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What followed was also a failure of communication, through the purblind inherent conservatism of the MCC and the rash injured pride leading to the intemperate complaints of the Australians. I have always thought the Australians took the wrong initiative in complaining so much.
Cricket’s lawmakers are still getting it wrong: today we have the absurdity of banning runners. It will only take a Test match with twenty thousand in the ground and a team nine down needing ten runs to win. The last batsman has a dodgy hamstring and can’t get out to bat so the game abruptly finishes. Is that what it will take for the ICC to realize what a daft rule they’ve brought in?
DONALD BRADMAN (#ulink_f934074c-8820-56b8-a78b-db0d0a4ea115)
The last thing I want to do at the close of my career is to revive unpleasant memories. However, I would be failing in my duty if I did not record my impressions of something which very nearly brought about a cessation of Test cricket between England and Australia, especially as I was one of the central figures.
Jardine, who captained England in that series, wrote a book defending his theory. So did Larwood. The defence could have impressed the jury not at all, for body-line is now outlawed.
Of paramount importance is the fact that body-line can no longer be bowled because the M.C.C. has passed a law which has the effect of prohibiting it. I make this point very strongly because even today, in parts of England, people think Australia stopped it.
The M.C.C. at first were reluctant to believe the reports emanating from Australia as to the nature of the bowling, called “body-line”. They very rightly wanted evidence, and one understands their reluctance to act without it.
Having obtained the evidence they did not hesitate.
Now what exactly was body-line bowling? It was really short-pitched fast bowling directed towards the batsman’s body with a supporting leg-side field.
In his book, Anti-Body-line, Alan Kippax defines it fairly well in setting out the following objections to that type of bowling:—
1 That a considerable proportion of the deliveries were directed straight at the batsman’s body.
2 That many of these deliveries were deliberately pitched short enough to make them fly as high as the batsman’s shoulders and head.
3 That an intensive leg-side field was placed, including four and sometimes five men in the short-leg positions, supported by two (occasionally one) in the deep field at long-leg.
Kippax was an Australian batsman, so perhaps it would be more convincing to quote the definition given by an English batsman. This is how Wally Hammond defined it:—
1 Delivered by a speed merchant.
2 Bumped so as to fly high above the wicket.
3 Delivered straight at the batsman.
4 Bowled with a leg-side field of 6 to 8 men.
Of course the protagonists of body-line always claimed that it was leg theory—an entirely fallacious claim.
Warwick Armstrong, Fred Root and others bowled leg theory. Nobody was in the slightest danger therefrom.
With body-line it was different. The risk of actual physical danger to the batsman became his chief consideration.
In order that we may get things in their proper perspective, I feel impelled to quote the remarks of Sir Pelham Warner, who, so far as I know, was the first man to protest in writing against body-line bowling, though at that time the term “body-line” had not been coined.
Writing in the London Morning Post of August 22, 1932, of a match between Yorkshire and Surrey at The Oval, he said, “Bowes must alter his tactics. Bowes bowled with five men on the on-side and sent down several very short-pitched balls which repeatedly bounced head-high and more. Now that is not bowling; indeed it is not cricket; and if all the fast bowlers were to adopt his methods M.C.C. would be compelled to step in and penalise the bowler who bowled the ball less than half-way up the pitch.”
So Bill Bowes was evidently the first man to use this form of attack in England, and at once it was denounced. It was not leg theory.
Where did body-line originate?
Captain (to bowler). ‘Call yourself Larwood, an’ goes an’ bowls under-’and.’ Bowler. ‘So would Larwood if the only way ’e ’ad ter keep ’is trousers up was by stoopin’ darn.’
Jardine in his book is very reticent on the point. He devotes several pages to details of the evolution of legitimate leg theory which is really only drawing a red-herring across the track, because, as I have pointed out, leg theory is not body-line.
Learie Constantine in his book Cricket and I says:—
“One could read Jardine’s book from cover to cover and, if it were not for the general excitement about body-line bowling, never discover what the essentials of body-line bowling were.”
