Jack Fingleton: Gutsy batsman, prolific writer and obsessed about Don Bradman
Jack Fingleton amassed 1,189 runs in 18 Tests at 42.46 for Australia © Getty Images
Jack Fingleton, born April 28, 1908, was an opening batsman who played 18 Tests for Australia. He was also a journalist of repute and a prolific writer about the game, whose often splendid commentaries were blackened by his extreme antagonism for Don Bradman. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the life and career of man who was at home while reporting about Len Hutton and John F Kennedy.
Jack of all Trades
Jack Fingleton. Multi-faceted, colourful and vocal.
As a batsman he was gutsy, stubborn and, once in a while, prolific. During the zenith of his days, he scored four centuries in as many innings in Test cricket — the first man to ever do so. As a fielder he was brilliant in the covers, and later became part of the celebrated leg trap for Bill O’Reilly. When he stood beside Bill Brown in one of the two short legs, Neville Cardus described the Fingleton-Brown combination as “crouching low and acquisitively, each with as many arms as an Indian God.”
As a pressman, he was versatile, sometimes sardonic, frequently fearless and often outspoken. Respected for his candid commentary, he never hesitated to call a spade a spade. He criticised the short bumpers of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller with the same gusto with which he had condemned Bodyline, and later voiced that the West Indians of the late 1970s were bullies and a boring lot ‘with a super-abundance of bouncers which could not be played and made the over rates extraordinarily slow’. “[Michael] Holding is a perfect running specimen, but I don’t go to a Test to see running; if I wished to see that I would go to Crystal Palace to see [Sebastian] Coe and [Steve] Ovett.”
Once he had flown from New York to Washington to attend a press conference of President John F Kennedy. However, he was informed that any visitor had to be vetted for 48 hours by the security. Yet, Pierre Salinger, the press secretary of Kennedy, managed to smuggle him in as long as he agreed not to ask any questions. Why? Because Salinger had been a scorer for a cricket team in Philadelphia. He could not refuse Fingleton.
In his career as a political journalist, cricket opened many a door. Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies often called him over to discuss the cricket of the day, and in return gave him some vital insights into the political situation. In South Africa, Prime Minister Dr Hendrik Verwoerd granted him a private interview for an hour and a quarter when Fingleton himself had budgeted for 15 minutes, and all the while a glowering Ben Schoeman was kept waiting for his appointment.
As a man, Fingleton’s generosity was most apparent in the way he helped his former foe, the neglected and forgotten Harold Larwood, to migrate to Australia and find his feet in the southern country. It was mainly due to his repeated canvassing the great fast bowler was ultimately honoured by the cricketing community, as also by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
He led a rewarding life, as a cricketer, a cricket writer and political correspondent in Canberra. On the day he retired from the press gallery in 1978, the Speaker Sir Billy Snedden announced the news to the House from the Chair, mentioning his cricket career and wishing Fingleton well on behalf of the Parliament. Members of both sides of the House rewarded him with a hearty hear-hear — ‘the only time they showed such unity on a turbulent day spent wrangling on privilege. ’It was the only occasion in the history of the Australian Parliament that a press correspondent had been so honoured.
Yet, throughout his life Fingleton seemed to suffer from a silent, all-consuming flame of negative feelings that refused to die. His simmering obsession with Don Bradman, the undisguised dislike he tried to cloak in the guise of unbiased assessment, but that raised its obvious and ugly head again and again. It remained a very apparent thorn in his side that bothered him till his last breath.
As a batsman he was gutsy, stubborn and, once in a while, prolific. During the zenith of his days, he scored four centuries in as many innings in Test cricket
Batting from Memory is an unusual, and in parts superbly written, autobiography that he penned post retirement. It was published when he was 73, and was supposed to be launched in very week he died from heart attack. It is an offbeat book, immensely enjoyable in patches, where the writer himself takes a backseat and allows the men who played major roles in his life come to the fore. From Brother Foran, the teacher who nurtured his love for English prose, to Robert Menzies, from Billy Hughes, the former Prime Minister who appointed him as Press Secretary, to Neville Cardus, the doyen of cricket writers, to Harold Evans, the brilliant editor of Sunday Times, all are rewarded with chapters dedicated to them in the work. It is a poignant way of telling the world that a man is nothing but a series of connections he makes through his life. However, the only discordant note is struck — three times — when he mentions Bradman. The greatest ever batsman is covered across three chapters — Memories of Bradman, Don Bradman as I knew him and More Memories of Bradman. With minor attempts at underlining the sometimes cordial interactions between the two, Fingleton dwells on his former Australian colleague and captain with unfettered criticism, laying bare every possible shortcoming of the great man.
