Murtagh, Andy – Sundial in the Shade


The story of Barry Richards

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The story of Barry Richards, the genius lost to Test cricket, hardback with dw

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1 review for Murtagh, Andy – Sundial in the Shade

  1. Ken Piesse

    I spent Saturday reading the new Barry Richards biography, SUNDIAL IN THE SHADE, the story of Barry Richards: the genius lost to Test cricket by Andy Murtagh. It is a hardback with a nice dustjacket and available now at $50 posted. Here is my review:

    Born at the wrong time and in the wrong place to truly benefit from his prodigious cricketing talents, Barry Richards’ authorised biography is both absorbing and irritating, its lofty highs spoiled by its shabby production.
    Among the crème de le crème of South Africa’s most outstanding ‘lost generation’ of cricketers, forced off-shore by his country’s abhorrent apartheid policies, Sundial in the Shade has a fascinating allure, especially for this reader who still marvels at the young genius’ feats in averaging 72 in his one and only Test series against Australia.
    Had Richards, then 21, not kicked a flowerpot in his pique at failing to gain admittance to an East London nightclub on the very same week that South Africa’s fifth Test team to play the 1966-67 Australians was due to be named, his Test career would have been extended by at least one Test.
    Had Bill Lawry not staged an on-field go-slow as Richards was careering to a majestic century before lunch in only his second Test at Kingsmead – the Aussies bowling just three overs in the final 20 minutes before the break – Richards would have joined Victor Trumper, Charlie Macartney and The Don to make a century before lunch on the opening day of a Test. Instead, he was marooned on 94.
    While Graeme Pollock, 12 months his senior, was accorded the Springbok of the Century honor – he played 23 Tests to Richards’ four – an argument can be mounted that Richards was the more exhilarating, naturally-gifted player who would have been a superstar today at whatever brand of cricket he chose.
    So sharp was his eye that he could see the seam revolving towards him. Like the great Neil Harvey he didn’t rate spinners. He simply hit them on the full.
    Once he told his batting partner he was going to hit a bowler ‘around the clockface’ and did, his boundary hits starting at backward square leg and six balls later ending at third man.
    When he motored to 325 in a day for South Australia during his one-off year in the Sheffield Shield, the opposing attack included Graham McKenzie, Dennis Lillee, Tony Lock and Tony Mann. After one initial play-and-miss, eye witness Greg Chappell said he looked ‘like a man batting against boys’.
    Denied the stimulus of Test cricket, Richards was easily bored and unlike Pollock, who wouldn’t have given his grandmother his wicket, Richards would flay attacks and then hit one up in the air.
    He loved being a part of World Series Cricket in the late ‘70s. At 34, it was his last tilt at international cricket. In one of the supertests at Gloucester Park in Perth, he made 207 and Viv Richards 177. At one stage the Rest of the World team was 1-369 after 60 overs. Later that summer he made 246 not out in a supertest – and he hadn’t played any international cricket for eight years! Kerry Packer paid a $A7000 bonus. A decade earlier at Hants, his long-time English club, he’d been given a 100 pound bonus at the end of the year, which he had to share!
    As in all good biographies, there are some moments to savor and ponder – like the time he jokingly called his long-time Hampshire opening partner Gordon Greenidge ‘boy’ and was promptly pinned against a wall. Or the tragic suicide of his son, which was still too raw for Richards to talk openly about.
    Unfortunately for Richards – and through no fault of his own – his biography is convoluted and clumsy and a sea of small type, with tiny words crammed into every page in a most unappealing presentation. And the page quality is again little better than newsprint.
    I would have liked the author Andy Murtagh to have pressed further on Richards’ inner thoughts about batting with Pollock. And what it was like having to be ready to scamper on the last ball of every over as each so loved to control the strike. And what did Richards really feel about the coloureds barracking for Australia during his one-and-only Test series in 1970?
    In time that 1970 all-white Springbok team may be accorded the status it deserves among the greatest Test combinations of them all. There was little doubt that it could have dominated the Test scene for another 10 years given the presence of so many young and up and coming champions like Richards, Mike Procter, Clive Rice, Garth le Roux and Co.
    The honor of the contributing foreword was given to Sir Tim Rice. Wouldn’t it have been more relevant and personable to also have had Graeme Pollock or Dennis Lillee pen some words?
    Richards was a genius lost to Test cricket, but his compelling story deserved a more illustrious podium than this.
    Rating (out of 10): 6.

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