10 for 66 and All That by Arthur Mailey: A review
10 for 66 and All That by Arthur Mailey
Allen & Unwin, 2008
Arthur Mailey was born in Sydney in 1888. A cricketer, he played 21 tests for Australia, taking 99 wickets at a touch under 34 runs each. His high average reflects an attacking attitude both on his part and that of the batsmen he went up against. He was a journalist and cartoonist as well, and a known story-teller.
This is his autobiography. Some of it is true. It’s title references the humour classic 1066 and All That, and also his own effort in taking all ten wickets in a tour game in England in 1921, a rare feat.
Mailey tackles a range of subjects in a book that is more episodoic than linear — almost a series of essays. He sees leg spinners as a breed apart and needing appropriate leeway from their captains. He delivers judgements on the greats of his time, from Bradman to his idol, Trumper, to the ‘Men at the Other End’ — Ponsford, Hobbs, Sutcliffe and so on. He tells stories of overseas travel and making his way out of the poorer parts of Sydney. He looks to the future (the book first came out in 1958) and notes that ‘It is being said that cricket is far too slow for young Australians’.
The book is congenial. Mailey is an entertaining speaker. He has opinions and lets them flow. The drawings are nice additions. Is this a ‘must have’ book for cricket fans? I don’t know, but it is a very enjoyable way to pass a few hours.
Oh, and it has Mailey’s famous reverie on bowling to his childhood hero, Victor Trumper. ‘Opposing My Hero’ ends with Mailey dismissing Trumper, and watching the figure walk back to the pavilion. ‘There was no triumph in me as I watched the receding figure. I felt like a boy who had killed a dove.’
It is as heartfelt a sentiment as a sportsman’s book has ever contained, and inspired a very early, and rather nice, song by Aussie band The Lucksmiths.
The book is a simple pleasure, and there’s not a ghost of a ghostwriter.