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The earliest record of cricket being played anywhere on the subcontinent is of a game played by British sailors in Cambay, near Baroda, in 1721. There is some uncertainty about the precise formation of the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club, but it was certainly in existence in 1792. Following the definitive battle between the British and Tipu Sultan, the Ruler of Mysore, which strengthened the British grip on southern India, another cricket club was founded at Seringapatam in 1799. The spread of cricket throughout the subcontinent had begun.
In those early days, the locals clearly only made up the numbers and there was the feeling that if you played cricket alongside the British, you might receive favourable treatment from them. But as their fascination for cricket developed rapidly, the Indian players also became rather good at it, and were more than capable of holding their own. A game between Madras and Calcutta in 1864 lays claim to being the first first-class match played on the subcontinent, but the most significant development was the founding of the Bombay Presidency Match in 1877, between the European players of the Bombay Gymkhana and the Parsees of the Zoroastrian Cricket Club. This grand occasion was granted first-class status in 1892 and a mark of how Indian cricket had evolved so quickly was the victory that year by the local Parsees over the Europeans. In 1906, the Hindus of Bombay joined the now triangular tournament. In their ranks was the left-arm spinner, Palwankar Baloo, a man whose life story provides a fascinating insight into how the role of cricket was by now expanding in Indian society.
Baloo was born in 1876 into the Dalit population, which according to the Hindu caste system meant that he was one of the lowest of the low, an ‘untouchable’. His first job was tending the cricket pitch at a club run by the Parsees in Poona (Pune), where he also bowled occasionally to the members. At the age of 17 he moved to the predominantly European Pune Cricket Club, where he earned four rupees a month rolling the pitch and preparing the practice facilities. Again, he bowled to the members and, encouraged by the captain, J. G. Greig, quickly developed into a fine spinner. However, because of his background, Baloo was never allowed to bat.
When a Hindu club challenged the Europeans to a match, and with Baloo clearly good enough for selection, his lowly status led to several members of the Hindu team refusing to play alongside him. But a compromise was reached. On the field, Baloo was treated as an equal to every other cricketer in the match. However, during the intervals, he was segregated to the extent that while lunch was taken inside the pavilion, Baloo had to sit outside and eat alone.
As time passed, and Baloo’s reputation grew, he was permitted to congregate with his team-mates off the field as well as on it, and when an outbreak of the plague encouraged Baloo to move to Bombay in 1896, he played for the Army. Despite further protests from members of the higher castes, Baloo also represented the Hindu Gymkhana Club and played in the famous Presidency matches of 1906 and 1907 between the Europeans and the Hindus, which were comfortably won by the Hindus by 109 runs and 238 runs respectively. These were highly significant victories not merely in cricketing terms, but particularly in the wider political sense, being portrayed in many quarters as a victory for the locals against the colonialists.
Baloo toured England in 1911 and was the outstanding player, taking 114 wickets at an average of 19 each, on what was otherwise an unsuccessful trip for the Indians. Despite regularly playing in what became (in 1912, through the addition of the Muslims) the Bombay Quadrangular tournament between 1912 and 1919, he was never allowed to become captain of the Hindu team, despite mounting pressure for him to do so. He attained the status of vice-captain in 1920 and, in a sign of the times (Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom campaign was beginning to gather pace), the captain of the Hindu Gymkhana, M. D. Pai, who, being a Brahmin, was a member of the highest caste, deliberately left the field on frequent occasions, enabling Baloo to lead the team in his absence. This was surely the first time a lowly Dalit was able to command those above his station.
As a footnote, Baloo became politically active in later life, twice losing elections as he continued his personal fight against the segregation of the Indian classes. Although he had become a comparatively influential figure, it is as the very first in India’s proud tradition of beguiling spin bowlers that Palwankar Baloo is best remembered.
Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji enjoyed as different a background from Baloo as it is possible to imagine. An Indian prince who was educated at Cambridge University, Ranji overcame racial taboo to play fifteen Tests for England between 1896 and 1902 before India was admitted to international cricket. He scored 62 and 154 not out on his dеbut against Australia, and he became synonymous with a new range of back-foot, wristy strokes such as the late cut and leg glance. This innovation combined with great flair earned him recognition among the very best batsmen there have ever been. In 1904 he returned to India to reclaim his seat as the Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar and died there in 1933, the year after India was granted Test status.