He is not far out. However, the following points are of interest.
Jardine wrote: “Though I did not take part in the Test Match against Australia at the Oval in 1930, I have been told on all sides that Bradman’s innings was far from convincing on the leg stump whilst there was any life in the wicket. I am sorry to disappoint anyone who has imagined that the leg theory was evolved with the help of midnight oil and iced towels simply and solely for the purpose of combating Bradman’s effectiveness as a scoring machine. It did, however, seem a reasonable assumption that a weakness in one of Australia’s premier batsmen might find more than a replica in the play of a good many of his contemporaries.” Larwood, in his book, was a little bit more direct, for he wrote:—
“Fast leg theory bowling was born in the Test Match at Kennington Oval in August 1930. A spot of rain had fallen. The ball was ‘popping’. My great friend, the late Archie Jackson, stood up to me, getting pinked once or twice in the process and he never flinched. With Bradman it was different. It was because of that difference that I determined then and there, that if I was again honoured with an invitation to go to Australia, I would not forget that difference.”
Let me first have a word to say re Jardine’s statement. He quotes a 1930 match as the basis for his idea, but completely refutes his own statement by the following reference to a match in 1932:—
“To our surprise we found an almost totally unsuspected weakness on the leg stump in the play of several leading players. This had been particularly apparent in the case of Bradman as early as the second match of the tour, when he came to Perth to play against us.”
The thing becomes entirely ludicrous when I tell you that Jardine did not include in his team against us on that occasion any one of his three body-line bowlers, Larwood, Voce or Bowes. Furthermore, I batted twice on a badly rain-affected pitch, scoring 3 and 10.
He must have been amazingly observant to discover such a weakness in those few minutes.
Unfortunately for Jardine, F. R. Foster put the show away when he gave an interview to the press and said: “Before Jardine left England he came frequently to my flat in the St. James and secured from me my leg-theory field placings. I had no hint that these would be used for body-line bowling. I would like all my old friends in Australian cricket to know that I am sorry that my experience and my advice were put to such unworthy uses.”
Walter Hammond also made no secret of the development of the theory when he wrote on the subject. According to him “body-line” was born in the grill room of the Piccadilly Hotel, London, where Jardine, Arthur Carr, Voce and Larwood worked out the idea. Hammond claims that P. G. H. Fender had suggested to Jardine that he should adopt these tactics. “Jardine,” says Hammond, “spent some days painstakingly analysing all the scoring diagrams which Ferguson, the famous M.C.C. scorer, had made of the Australian batsmen’s Test innings.” It was after this meeting, according to Hammond, that Jardine went to see F. R. Foster.
From my own talks with members of the M.C.C. Team, I understand this theory was discussed in detail on the way out to Australia, a fact which Jardine does not deny. I think readers will be able to judge what type of bowling it was, and furthermore that I was to be the principal target, with the proviso that success against me would, so Jardine believed, automatically mean success against others.
There is a suggestion by Jardine and Larwood that the theory was justified because of alleged shortcomings disclosed by me in my innings of 232 at The Oval in 1930. The following reports of this match from the press hardly support their case:—
1 “Before lunch at The Oval was a glorious period for Australia today, and provided the most courageous batting I have ever seen. Despite the most difficult wicket, Bradman and Jackson gave the English public an exhibition of versatility, pluck and determination rarely seen on a cricket field.
2 “The dangerous wicket helped the bowlers, who made the ball fly, Larwood being particularly vicious. Frequently the lads, after being hit, writhed in pain, but bruised and battered from head to toe, they carried on. Certainly it was a wonderful display of courage to withstand such a terrific onslaught.
3 “This Bradman is lion-hearted, physically and figuratively. He made a double century despite the whirlwind rib-breaking tactics of Larwood. Don was doubled up with pain when a terrifically fast ball struck him in the chest. Shortly afterwards another Larwood ball crashed onto his fingers. It would be hard to realise the pain he was suffering as he flogged the bowling. It was real cricket courage.
