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Saturday 5 May 2018

Review: Boomerang and Bat

In May 2018 it will be 150 years since the first Australian Cricket Team played in England. The importance of this anniversary is that the first real international cricket team were Aboriginal cricketers.

Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton tells the story about this cricket tour in their book, Boomerang and Bat, which was first published by Allen and Unwin and reviewed by Kids' Book Review in 2016.

Boomerang and Bat tells the story of our first international cricket team through the eyes of the outstanding all-round cricketer, Johnny 'Unaarrimin' Mulllagh. The story begins on the Mullagh Station when Johnny was invited to join in a cricket game. Johnny and other station hands practised the game and discovered that they were natural sportsmen.

In 1866 Johnny's team was invited to play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. While in Melbourne they were introduced to Charles Lawrence, an English cricketer, who proposed that they tour England. The team was denied permission by the authorities to leave the country but they were determined to play in England despite the legal and physical obstacles.

The tour in England was gruelling. They played 47 matches and displayed their exceptional skill to the English crowds 'Johnny Mullagh top-scored with a dashing 73.' The team demonstrated their competitiveness with only 14 losses.  The schedule began to take its toll on the team and team member King 'Bripumyarrimin' Cole became ill. Upon Cole's death, the exhausted and homesick team decided to return to Australia.

When they returned home there was no welcome home parade and the players returned quietly to their homes. Johnny continued to play cricket '...at local cricket matches, he often scored a hundred runs.' While on tour in England he  scored 1698 runs, bowled 1877 overs, 831 maiden overs, took 245 wickets, and 4 stumping as a wicket keeper. One can only wonder what sporting heights an all-rounder like Johnny would have achieved in the modern cricket era.

Mark Greenwood's text has captured the historical details in an informative story that is accompanied with illustrations that show balls flying and bodies somersaulting, demonstrating how athletic and entertaining these cricket players were.

Boomerang and Bat  was a 2017 Notable Book for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books. Other historical books by Mark Greenwood include Jandamarra, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, Midnight and Histories Mysteries: Lasseter's Gold.

Title: Boomerang and Bat
Author: Mark Greenwood
Illustrator: Terry Denton
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, $29.99
Publication Date: 2 May 2016
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781743319246
For ages: 9 - 12
Type: Picture Books