It is easy to imagine how a young child reading the history books in a school in any of the countries that were colonized could develop a deep-seated resentment of the British. At the very least, it would be very easy for a skilled orator or motivator to press the right nationalistic buttons and, in the cricketing context, produce a team that desperately wants to put one over its former colonial masters. But there is more to this in that local rivalries and tensions have also been created by colonialism and are played out on cricket fields around the world. This is especially the case whenever India meets Pakistan – fanatical spectators have been known to commit suicide following their team’s defeat. And there is nothing that New Zealanders enjoy more than their all-too-rare successes over Australia – although this has more to do with the relative size of the two countries than anything else. It might be argued that these historical rifts have given international cricket matches an extra edge, but it is an unfortunate way of achieving sporting competition. This helps to explain the deep-rooted rivalry that is still keenly felt today. The influence of the British Empire created local conflicts where none had previously existed, and while that has helped to establish the intense rivalry between India and Pakistan, for example, the strong sense of injustice that still lies only fractionally beneath the surface means that nothing motivates England’s opponents more than the desire to beat their old colonial master. It is no coincidence, therefore, that most of the really serious incidents in cricket’s history have involved England.
While the British colonists were busy acting as cricketing crusaders, taking the game with them all around the world, they were also very keen to ensure that the ‘gentlemen’s game’ was always played to what they believed were their own exacting standards of sportsmanship. Cricket has always been synonymous with fair play, giving rise to that well-known expression: ‘It’s not cricket.’ The requirement of everyone to play within the spirit of the game is enshrined in the Laws of cricket, and there is a very strong emphasis on respecting one’s opponents and always accepting the umpire’s decision. It was designed to be a genteel and aesthetically pleasing sport, but also one that requires bravery and helps to develop character in its younger participants.
Given the history between the two countries, it is perhaps no surprise that England and Australia became embroiled in cricket’s first serious controversy. Test matches between the two always have an extra edge to them, dating back to the very first encounter in 1877, with Australia’s past as a former penal colony providing the background to the competitiveness on the field. Usually this is little more than colourful banter, or ‘sledging’ as the Australians call it, but on the Ashes tour of 1932–3 the hostility was central to the way the Tests were played. That series will forever be known as the Bodyline series.
Cricket matches between Australia and England have been defined by their uncompromising and overtly competitive nature, born out of their shared colonial history and compounded by the wish on the part of most Australians to see themselves viewed as every bit the equal of the mother country. This may have been the historical context, but the seeds of arguably the greatest controversy the game has ever witnessed lay in the vastly differing backgrounds of the two central protagonists: one a patrician Englishman whose philosophy of winning at all costs would shake the game to its very foundations and, in so doing, impact severely on the relations between the two countries; the other an Australian cricketing genius whose achievements while touring England in 1930 meant that finding a strategy to neutralize his sublime run-scoring prowess would be vital if England were to stand any chance of regaining the Ashes.
Douglas Robert Jardine was a son of the British Empire. Born to Scottish parents in Bombay in 1900, cricket was an intrinsic part of his upbringing. His father, Malcom Jardine, had played first-class cricket for Oxford University and Middlesex before becoming a successful barrister in India.
As was typical of the time, at the age of 9, Douglas was sent from India to live with his mother’s sister in St Andrews in Scotland from where he was to be educated at boarding schools in England. By the age of 12 he was captaining his school XI to an unbeaten record in his final year. Already the self-belief, some would say an unwillingness to listen to the counsel and advice of others, was showing itself as Jardine repeatedly disagreed with his school cricket coach about his batting method.
