Book review: the Canberra Times on the Jarman and Grout books

RIVAL KEEPERS WHOSE PATHS CROSSED (a book review from the Canberra Times)

 

IT’S YOUR WALLY GROUT: A Grandson’s Tale. By Wally

Wright. cricketbooks.com.au. 114pp. $25.

FOR THOSE WHO WAIT: The Barry Jarman Story. By Barry Nicholls. Centrebar Publishing. miltonbm@bigpond.com. 230pp. $40.

Reviewer: PETER CROSSING

 

 

The choice of wicketkeeper in the Australian cricket team is often the subject of much discussion and debate, particularly with the arrival of a talented youngster on the scene at a time when the incumbent appears to be nearing the end of his career. The recent deliberation over the relative merits of Brad Haddin and Matthew Wade is a case in point. The situation was slightly different at the time when Wally Grout and Barry Jarman both vied for selection for the 1957-58 tour of South Africa. Wally Grout, understudy to the Australian keeper Don Tallon in the Queensland team for many years and apparently the logical replacement for the retired Gil Langley was suddenly faced with the fact that Barry Jarman, the talented youngster from South Australia, might usurp the position. Selected for the first Test against the Springboks, Grout pronounced himself fit to play despite a cracked bone in his thumb. The adage ‘‘Never give a sucker an even break’’ was born. Two delightful cricket books focus separately on the stories of Grout and Jarman. Both represent a labour of love and respect.

In writing It’s Your Wally Grout: A Grandson’s Tale, Wally Wright, who never met his grandfather, wanted to investigate the person who was ‘‘more than just an exceptional wicketkeeper’’ but also a ‘‘person who meant a lot to those he met during the course of his short and unforgettable life’’.

Through discussions with family members, particularly his grandmother Joyce, former Test players such as Alan Davidson, Richie Benaud, Bobby Simpson and others, Wright has pieced together details of Grout’s memorable life in cricket. He tells of the battle Grout fought to establish himself as a cricketer, his somewhat blunt approach in exhorting his teammates to greater heights, his role as jocular tourist and many other tales. The story of Grout’s sporting gesture in refusing to remove the bails with English batsman  Fred Titmus well short of his ground after a collision with bowler Neil Hawke is illuminating. Would the same thing happen in the current era? Maybe. However, in all likelihood the dismissal would first take place, and then after a 10-minute discussion with the umpires there would be a recall.

Those interviewed about Grout and his cricket are not as forthcoming about the sadder details of the latter part of his life and the gambling problems that left huge debts. As Wright says, he learned more from what was not said. To Wright’s credit, he does not shy away from these aspects and this is a very warm tribute to Grout’s ‘‘fearless approach to cricket and life’’ which ‘‘made him an unforgettable character’’ but ‘‘tragically . . . also sent him to an early grave’’. My only gripe is Wright’s continued use of the initials ATW in reference to his grandfather. To paraphrase Sir Donald Bradman in his introduction to Grout’s autobiography, My Country’s Keeper, ‘‘ATW Grout. Who? You mean Wally Grout.’’

Given the abundance of books written about cricket and cricketers, it is surprising that Barry Jarman has not featured as a subject before now. After all, he has spent a lifetime of involvement in cricket and the sports industry and is one of only 43 cricketers to captain Australia at Test level. Barry Nicholls has produced an attractive and enjoyable salute to the man known as Jars.

As a young cricketer in the 1970s, Nicholls was coached by Jarman in the fledging underage grade cricket competition set up by the South Australian Cricket Association. The need for such a competition to provide more cricket matches for young cricketers had, of course, been championed by Jarman himself. Nicholls tells the story of Jarman from the time his grandfather Fred May took him to watch cricket and football at Adelaide Oval until latter days spent as an ICC referee. Nicholls reveals much of the true character of Jarman. A major stalwart of the South Australian Sheffield Shield team both on and off the field, Jarman was, according to former teammate Sir Garfield Sobers, ‘‘utterly reliable’’ and a ‘‘hilarious room-mate’’ who encouraged and supported players such as a young Ian Chappell. When the chance came, Jarman took his considerable talents as a keeper and great team man to the Test arena, eventually playing 19 Tests.

Jarman may have been a frustrated understudy to Grout but it never showed.

Nicholls also recounts tales of Jarman the successful businessman who, together with partner David Rowe, not only sold sporting equipment but did much to promote sport in South Australia, particularly in country areas. Mentioned also is the role Jarman and Rowe played as mentors in providing early opportunities for two great cricketing characters, Nugget Rees and Swan Richards.

Wally Grout and Barry Jarman were competing for the same position in the Australian Test team. However, they both managed to put this to one side and make major contributions to Australian cricket. In many ways, the two men had much in common. Both brilliant wicketkeepers they were also swashbuckling batsmen and forthright, supportive team members. Wally Wright and Barry Nicholls are to be commended on their efforts. Each book represents an entertaining and appealing account of the life of a not only a good sportsman but a most interesting person from the world of cricket.

 

?    In his youth, Peter Crossing was fortunate to see the marvellous skills and talents of Wally Grout and Barry Jarman on full display at the Adelaide Oval.

 

 

28 ? PANORAMA ? THE CANBERRA TIMES, SATURDAY, MARCH 24, 2012

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