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Cricket: A Modern Anthology

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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It must be admitted that although the Australian players and most ex-players strongly condemned the new type of bowling at once, this unanimity did not occur so readily amongst cricket officials, many of whom accused our players of squealing. One State Cricket Association had a motion brought before it to the effect that “The Association disassociate itself with the action of the Board in sending the first cable to England.” The motion was defeated by only one vote.

The action of the Board of Control and the cables which passed at that time are now history.

The Australian Board appointed a Committee consisting of Messrs. Roger Hartigan, M. A. Noble, W. M. Woodfull and Vic. Richardson to report on what action was required to eliminate such bowling from cricket. The Committee framed a suggested new rule which was duly sent to the M.C.C. for approval, but up to that time the M.C.C. still had no evidence.

When the West Indian Team visited England in 1933, they had two excellent fast bowlers in Martindale and Constantine, who tried out Jardine’s theory in the Second Test Match at Manchester. One result was that Hammond “had his chin laid open by one of many short-pitched rising balls” (Wisden 1934). Hammond is reported to have said then and there that either this type of bowling must be abolished or he would retire from first-class cricket.

Jack Hobbs made a similar threat after his experience against Bowes in 1932. A humorous sidelight was the reversal of opinion by players when they themselves had to face it.

George Duckworth thought body-line against Australians quite in order. On returning to England in 1933 he gave lectures and said so. That was before Lancashire met Nottingham.

Then it became a different story. Photos were taken of Duckworth’s bruises and used as exhibits.

Lancashire broke off diplomatic relations with Notts. and refused to play against them in the County Championship.

Retribution if you like! Fifty years earlier Notts. had declined to play Lancashire because the latter team had amongst its players one whose action Notts. considered unfair.

The M.C.C. took steps to investigate the position, and at a joint meeting of the Advisory County Cricket Committee and the Board of Control of Test matches at home, held at Lord’s in November 1933, it was agreed that any form of bowling “which is obviously a direct attack by the bowler upon the batsman” would be an offence against the spirit of the game. It was decided to leave the matter to the captains. This principle was affirmed by the Imperial Cricket Conference in July 1934.

However, this did not suffice, for the same type of bowling still persisted. In November 1934 the M.C.C. issued a communication indicating that “as a result of their own observations and from reports received, the M.C.C. Committee consider that there is evidence that cases of the bowler making a direct attack upon the batsman have on occasions taken place during the last cricket season.”

In order to eliminate this type of bowling from the game, the M.C.C. Committee ruled: “That the type of bowling regarded as a direct attack by the bowler upon the batsman, and therefore unfair, consists in persistent and systematic bowling of fast short-pitched balls at the batsman standing clear of his wicket.”

I have gone to some length to detail what occurred because I want to establish the all-important point that Australia did not stop body-line bowling. Certainly the original protest came from Australia (if we exclude Sir Pelham Warner’s first comment) simply because Australian batsmen were the first ones exposed to its dangers. But immediately the M.C.C. Committee were satisfied that such a type of bowling existed, they acted promptly and firmly to define it and to outline the procedure to be adopted by the umpires to stop it.

Larwood himself was very critical of Australia’s attempts to legislate against this type of cricket, and he wrote: “Cricket ought to be eternally grateful that its laws are made by the M.C.C.” I hope he is still of the same opinion.

Could Body-line be Mastered?

I doubt if this question can be authoritatively answered.

It was used consistently for only one season against the same players, and nobody mastered it. A batsman who played defensively would certainly get caught by one of the short-leg fieldsmen. To try to hook the ball would result sooner or later in a catch on the boundary. Neither defence nor attack could overcome it for long, unless the batsman was particularly lucky.

Playing the good length balls and dodging the others may sound all right in theory, but it would not work in practice. The batsman doing this must of necessity be hit.

In fact no Australian batsman of any note failed to get hit, some on many occasions. Players naturally began to take the view that there were other sports offering many of the attractions of cricket without the risk of serious injury.