While the world descended into the maelstrom of the First World War, a 14-year-old Jardine entered Winchester College, one of England’s oldest and finest public schools. Life at the school was arduous, the prevailing ethos austere, the discipline bordering on the harsh. Sport was an important part of the curriculum, a curriculum designed to prepare the boys for a life of governance and, in many cases, future military duty with every prospect of seeing war first hand. Jardine entered the school with a reputation as a cricketer and soon established himself as an all-round sportsman, playing football, rackets and Winchester College football (a rugby-union-like game with a peculiar set of rules only understood and esteemed by Wykehamists), but it was for cricket that Jardine earned renown. He was in the First XI within three years and remained there until his last year, when he captained the side and topped the batting averages. With him leading the side and scoring 89, Jardine’s Winchester College beat Eton College in 1919 – the first time in twelve years Winchester had gained the upper hand. Later in life and after retiring from cricket, Jardine would say that the 89 he scored on a sunny afternoon as his school days came to an end and the world put itself to rights after unimaginable horror was his favourite innings.
Jardine entered Oxford University in late 1919 and won his Blue initially for real tennis. The following year he made his first-class dеbut as an opening batsman, winning his cricketing Blue. In 1921 Jardine encountered an Australian touring side for the first time when Oxford played Warwick Armstrong’s side, who had been dominating the season up until that point. Jardine battled to 96 to save the match but was unable to reach his century before the game ended. While contemporary reports suggest the Australians were keen to help Jardine reach the landmark (his 96 not out was the highest score by any player against the Australians so far on the tour), offering some particularly soft bowling, it was not to be. It has been suggested that the request by the Australians to have the game reduced to two days from the planned three in order that they might have a rest day between matches combined with alleged on-field sarcasm by Armstrong directed at Jardine’s slow progress sowed the seeds of what would be a lifelong dislike, bordering on hatred, for Australia and Australians by Jardine.
The innings against Australia brought Jardine to the notice of the England selectors and the influential Pelham ‘Plum’ Warner, and it was thought he might have been selected to play for England in the forthcoming series, but while remaining in contention for a place for some time, he was not selected. Jardine now joined Surrey, replacing the injured Jack Hobbs as opening bat before dropping down the order to number five. What became increasingly clear was that Jardine was a batsman of caution, defensively minded, who came into his own when the pressure to occupy the crease was at a premium.
The following season was largely lost to injury. In 1923, his last year at Oxford, he returned to cricket but was not appointed captain of the side and it has been suggested that his austere unfriendly manner was the reason he was denied the honour, although his absence through injury the previous season may have been a more likely reason. During a match later in the season, Jardine deliberately used his pads to defend his wicket. While within the rules, it was widely seen and reported in the newspapers as being against the spirit of the game. Jardine’s biographers have noted that it was this adverse criticism that led to his deep-seated hostility to the press thereafter, something he would retain for the rest of his life.
After Oxford Jardine began to train as a solicitor while playing for Surrey as an amateur. In 1924 he was appointed vice-captain to Percy Fender. As will be discussed elsewhere, captaincy of a county side was the prerogative of the amateurs and although the Surrey side of the day featured Jack Hobbs, still it was Jardine who was seen as the rightful appointee. In the 1927 season Jardine scored 1,002 runs at an average of 91.09 and was named by Wisden as one of their five cricketers of the year. By the end of the 1928 season, when he made his Test dеbut against West Indies, selection for the forthcoming winter tour to Australia was seen as a certainty.
Australia’s ageing post-war team had broken up in 1926 and England would be facing an inexperienced side led by Jack Ryder. There is no doubt Jardine’s first tour of Australia was a success. He began with three consecutive centuries. But already the Australian crowds had begun barracking him for slow scoring and less than agile fielding. Nevertheless, Donald Bradman was full of praise, calling Jardine’s third century one of the finest exhibitions of stroke play he had witnessed. The Australian crowds, however, took an active dislike to, of all things, Jardine’s choice of headwear.
Oxford University traditionally awarded a Harlequin cap to those who played good cricket. Former Oxford and Cambridge men often wore these caps while batting, in England at least, but it was less usual to wear them while fielding, and, when combined with Jardine’s aloof, angular and unresponsive manner, it inflamed the essentially decent but egalitarian nature of the Australian crowd, whose mood descended from good-natured barracking to outright hostility and abuse. Journalist and Test cricketer Jack Fingleton, who would have an important but disputed role during the Bodyline series, would say afterwards that Jardine had ample opportunity to win over the Australian crowds by the simple gestures of a self-deprecating smile and the odd joke at his own expense. The crowd was knowledgeable and had little doubt about Jardine’s capability as a batsman, but Australians like their sportsmen to be human and free of condescension – characteristics far from being evident in Jardine’s manner and bearing.
