Aussie all-stars

Mike Coward
Would Victor dare to take Lillee from off stump over square leg? Would Archie have the temerity to advance to Warne as he revelled in doing to the slow bowlers of his day?
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Clockwise from above Lillee, Trumper, Jackson, Warne © EMPICS, Getty Images

There will forever be a profound sadness that Victor Trumper and Archie Jackson died so young. Trumper was taken by Bright's disease at 37 and Jackson succumbed to tuberculosis at 23, on the very day England won the fourth Test of the infamous Bodyline series in 1932-33.

These were gentle and generous men who were regarded as batting geniuses by their peers and the critics of the day. All these summers on, the very mention of their names continues to elicit a range of emotions and musings about what might have been.

Trumper's gifts were astonishing. As AG "Johnnie" Moyes the distinguished Australian broadcaster and writer so famously observed: "When he came, he opened the windows of the mind to a new vision of what batting could be." Jackson, who was five when Trumper died in 1915, was blessed with such rare ability that by the time he scored a century in his first Test match, at the age of 19, he was already hailed as the second Trumper. But it was the frailty of his body and not the weight of expectation that crushed him. He only played eight Tests.

What joy it would be to see these remarkable men pit their skills against maestros of recent times - rugged and combative extroverts Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne. Would Victor dare to take Lillee from off stump over square leg, or to late-cut Warne just as the ball was to nestle in the keeper's gloves? Would Archie have the temerity to hit Lillee on the up through cover-point or to advance to Warne as he revelled in doing to the slow bowlers of his day?

One senses they would.

Mike Coward is a cricket writer with the Australian. This article was first published in the print edition of Cricinfo Magazine in 2006