After his retirement from Test cricket, Hammond wrote about body-line, and I greatly admired his forthright condemnation thereof. Remember that Hammond was a member of the English Team which used it, and later became Captain of England. This is what he said:—

“I condemn it absolutely. Body-line is dangerous. I believe that only good luck was responsible for the fact that no one was killed by body-line. I have had to face it, and I would have got out of the game if it had been allowed to persist!

I doubt if there was any answer to such bowling unless grave risks of injury were courted.”

In that 1932–3 season I endeavoured to counter body-line by unorthodox methods which involved stepping away to cut the ball to the off, and in my view exposed me to a graver risk of injury than the orthodox type of batting. Whilst not completely successful, I did score over 50 runs in an innings 4 times in 4 Test Matches.

McCabe and Richardson both tried to counter it by orthodox methods. Both were very capable, game players and excellent hookers, yet each of them could only once exceed 50 in an innings in the same four matches. Our comparative figures in those four Tests were:—

In many quarters I was the subject of bitter adverse criticism for my methods. Jack Fingleton, a contemporary player, later wrote a book in which he cast very grave reflections on my tactics. It may be well to remind readers that his last 3 Test innings against Jardine’s men yielded 1, 0 and 0, whereupon he was dropped from the Australian team. In the same 3 innings I scored 177 runs at an average of 88.5. These figures scarcely give Fingleton any authority to criticise my methods. Apparently I had to make a century every time and also be hit more often than anyone else to satisfy the tastes of some. May I be pardoned for again quoting Constantine, a great batsman, and one of the fast bowlers who used body-line against England at Manchester. He says:—

“Of all batsmen in the world the last two to whom body-line should ever be bowled are Bradman and McCabe.”

Furthermore, he refers to Jardine making a century against it and says that to stand up and play defensive strokes at Lord’s or the Oval as he did at Old Trafford would have been quite impossible, and Jardine was over 6 feet in height. How much harder for those of short stature. It wasn’t only a question of whether it could be mastered, but rather that fellows would not bother to try—they would not consider it worth the candle.

Undoubtedly body-line was a reaction against the dominance of the bat over the ball, magnified by my own fortuitous 1930 season in England. But it was the wrong remedy. Killing a patient is not the way to cure his disease.

It was also a form of protest against the inadequacy of the L.B.W. law, because bowlers get very exasperated when they beat a batsman only to be deprived of his wicket by his pads.

Body-line certainly did some good in that it caused an alteration in the L.B.W. law (which M.C.C. agreed to at the time).

In my view the L.B.W. alteration, admirable though it was, did not go far enough. Long before the advent of body-line, I was in favour of an alteration to help bowlers. I openly advocated a change in 1933; I again made a strong appeal in an article I wrote in Wisden in 1938, and I am still agitating for a further change.

Recently I read an article where the writer was uncharitable enough to contend that my suggestion is related to my retirement. He obviously was poorly informed about my past expressions on the subject.

And there I want to end my references to body-line bowling. It was a passing phase, and I sincerely trust there will never be any need for umpires to contemplate taking action as they are empowered to do.

But I think it is desirable that the facts as detailed herein should be chronicled so that the matter shall be viewed in its proper perspective. The whole thing caused great misgivings and created much feeling. The best way for any reservations in the minds of the English public to be finally swept away is for them fully to understand and appreciate the real facts.

From Farewell to Cricket, 1950

To my mind the post-Bodyline administrators badly overreacted and things should never have escalated the way they did. The Australians, however, saw the great worth of a hard-working man in Harold Larwood and welcomed him back on his retirement when he chose to emigrate with his family to Australia.

This piece is beautifully written, taking the reader right out into the middle during that fateful Adelaide Test. When I was last in Adelaide I spoke with a local historian who pointed out that most of the crowd in 1932 (largely male) would have been wearing heavy tweed suits and, in that temperature, would have been seriously hot and uncomfortable. It would certainly have been part of the reason why the crowd were so quick to anger.