Jardine’s good form with the bat continued and his resolute crease-occupying focus played a vital role as England secured victories in the first two Tests. In the Third Test England were left with the difficult task of scoring 332 runs to win on a rain-damaged wicket. In one of their most famous partnerships, Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe put on 105. Hobbs had sent a message to the dressing room saying Jardine should be the next man in even though he was due to bat lower down the order. When Hobbs was dismissed Jardine came in and, despite finding batting extremely difficult, saw out the remainder of the day. England went on to take an unlikely win and many commentators said that only Jardine could have coped with the difficult conditions.
In Tasmania Jardine posted his highest first-class score of 214. England won the Fourth Test, Jardine and Hammond putting on the then highest third-wicket partnership in Test history of 262.
Australia won the final Test in Melbourne during which Jardine was used, unsuccessfully, as an opener replacing the injured Sutcliffe. After Jardine had completed his second innings (out for a first-ball duck), he immediately crossed Australia to catch a boat to India for a holiday. This was the era of timeless Tests, and although this was the fifth day, there remained three days of play. Whether his departure was planned or his tolerance of Australia and Australians had finally reached breaking point remains unclear to this day. Nevertheless, the mutual antipathy had been firmly established and would only grow over the next four years, culminating in the events of the 1932–3 series.
The Ashes series of 1928–9 also saw the Test dеbut of a player who would go on to rewrite the record books, find cricketing immortality and unintentionally ensure that forever after Douglas Jardine would be remembered as an unconscionable villain and would-be destroyer of the great game.
When Donald Bradman was two and half years old, his parents moved the family 260 km east from his birthplace, Cootamundra, New South Wales, to the small town of Bowral, where as a schoolboy he would spend countless hours hitting a golf ball with a cricket stump against the curved wall of a water tank, learning to anticipate its unpredictable rebound. By the age of 12 he had scored his first century and at 13 he stepped into the local Bowral team captained by his uncle when they were a player short, scoring 37 and 29 not out in his two innings. He would become a regular for the side, making prodigious scores in local competitions. Bradman’s meteoric rise to the heights of the game was under way.
By 1926, an ageing Australian national side was in decline and after England had won the Ashes in the summer, a number of Australia’s players retired. Bradman’s prolific scoring for Bowral had come to the attention of the New South Wales Cricket Association, who were eager to find new talent. Invited to a practice session in Sydney, Bradman was chosen for the Country Week tournament, where his performances were good enough for an invitation to play grade cricket for St George in Sydney during the 1926–7 season. The following season, at the age of 19, Bradman made his first-class dеbut for NSW, replacing the unfit Archie Jackson at the Adelaide Oval and scoring a century.
In 1928 England would be visiting Australia to defend the Ashes. Against England in early touring matches Bradman scored 87 and 132, both not out, and was picked for the First Test at Brisbane. As is the usual way of things, Euripides had it right when he said, ‘Those whom God wishes to destroy, He first makes mad.’ In only his tenth first-class match, Bradman’s Test dеbut was a salutary lesson as Australia collapsed to 66 all out in their second innings, suffering a defeat by 675 runs – a record defeat that still stands today. Bradman was dropped for the Second Test.
Recalled for Melbourne, he scored 112 in the second innings, becoming the youngest player at the time to make a Test century. By the end of the season Bradman had amassed 1,690 first-class runs, averaging 93.88, and scored his first multiple century in Sheffield Shield cricket (340 not out against Victoria). The following year he would set a new world record for first-class cricket by scoring 452 not out against Queensland at the SCG. The gods of cricket had now changed their minds, shining brightly on their young protеgе – and would do so for the next twenty years.
England were favourites to retain the Ashes in 1930, but the true measure of Bradman’s genius was yet to register with England’s supporters. He scored 236 at Worcester in the opening match and by the end of May had scored 1,000 first-class runs, the first Australian to achieve this feat. He scored a century in the First Test, but Australia lost the game. Then came the Second Test at Lord’s. Bradman’s contribution of 254 to a first-innings total of 729 ensured a series-levelling win for Australia.
