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The accusation of unsportsmanlike play – the worst possible insult because it implied cheating – couldn’t be allowed to stand. To have been boneheaded enough to level it in the first place was one thing. To repeat it was more than a slur; it was like the white glove across the face that summoned the recipient to a duel to protect his honour and reputation. The MCC committee was cricket’s high society: titled, ennobled through birthright or distinction, mostly educated at Eton or Harrow and Oxbridge, and politically Conservative. If the MCC committee had been a building, then Gaudi would have built it and given it a modernist twist. It was a grand, elaborate, complex-looking construction which included three Viscounts, one Duke, two Earls, four Lords and three Knights. The President was Viscount Lewisham, a former Tory MP and previously Lord Great Chamberlain of England. His father and grandfather were both past Presidents of the MCC; Lord Hawke dominated English and particularly Yorkshire cricket for half a century and served as President during the First World War; Viscount Bridgeman had been Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty during the 1920s; Sir Stanley Jackson was, like Hawke, a distinguished former Yorkshire cricketer – more than 10,000 runs and 500 wickets – as well as an MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party and Governor of Bengal. And so it went on …
This aristocracy, the Debrett’s of cricket, saw itself as the infallible arbiter of what was and was not cricket. It upheld the values of sporting prowess taught on the lush playing fields of the public schools and had its own clear-eyed view of the proper and correct way to ‘play up and play the game’. Even if it hadn’t, the players, seething against the term ‘unsportsmanlike’, would have rebelled unless the Board withdrew its charge against them. As Larwood recalled: ‘We felt we were in a false position in having to take the field with the stigma of the Board’s term still on us.’ Larwood remembered Jardine’s anxiety both before and after the cables began. The Australian press whipped up several stories about dissent and squabbling among the England camp, dramatically described as ‘being at war with itself’. Maurice Tate was said to have flung beer over Jardine, which Larwood said was untrue. There was supposed to be open hostility towards Jardine’s disciplinarian approach, which was only partly true. As Larwood made clear, any ‘grievances … were not nearly as serious as was made out’ and stemmed not from Bodyline but from the frustration of players unable to force a way into the team. ‘There were players who were unhappy,’ he said, ‘but it was because they couldn’t get into the Tests. Australia’s an awfully long way to go if you don’t get a game.’
At the end of the fifth day of the Adelaide Test, Jardine called a meeting in a private room of the team hotel. There were only two points on the agenda. Should Bodyline/leg theory be abandoned? Should Jardine continue as captain? When Warner was the first to speak, [bowler] Tommy Mitchell told him to sit down and shut up: ‘It’s got nowt to do with you,’ he said. Everyone, however, finally had a say. The players liked the direction and purpose Jardine brought to the series, and the thought of winning the Ashes too. Jardine won his vote of confidence unanimously: ‘a vote for England’ is how Larwood put it. Bodyline would stay. For him, the ends justified the means. His captain’s stiff-upper-lip, win-at-any-cost, grind-the-bastards-down attitude convinced Larwood and others that the Ashes could only be won with Jardine. He was as different as it is possible to be in approach and temperament from the circumspect Woodfull. ‘Jardine might have been unpopular with a few of the players,’ said Larwood, ‘but everybody respected and admired him and many of us liked him.’ Asked to define his qualities, Larwood replied simply: ‘He was ruthless.’
England made 412 in their second innings and smartly removed the Australians – with Oldfield ‘absent hurt’ on the scorecard – for 193. In a win by 338 runs, Larwood finished with match figures of seven for 126. ‘I was quick there,’ he said. ‘People just forget it because of what else happened.’
From Harold Larwood, 2009
THE BOWLING CONTROVERSY (#ulink_1ac1fead-6fed-5c89-b10a-59566c9ab3fd)
Text of the cables
During the tour of the M.C.C. team in Australia in 1932–33, exception was taken in that country to the methods adopted by certain of the visiting bowlers, and long correspondence by cable between the M.C.C. and the Australian Board of Control followed. Below will be found, in chronological order, the text of these cables, together with—in proper sequence—a short report of meetings bearing upon the subject.
