Author(s): Malcolm Knox
Hailed as one of the greatest cricket teams of all time, the 1948 'Invincibles' are the only Australians to complete a tour of England undefeated. Their crushing victories under the guidance of captain Don Bradman on his final tour brought cultural and statistical glories, notwithstanding Bradman's duck in the fifth Ashes match, famously stranding his Test batting average at 99.94. But often overlooked today are the mixed feelings about the manner in which these feats were achieved. Bradman's ruthlessness scotched hopes that after the terrible realities of the Second World War, the game might resume in a more friendly spirit, dispensing with the angry competitiveness epitomised by Bodyline. In his revelatory account of the legendary tour, Malcolm Knox lays bare the shock among the fans, commentators and players - from both teams - at Bradman's single-minded on- and off-field tactics, as he exacted revenge for pre-war slights he was unable to shake off in his pursuit of history. He exposes the rift between players who had experienced the horrors of active duty, epitomised by the fiery but sporting RAAF pilot Keith Miller, and those who had not, such as the invalided Bradman, who pursued the war-ravaged veterans of the county clubs with as much grim determination as the Ashes. The Invincibles is more than a record of an extraordinary cricket achievement. While the talents of the likes of Ray Lindwall, Sid Barnes, Lindsay Hassett, Bill Johnston, Arthur Morris and, of course, the Don himself, are celebrated, it is also prompts reflection on what place entertainment and inspiration have in competitive sport. When it's winner takes all, what's left for the supporters?