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