The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong
Text Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925355215
(Age: Senior secondary to adult) Highly recommended, Crime Fiction, Cricket. Darren 'Daz' and Wally Keefe have an obsession with cricket. Their childhood memories are all about the backyard cricket matches on their home made pitch on the back lawn. The rules of the game are strict and any twisting or breaking of those strictures lead to a serious bit of 'biffo'.
Pamela, the boy's mother brings them up on her own, supporting them and their cricketing careers through working behind the bar at the local pub. They both have enormous talent, though Darren, who tells the story, doesn't quite know where it comes from. Each shows a definite, but very different character; Wally is contained, seemingly unemotional, technically correct and full of concentration, while Darren is flamboyant, brilliant and a larrikin.
They meet 'Craigo' who sees off a group of private school elitists who are not impressed that a couple of lads from the wrong side of town have given them a cricketing lesson. Craig and Darren develop a friendship, with Darren always there with his dubious contacts in the background somewhere. Wally it seems doesn't want much to do with him, but Darren is content to be part of the boozy, drug taking scene.
As their careers take off Darren is the first to be recognised by the Victorian state team and to play Shield Cricket, but Wally soon follows, and eventually it is Wally who plays for his country, and eventually captains the Australian side. It is also Wally, conservative and careful of his image, who marries and has a child called Hannah.
Then something very strange happens. Hannah is abducted. The police are baffled as no one can see a good reason why. There has been no ransom demand. There is no evidence.
Darren's narrative continues and notes his spectacular fall (or falls) from grace and also his resurrection as a 'media personality', his mother's gradual decline into dementia and of course his relationship with Wally.
This is a fascinating insight into the world of sport, where money and entertainment take precedence over the game itself. The reader will of course find many parallels with cricket personalities past and present and with the role that gambling has had and will increasingly have on professional sport.
With Daz trussed in the boot of a car at the beginning of the book it's no surprise that there will be an unhappy ending, but Jock Serong has ensured that his story of two cricketing brothers will keep you enthralled until the end.