BLACK SWAN SUMMER by Max Bonnell and Andrew Sproul

by Max Bonnell and Andrew Sproul

Published by:
Pitch Publishing
9 Donnington Park, 85 Birdham Road,
Chichester, West Sussex PO20 7AJ.


Pages: 224

MRP: £16.99

Copies may be purchased from Black Swan Summer | Pitch Publishing


Black Swan Summer traces the unlikely Sheffield Shield victory which Western Australia fashioned at their very first attempt in 1947/48. I offer the authors, Max Bonnell and Andrew Sproul, my heartiest congratulations on this excellent book and account which offers so much more than a mere description of Western Australia's first Sheffield Shield season that year.

It is easy to forget that Western Australia is very much out on a limb in relation to the other states competing in that year's competition. Needless to say, transportation to the other side of Australia was not as straightforward as it is now. The points system in place to establish the victor sounded not a little perverse and unintelligible and ultimately was settled by the highest percentage which gave Western Australia, who played three fewer games than the other competitors, their Shield win with a victory in their fourth and last game.

To quote the authors, the win was "... unthinkable that a bunch of cricketers from Western Australia, with no stars and no experience, could win the Sheffield Shield at their first attempt. This was a team with an attack led by two medium-pacers, one of whom was 36 years old, while the other struggled to cope with nerves shredded by the war. They were backed up by two wrist-spinners - an epileptic, and a beginner without a single first-class wicket to his name. The middle order included a short-sighted doctor, a Scottish accountant, and two young footballers with just one first-class innings (and no runs) between them. " I have to beg the cricketers' pardon as, no, their names meant nothing to me. They do now.

What makes Black Swan Summer so fascinating is that the fortunes of Western Australia's cricketers are told in a parallel to the visiting Indian cricketers (who arrived in Australia after the assassination of Gandhi). Alongside this tour, we learn about Australia's White Only policy and how a famed boxer, Clarence Reeves, AKA The Alabama Kid, was deported and never saw his family again. Australian politics of the day receives a regular mention as does the unsettling account of a beer shortage in the country, sagely attributed to the warm weather.

All of the above makes for an engrossing book and interest awaits on every page. I may have suspected that the story would have a happy ending for Western Australia but the description of the matches remains tantalising throughout.

Their astute leader, Keith Carmody, who was elected as coach, seemed an interesting character. Whenever I read of Keith Miller, my ears prick up: there is much, from what I have read, which I admire about him so to read about this great all-rounder in Black Swan Summer (despite his playing against the eventual winners) was once again illuminating. There will only be one Keith Miller but Carmody, after his war-time experiences, comes over in his cricketing actions as slightly similar to Miller. Sadly, of Western Australia's victorious winners of 1947/48, Carmody would be the one who had the shortest innings.

Ordinarily, Western Australian cricket at the end of the 1940s might not be the most immediate era which I would jump to. This book, though, is one which I have found both fascinating, absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable: a treasure trove of information, written in a way which made it difficult for me to put down. I wish the authors and Pitch Publishing every success with it.