The Quicks by Robert Drane

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

 It is often said that cricket is a gentleman’s game. Whoever believes that doesn’t understand cricket’s true nature. When an opening batter takes their crease, and they look up waiting for the bowler to send one down, it is not a quiet sedate ball that will come towards them. It will more likely be a 140 km per hour missile designed to strike fear into the batter’s heart and soul.

Robert Drane in The Quicks Australia’s Greatest Fast Bowlers celebrates those who, when in action, are veritable war machines whose main task is to soften up the openers before they get the opportunity to score a brace of runs so their side can be in a comfortable position as the innings progresses. Drane offers us profiles of the most successful fast bowlers Australia has produced since it became a cricketing nation. He not only tells their stories but also offers a glimpse of what drives these elite athletes to put their skills and bodies on the line in pursuit of both the fastest ball and the best ways to get the batters out before they settle down too much.

The Quicks, say Drane, are very diverse people. They come from various walks of life. Some like Fred Spofforth and Keith Miller had to work to support themselves and their families while finding the time to represent their country at cricket’s highest levels. Miller also fought in World War II as a bomber pilot. These are just two of the snapshots Drane gives us as he reflects on this unique group of players whose skill and example have inspired many of our current fast bowlers, such as Scott Boland whose recent performances with the ball during tests in 2020 and 2021 have been received by teammates and fans with great enthusiasm and joy.

Being a fast bowler is not for the faint hearted. As well as having the drive and passion to bowl fast with a view to intimidating the opposing batters, they also must cope with the possibility and indeed reality of injuries that a both temporary and permanent. Many a fast-bowling career has been tragically cut short because of the injuries to backs, shoulders and legs that need often constant and intensive attention. Some bowlers have tried to shrug off injuries in order to keep playing with shattering results. Even today, cricket lovers wait for news as to whether their favourite Quick can take the field in a test match after recovering from an injury.

Drane’s thoughtful reflections on some of Australia’s greatest fast bowlers allow us to see both their skill and humanity. They may not be a perfect bunch, but they have lit up the spirits of teammates and match-goers alike as they set the scene to enable their team to overcome the opposition and win the match in whatever form of cricket they are playing.

Robert Drane is a multi-award-winning Australian writer, editor and consultant. He is a lifelong student of the game of cricket and appreciator of its finer points and many characters. He spent four years as editor of Cricket Insider magazine and contributed countless articles to Inside Sport over nearly three decades.

The Quicks: Australia’s Greatest Fast Bowlers

by Robert Drane

(2022)

Gelding Street Press

ISBN 978 064520 704 0

$34.99; 256pp

 

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