For England things would only get worse as the Third Test at Leeds got under way on a hot day in July. On the first day Bradman scored a century before lunch. He added a second between lunch and tea, and was 309 not out at the close. He remains the only Test player in history to score 300 in a single day. His eventual tally of 334 set another world record. Poor weather saved England’s blushes and the match was drawn. The Fourth Test was also a weather-affected draw.
The Fifth and final deciding Test would be played at the Oval. The weather still had its part to play as England posted a first-innings score of 405, taking three rain-interrupted days to get there. Bradman, batting in his customary number three position, added another double century, reaching 232 before being caught behind the stumps by George Duckworth off Harold Larwood. Bradman and Bill Ponsford (110) ensured that Australia had secured a 290-run lead.
However, the conditions and Larwood’s fast, short-pitched bowling on a lively rain-affected pitch and Bradman’s apparent difficulties were what caught the eye of certain interested spectators. A number of players and journalists thought they detected a distinct unease in Bradman as he struggled with fast, rising deliveries. Nothing could be done with this information now as England were soundly beaten by an innings and surrendered the Ashes.
It was the start of the modern age and Bradman’s innings had been caught on moving film. England would have a chance to regain the Ashes over the winter of 1932–3 but to do that they would have to find a way to conquer the greatest batsman the world had ever seen. Maybe the answer lay in the grainy black and white footage?
The story goes that Jardine, on seeing the film, cried out, ‘I’ve got it! He’s yellow!’ Percy Fender was also in receipt of letters from Australia that described how Australian batsmen were increasingly moving across their stumps towards the off in order to play the ball away to leg. Once the MCC had appointed Jardine captain of the 1932–3 tour to Australia, the possibility that Bradman might be exposed by short-pitched deliveries on the line of the leg stump took hold and a strategy to defeat him, and thus the Australians, was born.
The success of the tactic would rely on England fielding bowlers who could deliver balls with great venom and accuracy. A meeting with Nottinghamshire’s captain, Arthur Carr, and his two pacemen, Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, was arranged. Could they repeatedly bowl at leg stump and get the ball to rear up and into the batsman’s body? Both agreed they could and felt it might be an effective tactic. A cordon of close fielders would be set on the leg side. The facing batsman would have to choose between ducking, being hit, fending the ball off or executing a hook shot. The last two options are risky with fielders set for catches close to the wicket and deep on the boundary. Fast-pitched balls on the line of leg would also ensure scoring was kept to a minimum.
There was nothing as radical in this as the eventual outcry would suggest. Leg theory had been utilized in the county game and in Australia in previous seasons, although not at the same intensity, and the main criticism it drew was that it always proved an unedifying spectacle for the watching crowds.
Larwood and Voce set about practising Jardine’s plan during the remainder of the 1932 season. On 17 September 1932 the MCC team boarded the Orient liner Orontes at Tilbury and set sail for the Australian port of Fremantle.
Their arrival in Western Australia was a good-natured affair; they were greeted by a large crowd and the crew of Australian cruiser Canberra lined the side and sang ‘For They Are Jolly Good Fellows’.
A press conference with the manager of the MCC side, Pelham ‘Plum’ Warner, was arranged. Warner had led two tours to Australia before the First World War and had a deep respect and liking for the country and its people. In addition to which few men have had such a profound love for the great game and its central ethos of fair play as Warner. On the face of it, he was the ideal spokesman for the team and the perfect team manager. But even now the central issues that would dog the series arose in the press conference.
At the time there was a real danger that the player whom every Australian wanted to see and who was expected to carry all before him would be absent from the series. Bradman was in dispute with the Australian Board of Control after he had entered into a contract with the Sydney Sun to write for them during the forthcoming series, a practice the Board of Control had banned all players selected for Test duty from doing. Bradman was adamant that he had signed a contract and was duty-bound to honour it. For a while it looked as if Hamlet would be without its prince. Warner refused to comment on that issue but a follow-up question was rather more prescient. Asked about the recent and excessive use of ‘bump balls’ by Bill Bowes, Warner played it straight back: ‘Bowes is a splendid bowler and have not fast bowlers bumped the ball before?’