HAROLD LARWOOD (#ulink_6a7d8d0b-3611-5e67-bc78-aaecf402242e)

Duncan Hamilton

Adelaide: January 1933

The tipping point of the Bodyline series – the ball that felled Bert Oldfield – wasn’t bowled to a Bodyline field either. But it didn’t matter. The climate was so fevered that Bill Woodfull, the Australian Board of Control and even those who paid to watch were blind to, and unable to discriminate between, genuine fast bowling and Bodyline – even when Jardine, the auteur of it, didn’t deploy a leg-side field. It became impossible for them to distinguish legitimate aggression from the tactic itself. Whatever the strength of the evidence – and however clear that evidence might be – the accused was always going to be Harold Larwood, exposed to a spillage of hate, and the verdict against him was always going to be guilty.

Larwood noticed on his first trip to Australia that one of every three or four balls skimmed off the surface of pitches and that the bounce was unpredictable. ‘There was no real need to dig it in,’ he said. ‘The bounce occurred naturally – especially with the new ball. You never really knew how high it might be.’

Oldfield was on strike when Jardine took the new ball, which he lobbed to Larwood. Oldfield had made 41 impressive runs, frequently pulling Larwood through mid-wicket. The delivery that struck him was short and dropped a foot outside off stump. He decided to step across to hook or pull again, lost sight of it because of the low sightscreen and mistimed his shot. He played blindly and too soon, and got an edge that flew into the right side of his forehead – just below the hairline. The ground began to slide away from him. Oldfield knew immediately that if the ball had struck him on the temple ‘it would have been the end for me’. He moved in rapid, short jerky steps from the crease. His legs collapsed beneath him, everything spun – the picket fence, the ground, the faces in the far distance. In confusion and pain, he tried to take his cap off, and then he put it on again. After he had hit Woodfull, Larwood did nothing more than kick the turf at the bowler’s end, bringing up a small divot, and then turned his back on the scene, as if he didn’t care. This time he dashed up the pitch, his face as white as alabaster. A clammy terror went through him; he feared Oldfield was dead. If the peak of his cap hadn’t broken the trajectory of the ball, he might have been. Oldfield was lucky. He suffered a linear fracture of the right frontal bone. ‘I’m sorry, Bertie,’ said Larwood in blind terror. Oldfield’s eyes were flat and blank, like dark windows. ‘It’s not your fault, Harold,’ said Oldfield eventually in a low moan. ‘I was trying to hook you for four.’ If only Oldfield’s reply could have been broadcast at the moment; or if only the crowd could have heard his view that ‘criticism of Larwood is unjustified’.

As Oldfield went down under the force of the blow, the Oval swelled with anger, and that anger rolled down and across the pitch as a visceral, shrieking roar that ‘frightened’ Larwood. The atmosphere turned sulphurous. Crimson faces, with eyes on stalks like cartoon characters, came to the fence and seemed to press against Larwood’s own face – even though he was more than 30 yards away from most of them. He could feel the crowd’s loathing prickling his skin. There was screaming, and he could see fists clenched into tight balls of hate. ‘I felt,’ he said, ‘as if one false move would bring the crowd down on me.’ If one ‘idiot’ lunged over the fence, he was convinced that thousands would follow and he’d be buried beneath them. He turned to Les Ames, who was equally distressed: ‘If they come,’ he said, his voice breaking, ‘you can take the leg stump for protection. I’ll take the middle.’