From Australian Board of Control to M.C.C., Jan. 18, 1933.
“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.”
From M.C.C. to Australian Board of Control, Jan. 23, 1933.
“We, Marylebone Cricket Club, deplore your cable. We deprecate your opinion that there has been unsportsmanlike play. We have fullest confidence in captain, team and managers and are convinced that they would do nothing to infringe either the Laws of Cricket or the spirit of the game. We have no evidence that our confidence has been misplaced. Much as we regret accidents to Woodfull and Oldfield, we understand that in neither case was the bowler to blame. If the Australian Board of Control wish to propose a new Law or Rule, it shall receive our careful consideration in due course.
“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 English and Australian cricketers and you consider it desirable to cancel remainder of programme we would consent, but with great reluctance.”
From Australian Board of Control to M.C.C., Jan. 30, 1933.
“We, Australian Board of Control, appreciate your difficulty in dealing with the matter raised in our cable without having seen the actual play. We unanimously regard body-line bowling, as adopted in some of the games in the present tour, as being opposed to the spirit of cricket, and unnecessarily dangerous to the players.
“We are deeply concerned that the ideals of the game shall be protected and have, therefore, appointed a committee to report on the action necessary to eliminate such bowling from Australian cricket as from beginning of the 1933–34 season.
“We will forward a copy of the Committee’s recommendations for your consideration, and it is hoped co-operation as to its application to all cricket. We do not consider it necessary to cancel remainder of programme.”
The committee appointed consisted of Messrs. R. J. Hartigan (Queensland) representing the Board of Control; W. M. Woodfull, V. Y. Richardson and M. A. Noble.
From M.C.C. to Australian Board of Control, Feb. 2, 1933.
“We, the Committee of the Marylebone Cricket Club note with pleasure that you do not consider it necessary to cancel the remainder of programme, and that you are postponing the whole issue involved until after the present tour is completed. May we accept this as a clear indication that the good sportsmanship of our team is not in question?
“We are sure you will appreciate how impossible it would be to play any Test Match in the spirit we all desire unless both sides were satisfied there was no reflection upon their sportsmanship.
“When your recommendation reaches us it shall receive our most careful consideration and will be submitted to the Imperial Cricket Conference.”
From Australian Board of Control to M.C.C., Feb. 8, 1933.
“We do not regard the sportsmanship of your team as being in question.
“Our position was fully considered at the recent meeting in Sydney and is as indicated in our cable of January 30.
“It is the particular class of bowling referred to there in which we consider is not in the best interests of cricket, and in this view we understand we are supported by many eminent English cricketers.
“We join heartily with you in hoping that the remaining Tests will be played with the traditional good feeling.”
The Australian Board of Control, meeting on April 21, 1933, considered a proposal submitted to them by the special sub-committee set up to consider the question of “body-line” bowling and cabled M.C.C. asking that body to give the proposal their consideration. The cable read as follows: “Australian Board adopted following addition to Laws of Cricket in Australia, namely:—
“Any ball delivered which, in the opinion of the umpire at the bowler’s end is bowled at the batsman with the intent to intimidate or injure him shall be considered unfair and ‘No-ball’ shall be called. The bowler shall be notified of the reason. If the offence be repeated by the same bowler in the same innings he shall be immediately instructed by the umpire to cease bowling and the over shall be regarded as completed. Such bowler shall not again be permitted to bowl during the course of the innings then in progress.”
“Law 48a shall not apply to this Law. Foregoing submitted for your consideration and it is hoped co-operation by application to all cricket.”
From M.C.C. to Australian Board of Control, June 12, 1933.
“The M.C.C. Committee have received and carefully considered the cable of the Australian Board of Control of April 28th last. They have also received and considered the reports of the Captain and Managers of the cricket team which visited Australia 1932–1933.
