Jack Fingleton Biography

    Biography

    John \"Jack\" Henry Webb Fingleton OBE (28 April 1908 – 22 November 1981) was an Australian cricketer who was trained as a journalist and became a political and cricket commentator after the end of his playing career. A stubborn opening batsman known for his dour defensive approach, he scored five Test centuries, representing Australia in 18 Tests between 1932 and 1938. He was also known for his involvement in several cricket diplomacy incidents in his career, accused of leaking the infamous verbal exchange between Australian captain Bill Woodfull and English manager Plum Warner during the acrimonious Bodyline series, and later of causing sectarian tension within the team by leading a group of players of Irish Catholic descent in undermining the leadership of the Protestant Don Bradman. In retirement, Fingleton became a prominent political commentator in Canberra, with links to Australian prime ministers. The author of many cricket books, he is regarded as one of Australia's finest cricket writers, with a perceptive and occasionally sardonic style, marked by persistent criticisms of Bradman. Fingleton had a difficult childhood, forced to leave formal education at the age of 12 to support his family after the death of his father. He worked in a series of odd jobs before joining the media at the age of 15. He gradually progressed in his newspaper and cricket career. After making his first-grade debut in Sydney district cricket at the age of 16, he made his first-class debut for New South Wales at the age of 20 in 1928–29. However, Fingleton struggled to establish himself at interstate level, and was unable to maintain a regular position in the team, playing in only seven matches in his first three seasons. In 1931–32, Fingleton capitalised on illnesses to teammates to gain a regular position for New South Wales and then make his debut for Australia. He secured a position in the state team after Archie Jackson developed terminal tuberculosis and made 93 and 117 in his first two innings for the season, his highest scores to that point. He was then called into the Test squad and made his debut in the Fifth and final Test of the season against South Africa after Bill Ponsford fell ill. On a pitch rendered hostile by rain, Fingleton made 40 in an innings victory, surpassing the entire aggregate scored by the South Africans in their first innings. The following season, Fingleton enhanced his reputation for defiance in difficult conditions by scoring an unbeaten century against the Bodyline attack in a tour match despite suffering multiple bruises, and compiling 83 in the low-scoring Second Test, Australian's only Test win of the series. However, he made a pair in the next Test and the controversy over England's bowling peaked with the leaking of Woodfull's admonishment of Warner over England's tactics. At the time, Fingleton was widely believed to be responsible for the leak, although he always denied it and blamed Bradman. Over time, Fingleton's view has become more widely accepted. Fingleton was dropped after this Test, and was controversially overlooked for the 1934 tour of England despite strong performances for New South Wales. His omission was thought to be influenced by the belief that he was responsible for leaking Woodfull's comments as well as Bradman's criticism of his performance. Other factors speculated to have contributed to his omission included a dispute that Fingleton had with Woodfull during a Sheffield Shield match, and interstate rivalries between New South Wales and Victoria causing Fingleton's omission at the expense of an additional Victorian. After the 1934 tour, Woodfull and Ponsford—Australia's first-choice opening pair—retired, leaving vacancies in the Test team. Fingleton scored four centuries and was the leading run-scorer during the 1934–35 domestic season to earn a recall to the Australian team for the 1935–36 tour of South Africa. From that point onwards until the outbreak of World War II, he opened the batting with his New South Wales partner Bill Brown. With Bradman absent due to illness, it was the happiest time of Fingleton's career, and he scored centuries in three consecutive innings as Australia won each of the last three Tests by an innings. In the Fourth Test, he and Brown put on the first double century opening partnership for Australia in a Test. In 1936–37, with Bradman back in the team as captain, Fingleton made a century in the First Test to become the first player to score consecutive centuries in four Test innings. He then made 136 in the Third Test, featuring in a partnership of 346 with Bradman after Australia had lost the first two Tests; their stand set up victory and Australia came back to win the series 3–2. Fingleton made his only tour of England in 1938, and he was not successful, averaging only 20.50 in the Tests. Upon returning to Australia he played sporadically for his state before retiring in 1939–40. Fingleton enlisted in the military during World War II and was eventually sent to work on media matters for Prime Minister John Curtin and one of his predecessors, Billy Hughes. After the war, Fingleton worked as a political correspondent in Canberra and commentated on cricket during the summer months in Australia and England. He was a prolific author, regarded as one of the finest and most stylish cricket writers of his time, producing many books. Fingleton was known for his forthright opinions and willingness to criticise, and his cricket reports were published by newspapers in several countries. He was known for his ongoing feud with Bradman—the pair repeatedly spoke out against one another's judgement and play on the field long after they retired.