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Stroke of Genius Victor Trumper and the shot that changed the world By Gideon Haigh

Release date: 22nd September, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

List Price: £18.99
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Early in Stroke of Genius, author Gideon Haigh tells readers that while his book contains biographical elements, “it is not a biography” of the great Australian batsman, Victor Trumper.

Instead, Haigh refers to it as “an iconography”, a study of Trumper’s place in cricketing history; his role as a catalyst in the game’s development and of the unforgettable photograph, Jumping Out, featured on the front cover, which captures an attacking spirit that made him universally popular, even amongst opponents.

An extract from Cricket: The Great Ones, written by Neville Cardus in 1967, sums the attitude of many towards Trumper. Desperate for England to overhaul Australia in the Ashes, but still see Trumper play well, a youthful Cardus prays before the game: “Please God, let Victor Trumper score a century against England tomorrow…out of an Australian all-out score of 124.”

The ‘shot that changed cricket’, a photograph taken at Kennington Oval in 1905 by a self-taught photographer and keen cricketer, George Beldam, credited as being the first man to concentrate on ‘action photography’, was originally an image in Great Batsmen, authored by Beldam. So famous did it become that a photogravure hangs in Australia’s National Portrait Gallery.

The photograph is a study in concentration, with Trumper, his ‘Baggy Green’ pulled forward, poised to hoist the oncoming ball a country mile. The length of the stride he has taken down the wicket, coupled with the obvious strength in his wrists, his almost straight left arm (a feature most amateur golfers would be delighted with) and the bat at the top of his backswing combines an obvious suppleness, natural timing and power. The photograph would be used in countless advertising campaigns and as an image that youngsters the world over sought to emulate.

But Stroke of Genius is more than a history of a single photograph. Haigh manages to explore cricket’s evolution, opera, Impressionism, Australian politics and the Edwardian obsession with class without lecturing readers, returning to Trumper and his tragically early death from Bright’s Disease in 1915.

Trumper’s frequent strokes of genius could be said to have defined an era; his death marked the beginning of another, significantly more oppressive one.


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