Conflicts with Bradman
Yes, the antipathy was perhaps mutual, right from the dark, dismal day of the ‘Adelaide leak’. Yet, Bradman seldom spent more than a few words on his opinions about Fingleton. It would not be stretching it too far if we state that when the legend came into the scheme of things, Fingleton generally let his obsession get to him and resorted to calling a spade a bulldozer.
People do point at the quite brilliantly crafted Quietly Fades the Don, Fingleton’s account of Bradman’s last triumphant tour of England in 1948. It is also claimed by the writer himself that Bradman had specially thanked him for the book. Fingleton is not short of words of praise for The Don’s extraordinary feats of run making, and the book can be considered the least tainted by his feelings for the great man. However, even then, in parts his consecutive dismissals, caught by Hutton at leg slip, are dealt with in some rather unnecessary detail. Bradman’s not too impressive numbers on sticky wickets are often hinted at. And of course, away from the book there was that infamous spate of uncontrolled guffaws indulged in by Fingleton and his former teammate and fellow Bradman antagonist Bill O’Reilly. Seated in the press-box at The Oval, they doubled up in unrestrained mirth when the magnificent career ended with a duck .Finally, during the tour, Fingleton was overly critical of the tactics used by Bradman, especially his insistence on Lindwall and Miller bowling bouncers.
In the other celebrated Fingleton book, Cricket Crisis, the author spent half of the 300-plus pages on Bodyline. And while dealing with the controversy, he criticised Bradman’s efforts at the wicket, the way he moved around at the crease trying to get away from the line and counter the bowling with unorthodox strokes. It reads surprisingly harsh, especially given that Bradman, although hardly proving to be the run machine that he otherwise was, managed to top the averages in the Tests with 396 runs at 56.57, a good 14 runs per innings ahead of the next Australian. And although Fingleton often hinted at his own brave acts in not flinching against the bowling, his two innings of substance, 40 and 83, did not quite camouflage the ultimately ordinary figures of 150 runs at 25.00. Furthermore, throughout the Bodyline section of the book, Fingleton talks of the other aspects of Bradman that many found difficult to accept — his aloofness, his never joining the others for a drink, his being a brand and in many ways greater than the game.
In the second half of the book, there is mercifully little about Bradman. But there is this one telling piece which seems in retrospect to have been specifically written as a slight to the greatest of batsmen. In the chapter, an unnamed partner and Fingleton pick a World Eleven, and include men like Bill Ponsford, George Headley, Learie Constantine, Wally Hammond, KS Duleepsinhji and Stan McCabe. Don Bradman is included as the twelfth name — as a member of the opposition. It is argued that Bradman’s intense individualism would swamp the type of cricket, the others were famous for. An additional flimsy excuse provided is that since the bowling includes Larwood, it would be of more interest to play Bradman as an opposition batsman because that is the contest people like and want to see. If someone can exclude Bradman from any World XI, the bias is simply too conspicuous.
Later, when Fingleton wrote The Immortal Victor Trumper, one of the major topics discussed in the book was Bradman’s failures on wet, sticky wickets, and therefore the many angles from which Trumper towered above him as a batsman. Gerald Pawle of the Cricketer was appalled enough to write, “More apposite are Fingleton’s views about Bradman, not entirely unknown to aficionados of a long-standing rivalry but revived here with intemperate zest.”
The obsession was so deep-rooted that when in his autobiography Fingleton wrote about his early days as a journalist in the Sydney Guardian, he recalled that it was in the Guardian office that he first met Bradman. The notable thing he remembers about the meeting is that Bradman corrected his pronunciation of tetanus.
Later, his recollections of his Test debut surprisingly find their place in the chapter titled Memories of Bradman. In his memories, it seemed rather insignificant that he batted against South Africa on a difficult Melbourne wicket and scored an impressive 40 after captain Bill Woodfull had been bowled first ball. It was far more important for him to note that Bradman did not bat because of a mystery injury in his hotel room, but came out to field on the last day and caught HerbieTaylor off Bert Ironmonger after running back from point with no apparent discomfort. There are oblique hints that Bradman had decided to feign injury because of the dreadful wicket. In other words, Fingleton’s obsession with the man — his methods and motives — bordered on the psychotic.