The first sight Australians had of fast leg theory (the term ‘body-line’ was yet to be employed) was during a warm-up game in Melbourne in late November. The England side was led by Jardine’s deputy, Bob Wyatt, who deployed the full leg-side tactic for the first time on the tour. Woodfull resorted to unorthodox shotmaking with what looked liked an overhead tennis smash action and England were convinced their tactics were sound, but the crowd’s vocal displeasure was a harbinger of what was to follow.
Australia lost badly by ten wickets in the First Test at Sydney. Although Bradman’s dispute with the Board of Control had been resolved, he was missing through illness. Larwood roared in, taking ten wickets in the match. Only an innings by Stan McCabe, who stood resolute hooking and pulling with scant regard for his personal safety, salvaged Australia’s pride.
The Melbourne Test began with questions about who would captain Australia. Woodfull’s captaincy was confirmed only minutes before the game, delaying the toss; it has been suggested that the Board of Control were considering replacing him in the light of his steadfast refusal to retaliate by allowing Australian bowlers to bowl in an intimidatory manner. Vice-captain Richardson had advocated overt retaliation, but Woodfull had immediately responded by saying, ‘There is no way I will be influenced to adopt such tactics which bring such discredit to the game.’
In a low-scoring match, Bradman was dismissed on the opening day for a duck (not to a bodyline ball, it should be noted) to the shock and dismay of the Melbourne crowd, while Jardine was openly exultant at his nemesis’s demise. However, Bradman would score 103 not out in Australia’s second-innings score of 191, ensuring that the Australians beat England handsomely by 111 runs. Many jubilant Australians thought they had found the tactics to overcome the hostility of the English attack, but it would prove to be Bradman’s only century of the series and Larwood, in particular, had been badly hampered by a slow pitch (and an injury).
The series moved on to Adelaide, to perhaps the most beautiful cricket ground in the world, which was shortly to witness scenes that would reverberate all the way back to Lord’s – and whose aftershocks can, arguably, still be felt today.
On a hot 14 January 1933 a record crowd of nearly fifty-one thousand packed into the ground. It was the second day of the Test and England’s innings closed with 341 runs on the board, which represented a good recovery after a particularly poor start.
After Australian opener Jack Fingleton was dismissed by Gubby Allen for a duck, Bradman joined Woodfull at the crease. Larwood had discovered that in the conditions he was able to swing the ball into Woodfull, rather than moving it away, as was usual when he bowled at right-handers. In the third over of the innings, Larwood’s sixth ball, short and on the line of middle stump, hit Woodfull over the heart. He staggered away, clutching his chest. The England players gathered around in sympathy, but Jardine’s clearly enunciated, ‘Well bowled, Harold!’ – a remark he later claimed was solely designed to unnerve Bradman – horrified Woodfull and dismayed many who heard it. The spirit of the game was in severe danger of being compromised.
Woodfull recovered and the match resumed. As soon as it was his turn to face Larwood again, there was a break while the field was adjusted. It has remained unclear to this day whether Jardine or Larwood initiated the change, but in any event, the infamous leg-side field was now set. The crowd were deeply antagonized – angrier even than when Woodfull had been hit. They inevitably saw this deliberate use of fast leg theory, against a player who had received such a serious blow, as hitting a man when he was down and viewed it as completely unsportsmanlike. The catcalls and jeering became so pronounced that the England players felt physically threatened and thought the police presence badly insufficient to protect them if the crowd decided to riot and spill onto the playing field.
Larwood soon knocked the bat out of Woodfull’s hands and, although clearly unsettled (he would be hit several more times), he would go on to score 22 before falling to Allen. Bradman had departed for just 8. Bill Ponsford had joined his Victoria state captain and would also be repeatedly hit on his back and shoulders as he turned away in an attempt to shield his bat to avoid giving up catches.
Later that day, there occurred the fateful visit by the England manager, Pelham Warner, to the Australians’ dressing room, where he was rebuffed by Woodfull with perhaps the most famous quote in cricket: ‘I don’t want to see you, Mr Warner. There are two teams out there; one is trying to play cricket and the other is not.’ Adding, ‘This game is too good to be spoilt. It’s time some people got out of it.’ Warner, it was reported, was physically shaken by the admonishment and was seen hurrying away close to tears.
