The librarian’s son with the ‘world’s best job’
Author’s reward for being curious
When Trinity’s cricket captain got the chance to question Australia’s pre-eminent cricket writer about his work, the first thing he did was to ask him about all the non-cricketing books he has written.
Sam Newton’s (12WJ) reward was to receive a lesson in the priceless value of human curiosity.
Author and journalist Gideon Haigh told him that the thirst for knowledge was what drove him to write, and what led him to the world’s best job.
“I have been a journalist for 40 years, and if you are curious about the world then there is just no better job,” Haigh told a books@breakfast event in the Arthur Holt library.
“It’s a tremendous licence for being a sticky-beak and sticking your oar in where it probably shouldn’t be.
“You get to ask the rudest questions, and people feel strangely obliged to answer them.”
Haigh, who signed copies of his latest book On The Ashes ahead of Australia’s 2023 tour of England, has written some two dozen cricket books, as well as a string of other tomes on topics as varied as business, true crime, the history of abortion, and former Labor leader Doc Evatt.
“I become curious about something and I think the only way I’m going to find out about it is to write a book,” he said.
“Often they are chance encounters with something unusual I don’t know about. I think, ‘a book should exist about this’ so I go out and do it. It’s as simple as that.”
Haigh still plays cricket – he has appeared in more than 350 matches spread over 30 years for his beloved South Yarra club in Melbourne.
A self-described “obstinate opening batsman”, he said: “I’m not getting any better but I’m not getting worse at a rate that’s difficult to bear.”
He said elite sports stars were “different to you and me – maybe not Sam; maybe Sam’s going to be a killer cricketer with the eye of a tiger”.
“That’s the plan,” the Trinity captain confirmed to much laughter.
But Haigh made his point when speaking of his friend, former Test opener Ed Cowan, whose post-cricket career is in funds management.
“Ed is a very civilised, intelligent, courteous man who has great values, but just occasionally I saw the steel in his scabbard, what drove him, and how dedicated he was.
“There’s something tough, a core of self-belief, that they can’t hide.
“You can’t put your finger on it but you know it when you see it.”
He said there was nothing harder than watching a friend play Test cricket.
“You hope so fervently for them. You are so pleased when they succeed, and devastated when they fail.
“I was so relieved when he retired, and I didn’t have to go through the emotional ordeal again.”
Haigh provided the Trinity audience with insights into cricketers including Steve Smith, Pat Cummings – “a good office holder”, Shane Warne – “a good advertisement for fame; he loved being the centre of attention”, and David Warner – “the man’s self-belief is absolutely bottomless”.
He said he got the sense that Test cricket was “on borrowed time” and if Ashes series weren’t making money “I would begin to worry”.
He said his enthusiasm for cricket was “still as strong as ever”, and left no doubt about the influence of books and reading when he told Arthur Holt staff his mother was a librarian.