Jack Fingleton (left) didn’t have a good working relationship with Don Bradman © Getty Images
The Adelaide Leak
Fingleton’s rift with Bradman is one of the most long-lasting personal conflicts in the history of the game, and it kept them far from speaking terms right up to the time of the former’s death.
And one of the many reasons for the rift was the belief that it was The Don who kept him out of the Test side during the 1934 tour of England. Biographer Gowden discovered an extraordinary letter that Fingleton wrote to Woodfull, the Australian captain and selector. Complaining about his omission he noted that certain Australian players “probably don’t want me as a teammate”.
Both Cricket Crisis and Batting from Memory explain the biggest issue between the two — the infamous Adelaide leak during the Bodyline series.
As is well known, Australian captain, Bill Woodfull, had been struck over the heart by an express Harold Larwood delivery during the Adelaide Test of the notorious series. Later in the afternoon, while Ponsford and Vic Richardson were at the crease, English team managers Plum Warner and Richard Palairet paid Woodfull a visit in the Australian dressing room to express their concern over his injury.
Still under considerable pain, and aghast at the English attitude of making a mockery of his very idealistic views of sporting spirit, Woodfull was not too eager to entertain the officials. From the massage table, he voiced the words that have become immortal with time.
“There are two teams out there. One is trying to play cricket. The other is making no attempt to do so.”
For an Englishman hailing from the early days of the century, this allegation of not playing cricket was crushing, and there are reports that Warner was in tears when he returned to his hotel.
The damage, however, became irreversible, when this incident — including the quote — was leaked to the press. It kick-started the Bodyline controversy, soon snowballing into the biggest crisis cricket has ever faced.
Fingleton, with his day job as a reporter for SydneySun, was the prime suspect. Warner went as far as to say that the story had been leaked because one of the Australian players in the dressing room was a journalist.
However, Fingleton continued to voice all his remaining days that Bradman was the real culprit. According to Fingleton’s biographer Greg Gowden, this “fatally poisoned” their relationship.
When Cricket Crisis was published in 1947, Fingleton alleged that it had actually been Bradman who had leaked the news to Claude Corbett of The Sun.
Of course, Bradman rubbished the claim and blamed Fingleton for the leak, and the two hardly ever spoke again.
Much of their conflicts emerged out of the sectarian divide between the sections of the Australian team of those days. In the 1930s, when Australian cricket was riding the crest of the Bradman tidal wave, there was a chasm within the great side. On one side were the Masons — including Bradman himself, Bill Ponsford, Bert Oldfield and others. On the other hand were the Catholics, including Fingleton, O’Reilly, Stan McCabe, Leo O’Brien and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith.
According to Gowden, it is not coincidental of the most bitter feuds among the Australians of this generation existed between Bradman and members of the Catholic group.
During a match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Bradman came to know that Fingleton, who opened the batting, had had his bat sprinkled with holy water by a Catholic bishop.
Fingleton was soon dismissed. As Bradman, at No 3, passed Fingleton on his way to the middle, he said to him: “We’ll see what a dry bat will do out there.” The master, of course, scored his usual century.
Whatever the reasons might have been, it seems a bit unfortunate that Fingleton’s conflicts with Bradman made such a huge impact, and must need to cover such a significant portion of the biography of a fascinating life.
Emerging from poverty
Fingleton was born at Waverley in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, the third of six children in an impoverished Irish-Catholic family.
Fingleton’s father James was a tram driver and union organiser, who was elected to the New South Wales (NSW) parliament when young Jack was five. The family seemed to be headed for better times, and moved to a larger house. Fingleton attended the Roman Catholic St Francis School before moving to Waverley College.
However, even as Fingleton was learning the ropes of the game in street cricket, his father lost his seat and had to resume his job as a tram driver. The window had to be kept open as the tram wound its way across Sydney, and the foul weather came in undeterred. James Fingleton contracted tuberculosis in 1918 and died two years later. The last ceremony was organised by funeral director Sammy Carter, former Australian Test wicketkeeper.
Mother Belinda Fingleton made ends meet by opening a seafood shop. It was not too successful a venture. Fingleton had to leave school at 12 and engaged in a variety of jobs to supplement the meagre breadwinning potential of the family. He started working as a food stall vendor at the cinemas.
It was cousin Jack O’Brien who gave him the break into journalism. O’Brien, a linotype compositor at the Sydney Guardian, wangled a job through Fred Couglan, the turf man. Fingleton started out as a copy boy at the age of 15. Encouraged by old headmaster Brother Foran to read Dickens, especially Pickwick Papers, he worked his way into a sports reporter.
