Midwinter’s Midsummer Blues

Billy Midwinter

Debuted in the Autumn

Changed horses midsummer

He followed the sun

Got kidnapped by Grace

Frizzy Bush and The Coroner

Taken to Surrey

Dual citizen foreigner

He sailed back and forth

Australia, England, Australia

Franchise player, mercenary?

Or the system’s failure?

His initials were WE

So he played for both sides

But he knew where his heart lay

When it was time to die.


more on this unique character here:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/210588.html

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What lies beneath the veil of Bradmania

Found this intro to a book Jonesey and I were going to write into the beautiful period of cricket before Bradman, It’s not bad! Dated 2007 so the attacks are on JW Howard, who manages to make other offspinners look good…


It’s hard to see history as a continuing, evolving stream. We like markers, a beginning and, often, and end.

In European terms, “Modern” history, at least as taught in Australian schools, begins with the French revolution in 1789. Before that, all history is “Ancient”. So, 100,000 years of human history in one category, and 216 years in the other.

You might expect that the delimiter would move forward in time with us, making what was once modern now ancient. Look in the mirror and tell me that’s not true.

In cricketing history, we choose the advent of the Bradman phenomenon as the delimiter. His first game in Sydney, for St George against Petersham at Petersham Oval, in November 1926, is the dawn of modern cricket history.

This is not to equate Bradman with Napoleon – his successes too polite, his failures so unromantic. (If we were looking for a parallel, Ian Chappell, the great moderniser, would be a better fit.)

As each year passes, and the amount of information placed in front of us grows, it becomes harder to look back into time and see what has gone before. This is especially the case with cricket, where our ageing memories shrink in direct proportion to the number of tests played, and the decreasing periods between them.

Each wave of history, each crescendo of achievement, works to obscure what has come before. Already we’re being force-fed the Clarke/Watson era as if it was a reality, and we haven’t even laid to rest the Waughs/Warne/Hayden/McGrath/Gilchrist era. Before that was the Border/Simpson era; the Chappell(s) era; the Benaud/Davo era; Bradman’s Invincibles; and Bradman before the war.

To put it into perspective, between 1877 and 1926, 50 summers, Australia played x tests, or . We also capped x players, or … And even outside of the Great War, there were still gaps of up to x months between tests (example)

You can see how Bradman’s complete domination of Australian and world cricket form 1928 to 1949 blots out anything that happened before it. It’s a cricketing blanket fog.

But there was life before Bradman. Just as there was civilisation before Napoleon, and even before the Medicis, Michelangelo, Leonardo.

We talk of how the Renaissance ended the Dark Ages, but in cricket many have called these pre-Bradman years “The Golden age”. Indeed, George Giffen wrote a book of that title.

So to ignore Clem Hill, Archie Jackson, Victor Trumper, Fiery Fred Spofforth, Tibby Cotter or Arthur Mailey would be as heinous as ignoring the Norman Invasion, the Hansa League, the Domesday Book, Magna Carta, not to mention the centuries of enlightenment that flowed out of Africa and Asia, long before Europeans started to get their shit together.

Not to mention Bardsley, Armstrong, Trumble, Murdoch, Noble, the Gregorys.

Yet all we ever seem to hear about, from our Prime Minister down, is Bradman. And what he begat.

There’s history there, lying under the silt and clay, like those skeletons at Lake Mungo. Just waiting to be uncovered.

Looking at that era gives a glimpse of the major issues cricket would face – debates over professionalism, contract disputes, constant rule changes, attempts to globalise the game. There were Aboriginal tours, games of XI vs XXII, and even the ugly face of sectarianism. It was time when it was Ok to be a Trott, and, if you were Midwinter, to change horses mid-summer.

Our problem’s not with Bradman. He WAS the greatest player ever, quite possibly of any sport. But he was not the only great player Australia ever produced. And he certainly wasn’t the most interesting –the metronomic prose of My farewell to cricket, reflecting the robotic nature of his genius, is one of the great cures for insomnia.

Just as history would suffer if we only examined Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon or Churchill, so is cricket the loser from an obsession with the Don.

His star eclipses everything.