The police deployed mounted troopers to ensure order. Contemporary reports talked about the threat of riot and physical violence, and all his life Larwood was convinced that view was valid. On the field, he prayed quietly to himself that it wouldn’t happen. A jug of water and a towel were brought to bathe Oldfield’s bloody, broken head. Woodfull emerged from the picket pavilion gate in a dark suit – his face grim, his stride long, purposeful and bristling, his legs and arms working furiously to get him to his stricken colleague. There’s no question that Woodfull’s sole concern was the welfare of his wicket keeper. He was a loyal, principled man, and he would have seen it as his duty as captain to be alongside the wounded Oldfield. But the sight of him in such sensitive circumstances – solid and slightly aggressive, like a marching soldier heading for the front line – was inflammatory. Here was Woodfull, who everyone now knew abhorred Bodyline and was sickened by it, emerging as the gallant focus of the opposition to the tourists’ tactics; white knight to Jardine’s black.

Larwood lay on his side near his bowling mark, tossing the ball up in the air with his right hand, as if casually flicking a coin on a street corner. Waiting for his panicky heart to slow, he began picking at dry stalks of grass and tried to give the impression that the noise – so extreme he could barely think – and the stream of insults didn’t worry him. But his stomach was churning, and there was a rough, dry taste in his mouth as he watched Woodfull slowly guide Oldfield off the field.

Larwood got to his feet gradually, as if any sudden movement might provoke the crowd, and the England fieldsmen returned to the same positions for the new batsman, Bill O’Reilly. ‘I reckon it took me ten minutes to get in and to shape to the first ball,’ remembered O’Reilly. ‘I wouldn’t have minded if it had taken me twenty minutes.’

Jardine displayed what Larwood called ‘cold courage’. He looked unflappable, as if just waiting for a lightning storm to pass. ‘I don’t know what was going through his mind,’ said Larwood, ‘but he seemed so calm.’ Jardine gestured with a nod of his head to check whether Larwood was composed enough to bowl. As he began his run, the crowd started to count him out in a ghastly shout of ‘one, two, three’ which ended after ten with the cry ‘out, you bastard!’ Their words couldn’t hurt him. England bowled out the shaken Australians for 222.

On the field, Larwood was so commanding that he created an illusion. His wide shoulders and stocky build gave the impression of height. Off the field, he could wander into an Australian bar in his suit and tie rather than his whites and no one recognized him. ‘I’d go in for a quiet drink and hear them say all sorts of things about me. People who’d just seen me play had no idea that I was standing next to them eavesdropping on their conversation. Most Australians thought I was six foot six.’ It explains why at the end of that day’s play the flustered policeman who came into the dressing room to escort him out of the ground had to ask: ‘Which one is Larwood?’ Bill Voce pointed out his friend. ‘What have I done wrong?’ asked Larwood innocently.

Larwood had been called a ‘bastard’ so many times that the word had lost its meaning to him. He came out into the jostling knot of swearing, spitting men in suits, who looked ready to string him from a gibbet. The policeman stood close to his shoulder; Voce followed behind to ward off anyone who might lurch at Larwood from behind. ‘Bastard … bastard … bastard’ was all he could hear. Larwood went back to the hotel and stayed in his room.

As the crow flies, just three miles separate the terraced house where Larwood was born and grew up from Lord Byron’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey. Setting aside the geography of Nottinghamshire, the poet and the fast bowler have nothing else in common – except for this: Byron awoke one morning to find that his poetry had made him famous. Larwood awoke, the day after striking Oldfield, to find that his bowling had made him infamous. He sat in the lobby and hid behind his newspaper.

Soon the cables began. The Australian Board of Control was thoughtlessly knee-jerk in its approach and intemperate in its language. It didn’t possess sufficient guile to frame an appropriate and subtle policy against Bodyline. It also lacked the cleverness to condemn Jardine strongly without insulting the MCC and the farsightedness to draft a diplomatic plan that might have curtailed the tactics. Rather than resolve the problem, its accusations made it worse. Its first cable to the MCC – sent on 18 January, the penultimate day of the Adelaide Test – fell into the easy trap of relying on the term Bodyline, a word created in the world of journalism rather than cricket, and then of adopting a mildly threatening tone:

Body-line bowling has assumed such proportions as to menace the best interests of the game, making protection of the body by the batsmen the main consideration. This is causing intensely bitter feeling between the players as well as injury. In our opinion it is unsportsmanlike. Unless stopped at once it is likely to upset the friendly relations existing between Australia and England.