He did enjoy a narrow escape, when he was temporarily sacked by the proprietor Robert Clyde Packer. This was after light-heartedly tossing a paste-pot and shattering it to pieces. Luckily, there was a requirement for urgent reporting, and the instructions of the removal were overturned.
It was in the Guardian’s files that Fingleton came across and devoured the Neville Cardus pieces for Manchester Guardian. He summoned enough nerve to write to the legendary writer and was rewarded with a reply. Thus started nearly half a century of correspondence and friendship.
Cricket and journalism — the first steps
The club cricket scene of Sydney was teeming with talent. Fingleton joined Waverley which contained Test stars such as Alan Kippax, Arthur Mailey, Herbie Collins and Hanson Carter. The young lad trained diligently but breaking into the first eleven proved quite a task. Luckily for him skipper Collins was unable to turn up in a match due to his job as a bookmaker. Fingleton was included in the side as a 16-year-old and batted at No 11, scoring an unbeaten 11. In the following innings, he scored 52 not out and became a permanent member of the side.
Fingleton adapted his technique to the uneven bounce of the Waverley track and started scoring consistently for his side. At the same time, he made a career switch. Pedlar Palmer, his ‘magnificent boss’ at Guardian, moved to Sydney Morning Herald. According to his own confession, his interest in the newspaper lessened after the departure of his mentor. Johnny Moyes, a fellow cricketer and the sporting editor of the Telegraph Pictorial, offered him a job and Fingleton eagerly accepted it. The Telegraph Pictorial soon merged with theDaily Telegraph and Fingleton worked for it through the decade of Depression, much of his reporting done in the working-class inner-city suburbs of Redfern and Newtown.
On the cricketing front, in 1928-29 a century against Petersham got him a berth in the NSW side. On his First-Class debut batted at No 8 and his first partner at the crease as he walked in was none other than a young Bradman. The great man was already past 200 when Fingleton came in and the score stood at 602 for six. They added 111 without being separated, Bradman farming the strike and glowering at the debutant after a misunderstanding that had resulted in a near run out. Fingleton’s contribution was an unbeaten 25, while Bradman remained unconquered on 340. In spite of their partnership, it was not the best of starts for their interactions and it would go steadily downhill from then on.
The early days saw modest returns, and Fingleton gained repute as a gritty, if dour and unattractive, batsman. His first century took a while in coming, but could not have been scored on a better platform. It was a innings of 117 against the touring South Africans. Set 448 to win, NSW finished on 430 for three. This effort saw him selected for the Test series. And after doing duty as a 12th man in three Tests, he made his debut at Melbourne, replacing Ponsford who had fallen ill. Thus Fingleton made it to the Test side after only 11 games for NSW.
Captain Woodfull placed the rookie cricketer at point and a bundle of nerves saw him let the first ball go through his legs to the boundary. However, by the time he batted, he was much more at ease. His 40 was second only to Kippax’s 42. Dick Whittington observed, “for courage and skill … Fingleton’s knock was worth quadruple that number.” However, as mentioned earlier, while recounting his first Test, Fingleton was more concerned about the authenticity of Bradman’s injury than his own runs.
During the Bodyline series that followed in 1932-33, Fingleton initially countered the tactics of Douglas Jardine well enough. He notched up 119 against the touring side for New South Wales — an innings in which Bradman scored just 18. This was followed by 26 and 40 as Australia lost the First Test in Sydney. The second innings knock was scored over two hours and 24 minutes and he took several blows to his body.
The Melbourne Test saw him hit 83 in the first innings. It had been an impressive and courageous start to his Test career. But, after that things started going wrong.
At Adelaide he got a pair, out to Gubby Allen’s non-Bodyline pace in each innings. Additionally there was the problem surrounding the leak of Woodfull’s words. He lost his place in the side after the Test and when he faced the tourists again for his state, he could score only 19 and seven.
Omission and return
Fingleton was in extraordinary form during the 1933-34 season, scoring 655 runs at an average of almost 60. In the Test trial he hit 105, and amassed 145 against Victoria to end the season on a resounding note. However, he was not chosen for the tour of England. Fingleton was far from amused.
“I had made 655 runs at 65.50 (sic), being above six of the batsmen who were chosen for the touring side,” he wrote in his autobiography later. He confessed that the focus of his ire was on Bradman, who had attacked him for his running between the wickets in an article in Sydney Sun a few days earlier. “I think I have largely got to thank you for missing out,” he supposedly told Bradman on meeting him on the ground floor of the Sun. He also claimed to have found out later that Bradman’s opinion on the team had been sought by several of the selectors, and he had not favoured him. It did not really foster friendship between the two men.
