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Australia's favourite cricket writer on how one player – and his photograph – changed a sport and a nation.

Today Victor Trumper is, literally, a legend – revered for deeds lost in time, a hallowed name from the golden era from before the moving image began to dictate memories and Bradman reset the records.

In life, Trumper was Australia’s first world beater – at his peak just after Federation, he was not just a cricketer but an artist of the bat, the genius of a new era, a symbol of what Australia could be. Crowds flocked to his club matches, English supporters cheered him on in Tests, and at his early funeral in 1915 – even amidst the grief of war – mourners choked the streets of Sydney.

Trumper lives on, not just as the name of a stand at the SCG, or a park near his former home ground. He lives in an image that captures him mid-stroke: a daring player’s graceful advance into the unknown, alive with intent and controlled abandon. Reproduced countless times in cricket books and pavilions around the world, it conjures an era, an attitude – cricket’s first imaginings of itself – and encapsulates the timeless beauty of sport like none other.

If Trumper is a legend, George Beldam’s ‘Jumping Out’ has become an icon.

But that image has almost paradoxically obscured the story of its subject. Man and photograph have entranced Gideon Haigh since childhood, and in Stroke of Genius he explores both the real Victor Trumper and the process of his iconography. Together they inspired a profound moral and aesthetic revaluation of the game, and changed the way we think about cricket, art and Australia. In this inventive, fresh and compelling work of history, Haigh reveals how Trumper, and Beldam’s incarnation of his brilliance, are at the intersection of sport and art, history and timelessness, reality and myth.

'Haigh, cricket-lover and polymath, couldn’t write a dull book if he tried ... the book equally qualifies as art and social history.' The Saturday Paper
'Gripping ... Haigh draws on an encyclopaedic knowledge of cricketing fact and folklore ... [and] evokes an era retrospectively made golden.' The Times
'Bless all of Haigh, Beldham, Trumper and Penguin Books for combining so well here ... What Haigh has done so well in Stroke of Genius is not only intellectually restore this ubiquitous but little-understood photograph, but doff a skull cap in the direction of the man who at least equalled Trumper for brilliance in creating it. Here's to biting off more than you can chew.' The Guardian
'There are various claimants to the title of 'world's best cricket writer', yet no dispute about who today, is the best writer on cricket. This is the Australian, Gideon Haigh.' The Telegraph, Calcutta

'In Stroke of Genius, Gideon Haigh has given Jumping Out and the men who created it the richly perceptive tribute they have always deserved.' The Age
'Stroke of Genius offers such numerous fresh perspectives about cricket that it is a stroke of genius itself.' Australian Book Review

Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780143785965

    November 27, 2017

    Penguin

    336 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
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    • Dymocks
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    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781926428734

    August 29, 2016

    Hamish Hamilton

    336 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781760141936

    August 29, 2016

    Penguin eBooks

    240 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Article
Beyond the Frame

Gideon Haigh deciphers some early images of Australian cricket.

Also by Gideon Haigh

Mystery Spinner: Text Classics
Certain Admissions: A Beach, a Body and a Lifetime of Secrets
Ashes to Ashes
Uncertain Corridors: Writings on modern cricket
End of the Road?: Penguin Special
On Warne
The Deserted Newsroom: Penguin Special
The Office
Spheres Of Influence
The Vincibles
The Ashes 2009
Inside Out
The Racket
Asbestos House
The Tencyclopedia
The Uncyclopedia
Bad Company: The Cult of the CEO: Quarterly Essay 10

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Louis van Gaal
Fear and Loathing in La Liga
Holding Court
A Race Too Far
Put Me Back On My Bike
The Big Chair
Fire On The Track