"Chappelli - Life, Larrikans and Cricket" - Ian Chappell
This series of anecdotes was a perfect companion fro breaks in the cricket. Essentially a series of anecdotes which are only poignant or funny or interesting because of the identity of the author, it is a quick, light read for those of my age group. Unfortunately, anyone younger would find little to engage them.
"Amateurism Endures Mightily" - Bradman Oration by Gideon Haigh
Australia's leading cricket writer presented the tenth Bradman Oration and enthused about the value that club cricket adds to the Australian game.
Cricket Crisis (Jack Fingleton 1946)
First published in 1946 (I read a 1947 edition), the focus of the book is the Bodyline tour by England in 1932-33. It indeed occupies the first half of the book but references to it are sprinkled through the second half as well. Fingleton's candour dropped him into controversy throughout both his playing and writing career and this book was one of the chief reasons for his opponents' attacks. Not surprisingly, given his robust criticisms of the demigod Bradman, the former captain was the most upset by this volume. Fingleton questioned Bradman's ability and fortitude against the short, fast bowling of England during that summer and backs his assertions with other incidents when he struggled against that form of attack. His claim that Bradman ran whilst others stood and took it stirred a hornets nest but the evidence he presented to defend himself against the claim made by Bradman that he leaked the famous Woodfull line to the press is not only refuted here but played straight back at Bradman.
The second half delivers player portraits and descriptions of other matches he both played in and observed. All is penned in his wonderful prose which stands through time. With a foreword by Sir Neville Cardus and the observations of a man who still holds the record for the most consecutive Test 100's (5 in 5 innings), his legendary toughness and durability shine through in his writing.
This is probably the best book written about cricket by an Australian author and set a standard which others such as Gideon Haigh have measured up to but never surpassed. Essential reading for a balanced view of Bradman's impact on Australian cricket and society.
It Isn't Cricket (Syd Barnes - 1953)
Syd Barnes life story, growing up in Annandale and rising above an impoverished background to play cricket for Australia. The story will hold your interest as he becomes a flashy dresser, always wearing tailored suits even when skint. He was known for his outlandish acts as much as his brilliant batting and fearless close to the wicket fielding. His increasing bouts of paranoia and extroverted behaviour eventually saw him dumped from the Australia side in 1953 for "matters other than cricket", where upon he successfully won a lawsuit against the Australian Board of Control for libel.
Barnes was an extremely gifted but flawed character and it shows in the latter chapters of the book as he explains away his odd behaviour as though hard done by.
Following this autobiography, he wrote weekly columns for the Daily Telegraph, always caustic in their attacks on players and the Board.
In the 1960's, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and despite trying treatments as diverse as electroconvulsive therapy and a variety of prescription drugs, he committed suicide at his Collaroy home by taking an overdose of barbiturates and bromide. His is one of the saddest and most misunderstood chapters of Australian cricket ... something that could not happen today, although ... look at Andrew Symonds, for instance.