Perhaps some arguments with Woodfull during his century against Victoria also contributed to his omission. There are opinions, including Wisden’s, that for diplomatic reasons Woodfull did not want the journalist who had supposedly leaked Warner’s comments. There was also over-representation of NSW in the squad which might have worked against him. But, the net result was that Fingleton was not chosen and his suspicions unwaveringly zeroed in on Bradman.
After the 1934 tour, both Woodfull and Ponsford announced their retirements. With vacancies to fill at the top, Fingleton was one of the main contenders. With Bradman having moved to South Australia, he was far more relaxed while playing for NSW.
He was again phenomenally successful in the domestic season and was recalled for the tour of South Africa in 1935-36. With Bradman still recovering from the illness that had struck him in England in 1934, Vic Richardson led the side.
The happy tour
This tour is remembered as some of the happiest days of many a cricketer who played for Australia and Fingleton was no exception. He abandoned his defensive approach — the change could have been induced by the lack of quality in the Springbok bowling attack — and proceeded to play the best series of his career.
He made 62 and 40 in the second Test at Johannesburg, and followed it up with scores of 112 at Johannesburg, 108 at Cape Town and 118 Johannesburg again. He ended with 478 runs at 79.66. It was also the series in which he volunteered to take a more active role in the field rather than standing in the covers. Captain Richardson, standing in the short leg for O’Reilly, invited him to join him in fielding close in on the leg side. Thus was born the famous leg-trap for O’Reilly.
For all his success, Fingleton almost never went on the trip. Those were the days when Jack Ryder was arranging a private tour of India with some of the cricketers not selected for the South African tour. The Australian Cricket Board (ACB) were not happy about this, preferring the players to take part in the domestic games. Eric Baume, Fingleton’s editor, asked him to write a scathing column against the board. When Fingleton pointed out that he was one of the men chosen to tour South Africa, Baume exclaimed, “That is the point. One of the Board’s own men attacks the Board. That’ll make it all the better.” Fingleton refused to write under his own name and Baume threatened to sack him. Writing against the Board would have invariably resulted in exclusion from the side. Luckily, the editor-in-chief Tommy Dunbabin overruled Baum and the crisis was avoided.
The world record partnership
When Gubby Allen’s men visited in 1936-37, Fingleton was an automatic selection and a steady opening combination with Brown. He started off with 100 in the first innings of the First Test at Brisbane, and entered the record books by becoming the first man to hit centuries in four consecutive innings. His feat was later matched by Alan Melville, who scored his four hundreds with a World War in between, and then surpassed by Everton Weekes.
The run of success was halted in the second innings of the first Test and though he scored 73 in the second innings of the second Test at Sydney, Australia were 0-2 down as they went into Melbourne.
With Bradman strangely out of form in the two Tests, the Englishmen were the favourites to clinch the series as the action moved to Melbourne. And there one witnessed one of the amazing turnarounds in the history of the game.
On a treacherous surface, Bradman shuffled the batting order in the second innings. Fingleton came in to bat at No. 6 after tail-enders Fleetwood-Smith and O’Reilly had opened the innings. He was joined at 97 for five by Bradman himself. The pair put on a world record 346. Bradman scored 270, perhaps the best innings of his career, and throughout he insisted on getting the runs, while instructing Fingleton to hold on to his end. Fingleton’s own contribution was 136, his final and most celebrated century in Test cricket. Australia won and kept on winning, clinching the series 3-2.
The final series
His final series was his first tour to England in 1938. It was a miserable trip for the batsman, as he struggled to get runs in the major matches. The highest he scored in the Tests was 40 in the second innings at Trent Bridge — a match saved by Brown and Bradman after England had piled up 658 and had forced the visitors to follow on. It was during this match that Fingleton came across Menzies for the first time. When he told the future Prime Minister — “If you have some advice for Bradman I will be happy to pass it on to him,” Menzies responded, “What you need is not advice but a miracle.”
It was in the same match that Fingleton courted controversy by sitting down beside the wicket and refusing to bat as the spectators indulged in slow clapping to protest against defensive batting.
Fingleton later attributed his failure in the series to his non-existent pull stroke. His cricketing days ended when he was carried out of the ground by his teammates after he injured his leg at The Oval as England piled up 903 for seven declared. He was unable to bat, as was Bradman.
