hit never be re­paired; and the ef­fect of Bel­dam’s pho­to­graph of trumper, Jump­ing Out. ‘Few cricket pictures can have adorned so many book cov­ers and proven so ver­sa­tile,’ writes Mr haigh. ‘It has stood for ag­gres­sion and vi­tal­ity, evoked tra­di­tion and con­ti­nu­ity, an­nounced the com­ing of sum­mers and stood for the pass­ing of time.’ Rod­er­ick Eas­dale

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