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Greg Chappell by Adrian McGregor,

June 1986, no. 81

Greg Chappell’s cricketing career from the mid-sixties until 1984 coincided with developments affecting players, administrators and audiences which reoriented attitudes and expectations, causing schisms and bitterness. McGregor’s biography stresses three related themes: the growth of professionalism, the effects of commercialism and especially colour television, and the difficulties in a cricketer’s life caused by conflicting allegiances, and personal and family considerations. A fourth theme, the ascendancy of speed bowling, gets due attention, but more incidentally. It is a conscientious book: Chappell’s early life and the arc of his superb career are followed carefully, comprehensively, informatively, but too often a false note of the ‘excitement’ of it all is journalistically struck.

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Despite its faults, this book has the merit of being the first biography on the legendary Australian batsman, Victor Trumper (1877–1915). Young cricket lovers of today may well ask what feats of batsmanship Trumper performed to deserve this handsomely produced volume about him. After all, his test average was only 39.04, not to be spoken of in the same breath as Don Bradman’s 99.96.

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Cricket is a remarkably fickle game. As Greg Chappell went about season 1981–82 collecting ducks as successfully as any Balinese farmer, Ray Robinson might well have rued his final line on one of Australia’s most-ever favoured batsmen: ‘At thirty-two he had achieved the kind of fame that needs no Academy Award of a foot-high golden statuette.’

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One of the joys of reading Jack Fingleton on cricket is that the personality of the author illuminates every page. It is not merely that Fingleton’s style is the man himself; his work transcends a Parnassian obsession with manner of expression. Just as one expects existentialism in every scene of a Sartre play and Shavian philosophy in every line of a Shaw prologue, the reader would be disappointed if he did not discover a highly individualistic and forceful view­point on cricket eloquently expounded in each chapter of a Fingleton book.

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