Once again, in his autobiography, it was Bradman he remembered while recounting his last Test. This time his peeve was different. When he injured himself and his mates carried him on their shoulders and left him sitting in the ground in front of the member’s area, he had to hobble to the pavilion himself. Not one member got up to assist him. However, when Bradman broke his shin while bowling, he was similarly deposited outside the boundary ropes by the Australian fielders. And countless members hurried down to lend the great man a hand, and the dressing room teemed with medicos offering their services.
Fingleton was just obsessed with Bradman. He remembered Bradman more than his own performances in his first and last Tests. In retrospect it is quite symbolic that Bradman batted in neither of the two Test matches that marked the beginning and the end of Fingleton’s Test career.
Last year, I had interviewed John McKenzie, the owner of the wonderful JW McKenzie Cricket Books in Stoneleigh, Surrey. According to him, Fingleton was a regular visitor to his bookshop till his last visit to England, and always checked for a copy of Cricket Crisis. “He was obsessed about the book,” McKenzie had said. Yes, he was a curiously obsessed man in some respects.
The Oval Test was the end of Fingleton’s Test career. He carried on for two more seasons on returning to Australia but could not really find his touch, managing 120 runs in six matches. He retired at the end of the 1939-40 season.
With a style based on low back-lift and steadfast defence, Fingleton was not the most attractive batsman to watch, and he himself was the first to admit the same. He once told commentator Alan Gibson that the latter had not missed anything by not watching him bat.
He piled up 1189 runs in 18 Tests at 42.46 with five hundreds. Interestingly, he scored at 74.00 against South Africa while his average dropped to 31.95 against England. In First-Class cricket he amassed 6816 runs in 108 matches at 44.54 with 22 hundreds.
In War and Peace
When the Second World War broke out, Fingleton enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force in late 1941. He was engaged in the artillery division and sent to Warwick Farm for training. However, he did not enjoy the experience. Never much of a follower of commands, the rigid hierarchy of military life provoked the rebel within him. While stationed at Double Bay on the shores of Sydney Harbour, he missed the action when a Japanese midget submarine launched an attack — he was visiting his wife while AWOL. He was later transferred to work in intelligence analysis and censorship in the Press Relations Unit, before being made the press secretary for Billy Hughes.
That was the start of his career in political journalism and he lived in Canberra from then on. Fingleton worked on the aggressive oratory of Hughes, first being asked to curb the former Prime Minister’s speeches, later to censor his words. All this was done on specific instruction of Prime Minister John Curtin. While working in the censorship department, Fingleton also carried out cricket commentary assignments for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Fingleton continued writing on cricket as well as while continuing his political journalism. He wrote prolifically for The Hindu, with whom he started a fruitful association during the Indian cricket team’s inaugural tour of Australia. He contributed to The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer and various newspapers in Australia, South Africa and India. Additionally he wrote his many books on cricket, and was often engaged as an outspoken commentator for the BBC.
According to EW Swanton, Fingleton “remains surely, as cricket writer and broadcaster, the best his country has.” Neville Cardus also held his writing in high regard, and Fingleton himself devoted a chapter on Cardus in his autobiography, calling it The Victor Trumper of Writing.
His prose was characterised by unconventional and often unique style, resulting perhaps from his limited formal education and a career built on self-learning. At the same time, his anti-Bradman rants were too often overdone and frequently ruined perfectly good pieces of writing. He found faults with almost everything to do with Bradman, from the piano album the great man produced in the 1930s to his refusing to walk when caught by Jack Ikin off Bill Voce when the Ashes were resumed after the War.
Apart fromCricket Crisis),Brightly Fades the Don and Batting From Memory, Fingleton’s other books includeThe Tour in Australia (Australia 1950-51), The Ashes Crown the Year (England 1953),Masters of Cricket, Four Chukkas to Australia, The Greatest Test of All (Brisbane 1960), Fingleton on Cricket and The Immortal Victor Trumper.
In 1976, Fingleton was awarded an OBE for services to journalism and to cricket. After his death, a disused scoreboard from MCG dating back to 1901 was taken out of storage and transported to Canberra. It was installed on the top of hill at Manuka Oval, and renamed the ‘Jack Fingleton Scoreboard’. During the dedication ceremony, Governor-General of Australia Sir Ninian Stephen observed that Fingleton was not merely a Test cricketer or a parliamentary journalist, but an institution in Canberra.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)