The Board of Control made another crass mistake in releasing the telegram as a curt statement to the newspapers at the same time as dispatching it in a huff to Lord’s. It appeared in the Stop Press columns in London before arriving at Lord’s. The subsequent headlines raised the stakes still higher, and pricked the egos of the MCC committee. In its rush simultaneously to reclaim its dignity, communicate its anger and lash out, the Board of Control failed to grasp two fundamentally important things: from half a world away, the MCC’s view of Bodyline was based on accounts in English newspapers, which had been generally positive. If Bodyline was used today, the Test would be live on satellite television. The wickets and major incidents would be seen on an endless loop on news programmes, and played and re-played in slow motion in front of pundits – grizzled ex-pros gathered around a microphone pontificating about it. The newspapers would provide sophisticated graphics of field-placings. The TV cameras would be waiting outside the hospital where Oldfield was taken and the hotel where England were staying. The average-man-in-the-street – in England and Australia – would be canvassed for his views. And Larwood would be pursued for an interview even before leaving the field. He and Bodyline would be in the swirl of ‘instant news’.

In 1932–33, newsreel footage could take up to six weeks to arrive from Australia. Bodyline for the MCC was read about rather than viewed. Also, the phrases in the Board’s cable, such as ‘menace the best interests of the game’ – and certainly the use of the word ‘unsportsmanlike’ – were provocative. At that stage, the MCC saw its duty as supporting its captain and manager. It wasn’t fully aware of the sensitivities Bodyline had pricked, the growing resentment among the Australian public, or the passion that had spurred the Board to write the cable in the first place. The MCC slapped the Australians straight across both cheeks. The opening two lines of its cable, which followed after five days of thinking carefully about what to say, were deliberately wounding:

We, the Marylebone Cricket Club, deplore your cable. We deprecate your opinion that there has been unsportsmanlike play.

The last, very long, line was an exercise in gauntlet-throwing:

We hope the situation is not now as serious as your cable would seem to indicate, but if it is such as to jeopardize the good relations between England and Australian cricketers and you consider it desirable to cancel remainder of programme we would consent, but with great reluctance.

A week later the rattled and disunited Board of Control sent its reply. The truth came to them belatedly, rather like the descending apple that struck Newton. The Board realized that the MCC’s opinion was prejudiced by the fact that it hadn’t seen ‘the actual play’. It could easily shelter behind the irrefutable point that Bodyline did not contravene cricket’s sacred laws; any tawny-coloured copy of Wisden proved that too.

The Board finally understood that it needed to act positively rather than negatively. The Australians appointed a committee to report on how Bodyline bowling could be scrubbed cleanly out of the game and added, rather sheepishly, that ‘we do not consider it necessary to cancel the remainder of the programme’. For one thing, it would have been financial insanity to have done so. As Larwood made clear: ‘Bodyline drew back the crowds.’ The Australians did reiterate that Bodyline was ‘opposed to the spirit of cricket’ – another euphemistic dig at England’s supposed lack of sportsmanship – and said that it had become ‘unnecessarily dangerous to the players’. The Board missed a trick. It ought to have withdrawn the allegation of ‘unsportsmanlike’ behaviour, instead of sharpening it. On 2 February, the MCC was able to bite them again – albeit very politely – when it asked: ‘May we accept … that the good sportsmanship of our team is not in question?’ Unless it was prepared for the sight of the England players packing their bags and walking up the gangplank on the next boat home, the Board had no option but to concede that Bodyline hadn’t been unsporting after all. ‘We do not regard the sportsmanship of your team to be in question,’ its next cable assured the MCC. It had just performed a Tour de France of back-pedalling.
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