4 The Daily Mail comments on “the courage of Bradman and Jackson when facing the fast stuff on a wicket which was distinctly unpleasant after the rain, and when they were hit repeatedly and painfully, but stuck to their task with unflinching determination.”
It is worth recording that I scored 98 runs before lunch in that period when the ball was flying on a rain-damaged pitch, and also that I was given out caught behind off Larwood when I did not hit the ball. It swung away slightly as I played at it. Noticing the swing I turned my bat at the last moment, and was amazed when Larwood appealed (he was the only one who did) and more amazed still when the umpire gave me out.
I have a photo of the dismissal. Duckworth is standing with the ball in his gloves, hands in front of his chest. Anyone who has seen Duckworth make a catch will remember how he would throw the ball high in the air, one foot off the ground and emit a war-cry. In this instance he did not appeal. Neither did Hammond at first slip, who is shown in the photo standing upright with hands hung low in front of him.
I am not complaining of the decision. There have been other occasions when I have been out and given not out. My purpose in clarifying the matter is to prevent anyone thinking Larwood and Jardine justified in their claim or that they can support it by saying Larwood obtained my wicket.
Jardine has made lavish use of quotations in his book, and in the preface quotes a long interview given to the Cape Times by a Mr. J. H. Hotson. In that interview Mr. Hotson refers to Larwood’s habit of reverting to leg theory (after his few opening overs) because he had lost his swing. The inference is clear that such a move was necessary to suit the type of bowling. But it hardly tallies with a photo in Jardine’s book showing Bromley (a left-hander) batting to a leg field, and being caught by Verity at short-leg from a shot made purely to prevent the ball hitting him in the face. Larwood goes to great pains in an effort to prove that by 1932 he had developed amazing accuracy and quotes figures to prove it. He cites this not only as a reason for his success, but also as support for the claim that his accuracy precluded any risk to batsmen.
Nobody would dispute his accuracy. That it was newly-acquired is another story.
I imagine accuracy is gauged by runs scored per over. At least that is the basis used by Larwood, for he quotes figures for 1930, 1931 and 1932. They show for 1932: overs bowled 866, runs scored 2,084.
However, a little research revealed that in 1928, four years earlier, he bowled 834 overs for 2,003 runs, and a short mathematical calculation will reveal slightly greater accuracy in 1928 than in 1932.
But a far more important matter is this. If body-line is allowed in first-class cricket, it must be allowed in all forms of cricket. One bowler cannot have a monopoly of a theory. For this reason, I again quote Larwood from his book. “If it really was body-line, bowling would be really dangerous to the batsmen.”
When the personnel of the English Team to tour Australia in 1932–33 was announced, I foresaw the possibility of trouble because of the abnormal selection in England’s team of four fast bowlers.
Body-line was first used against me in a match on the Melbourne Cricket Ground between the M.C.C. and an Australian XI. I reported privately to certain cricket administrators that, in my opinion, there would be serious trouble unless the matter was dealt with quickly. Then after the First Test had been played in Sydney, Dr. E. P. Barbour reviewed the game and made a very strong appeal for the elimination of this new type of bowling. He made the following comment:—
“The deliberate banging of the ball down less than half-way so that it flies up round the batsman’s head is not cricket. If continued, and extended to all grades of cricket as they should be if they are fair, the end result of such tactics will be the disappearance from first-class cricket of every champion after he has put up with three or four years of assault and battery. Perhaps a more serious aspect still is the imminent danger to the good fellowship and friendly rivalry that has always been associated with cricket.”
Up to this time the cricket administrators had not been sufficiently impressed with the views of players to make any move.
I always visualised the misunderstanding which would arise if exception was taken to body-line bowling at a time when we were being defeated. It was for that reason I again privately, but very forcibly, expressed my views to certain authorities, after the Melbourne Test Match which we won.
Here was the psychological moment, if any action at all was to be taken, to let M.C.C. know Australia’s views.
I thought then, and I think now, that Australia’s great mistake was in not dispassionately making an effort to clear up misunderstandings when the Tests were one all. It was ultimately done in the heat of battle at a much less appropriate time.
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