But if we could build a Hubble telescope (rumoured to be named after WA’s spare parts paceman of the 1960s, Jim Hubble), to look past our sun back into time and place, surely it’s time to look past the Bradman constellation, to see the mystery and complexity of cricket as it was forming?


The Kiss of Life and Death – free book idea

 As flagged when I set up this blog, I’ll chuck up what I think are some promising ideas that I know I will never pursue.

Just found this outline from 2007 when looking for a story on Billy Midwinter… anyway, anyone wants to have a crack or collaborate, go for it/let me know…


 The Executioners –  a history of Australian test selectors, and their selections (maybe “The Kiss of Life and Death” is more marketable,a  it Drusilla Modjeska meets a Flanagan?)
* intro piece – the rise of “tenure” among players – and selectors. what if a coup – players sacking the selectors. 11/11/1975 etc etc. how it works in other countries.
1. Australian test selection – history and process. Home, and away.
2. Key personalities
3. Their playing records
4. Patterns – bowlers picking bowlers; states etc
5. Ranking – based on results of dropped/picked players. a selection index?
6. List of all Australian interventions post-WWII. categorise into retirement, injury, pitch conditions; dropping; retirement (forced and voluntary). who was picked -average length in game, age, recall, how long they lasted etc  Timeline.
7. Pen pictures – 20 executions and 10 beatifications:
Death
Hodge
Bichel 2004 (and Brad Williams?)
Slater x 2
Healy
Martyn
Jones
Geoff Marsh
Whitney 89
Wood 88-9 (nice piece comes up on cricinfo about Woody)
Dyer
Matthews post-Sharjah
Zoehrer “”
Yallop 84-5
Laird 82-3
Yallop 81-2
Walters 81
Yardley and Higgs 81
Hookes 79-80 (scored 43 and 37 against Windies – dropped!)
J Benaud
Greg Chappell
Lawry
Taber
O’Neill
Miller (SA tour?)
Grimmett 38
also touch on Taylor, S Waugh and Hayden in ODI, maybe Yardley and World Cup 83
Life
BEAU CASSON
Martyn 2006
Symonds/Watson experimentation
Gavin Robertson
Warne!
Peter Taylor
T Chappell, Beard, Bright, Wellham, Kent 81
Alderman 81
Richie Robinson
John Watkins
Thommo 72-3
(allowances will be made for depletion during WSC and SA rebel tours – so picking Hibbert and Kerr and Mann etc will not feature. the changeability in those times will be critiqued in 6 above.)
for these pen pictures, thinking lots of “reaction” – photos of headlines, quotes etc -and interview with the selectors (if alive) and players, to see how the news was communicated, how they felt, what info was given etc etc. and how long it took to get over it etc.
—-
am thinking low production format, but lots of graphs and b/w pictures – like that ABC stat book I still have that you must read. maybe 240 pages.
can either be functional (as above) or just a historical narrative – so we deal with 1946-64, say, as one long piece, add all of the relevant bios from above for that era are discussed within it. maybe a “start writing and see” issue?

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.  Deconstructionism. I don’t blog enough. Nobody reads it. But it’s a very snazzy presentation!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 490 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Hill by mouth

Henry Hill

Is up one still

Up with Jack

And up with Jill

Nobody gives

A hill of beans

For this hill

Of hilly has-beens

But Clem Hill

Should have had a hill

Named after him

Called Clem Hill Hill

For a man called Hill

He made a mountain of runs

Including 99, 98, 97…

He was heading to one!


Nitties gritties

Admitting my man-crush on the talented JN, he’s only 2 off the lead going into the Aussie Masters today. Has wilted or just not sealed the deal before. Maybe today is the day.

Nice piece about the non-golfing Nitties in the SMH today. Lifestyle as if life…

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/golf/james-nitties-spurns-reality-tv-for-reallife-on-tour-20141122-11rrvx.html


Little which

There was a girl. She was a which.

She had a dad. He was a what.

He would say, “Do you want to wear these?”

Eventually, she would look up and say “Which?”

He would have moved on to another thing. He’d say, “What?”

She’d say, “You mean ‘these’”.

Scratching his head, he’d say “Which?

Mum would say, “Stop that!”

He’d say “What?”

Meanwhile, the little which had dressed herself.