On the third day, Bert Oldfield was hit a sickening blow on the head that caused a fracture – although, again, the ball was a legitimate non-bodyline delivery that he top-edged. Oldfield later admitted that it was a mistake entirely of his own making; nevertheless, the crowd was yet again incensed.
On the fifth day it would be the ill-thought reaction of the Australian Board of Control – who in deciding to send a cable to the MCC used the injudicious word ‘unsportsmanlike’ – that would escalate the situation from an unseemly argument about the rights and wrongs of on-field sporting tactics to an all-out diplomatic row that, at its peak, threatened to undermine the relations between what had been the happiest of colonial brotherhoods. (The entire exchange of cables can be read from page 62.)
The match in Adelaide eventually saw Australia needing to score an impossible 532 in their second innings for victory. Bradman, employing entirely unorthodox methods, was eventually bowled for 66, while the ever stoic and brave Woodfull would carry his bat for an unbeaten 73 as wickets fell all around him; Australia were eventually all out for 193, and perhaps the most unpleasant and bitter-tasting Test match came to an inglorious close.
The response of the MCC – who it must be said in their defence had, at the time, no means at their disposal of truly comprehending what was happening on the field of play nor a way of gauging the level of anger in the stands and among Australians in general – was, along with that of the British public, to take considerable umbrage at the term ‘unsportsmanlike’ (an accusation that went right to the very heart of how Britain’s colonial masters, let alone those in charge of the game at the headquarters of cricket, viewed themselves). In short order, a number of high horses were brought in to be climbed upon by the MCC committee members.
Jardine – as one would expect of a true son of the Empire and a man whose deep dislike of all things Australian was already well established – was sufficiently outraged by the temerity of the Australians, of their complaints and the unwarranted accusation of an England team behaving in anything other than a sporting manner, that he, and by extension the rest of the England team, promptly threatened to pull out of the remaining two Tests unless the word ‘unsportsmanlike’ was withdrawn. In London, the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, J. H. Thomas, became embroiled, warning that the present impasse would have a significant impact on trade between the nations. It would take the intervention of Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons – who made it clear to the Australian Board of Control just how serious the economic ramifications would be for their young nation if Britain started boycotting Australian goods, something that was being called for back home – for the offending words to be rescinded. The allegation of unsportsmanlike behaviour was withdrawn and the tour would continue.
Jardine, as was to be expected, was unrepentant, and during the remaining two Tests would continue to employ fast leg theory, now routinely described by the media as ‘bodyline’ (it is widely believed that Melbourne and Sydney journalist Hugh Buggy coined the phrase in a telegraph office). However, slower pitches largely negated its effectiveness and although Australian batsmen continued to be hit, none sustained serious injury. England finished by winning the series 4–1.
Bodyline would still be seen in England in 1933, most notably at Nottinghamshire, who had bodyline’s arch-practitioners, Voce and Larwood, on their playing staff. Wisden would comment that ‘those watching it for the first time must have come to the conclusion that, while strictly within the law, it was not nice.’
In 1934 Australia would tour England with Bill Woodfull once more at the helm. Jardine had retired from international cricket and new captain Bob Wyatt agreed that bodyline tactics would not be used. However, the Australians felt that this was sometimes more honoured in the breach than the observance. In the opening Test at Trent Bridge, Voce bowled fast towards leg in fading light, causing an angered Woodfull to threaten the authorities that, if Voce repeated the tactic the following day, he and his team would return to London and Australia would not visit England again.
The MCC had hoped that the spirit of the game would prevail and that captains would henceforth ensure that their bowlers understood that the recent MCC resolution citing fast leg theory as being against the spirit of the game would be sufficient to dictate the manner in which the game would be played from now on. Human nature being what it is, a new law was ultimately needed and ‘direct attack’ bowling was formally outlawed; it would be up to the umpires to identify it and to call a halt when bowlers stepped over the line. Twenty years later, it became illegal to have more than two leg-side fielders behind square of the wicket. Introduced to combat negative bowling at leg stump by spinners and in-swing bowlers, this effectively ruled out bodyline field settings.
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