“With regard to the cable of the Australian Board of Control of April 28th last, the Committee presume that the class of bowling to which the proposed new law would apply is that referred to as ‘body-line’ bowling in the Australian Board of Control’s cable of January 18th. The Committee consider that the term ‘body-line’ bowling is misleading and improper. It has led to much inaccuracy of thought by confusing the short bumping ball, whether directed on the off, middle or leg stump, with what is known as ‘leg-theory.’
“The term ‘body-line’ would appear to imply a direct attack by the bowler on the batsman. The Committee consider that such an implication applied to any English bowling in Australia is improper and incorrect. Such action on the part of any bowler would be an offence against the spirit of the game and would be immediately condemned. The practice of bowling on the leg stump with a field placed on the leg side necessary for such bowling is legitimate, and has been in force for many years. It has generally been referred to as ‘leg-theory.’ The present habit of batsmen who move in front of their wicket with the object of gliding straight balls to leg tends to give the impression that the bowler is bowling at the batsman, especially in the case of a fast bowler when the batsman mistimes the ball and is hit.
“The new Law recommended by the Australian Board of Control does not appear to the Committee to be practicable. Firstly, it would place an impossible task on the umpire and secondly, it would place in the hands of the umpire a power over the game which would be more than dangerous, and which any umpire might well fear to exercise.
“The Committee have had no reason to give special attention to ‘leg-theory’ as practised by fast bowlers. They will, however, watch carefully during the present season for anything which might be regarded as unfair or prejudicial to the best interests of the game. They propose to invite opinions and suggestions from County Clubs and Captains at the end of the season, with a view to enabling them to express an opinion on this matter at a Special Meeting of the Imperial Cricket Conference.
“With regard to the reports of the Captain and Managers, the Committee, while deeply appreciative of the private and public hospitality shewn to the English Team, are much concerned with regard to barracking, which is referred to in all the reports, and against which there is unanimous deprecation. Barracking has, unfortunately, always been indulged in by spectators in Australia to a degree quite unknown in this Country. During the late tour, however, it would appear to have exceeded all previous experience, and on occasions to have become thoroughly objectionable. There appears to have been little or no effort on the part of those responsible for the administration of the game in Australia to interfere, or to control this exhibition. This was naturally regarded by members of the team as a serious lack of consideration for them. The Committee are of opinion that cricket played under such conditions is robbed of much of its value as a game, and that unless barracking is stopped, or is greatly moderated in Australia, it is difficult to see how the continuance of representative matches can serve the best interest of the game.
“The Committee regret that these matters have to be dealt with by correspondence and not by personal conference. If at any time duly accredited representatives of Australian Cricket could meet the Committee in conference, such conference would be welcomed by M.C.C.”
From Australian Board of Control to M.C.C., Sept. 22, 1933.
“We note that you consider that a form of bowling which amounted to a direct attack by the bowler on the batsman would be against the spirit of the game. We agree with you that Leg-theory Bowling as it has been generally practised for many years is not open to objection. On these matters there does not appear to be any real difference between our respective views.
“We feel that while the type of bowling to which exception was taken in Australia, strictly was not in conflict with the Laws of Cricket, yet its continued practice would not be in the best interests of the game. May we assume that you concur in this point of view and that the teams may thus take the field in 1934 with that knowledge?
“We are giving consideration to the question of barracking and you may rely upon our using our best endeavours to have it controlled in future tours.
“We are most anxious that the cordial relations which have so long existed between English and Australian cricket shall continue.”
From M.C.C. to Australian Board of Control, Oct. 9, 1933.
“The M.C.C. Committee appreciate the friendly tone of your cable and they heartily reciprocate your desire for the continuance of cordial relations.
“In their view the difference between us seems to be rather on the question of fact than on any point of interpretation of the Laws of Cricket or of the spirit of the game. They agree and have always agreed that a 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.
“Your team can certainly take the field with the knowledge and with the full assurance that cricket will be played here in the same spirit as in the past and with the single desire to promote the best interests of the game in both countries.
“The Committee much appreciate your promise to take the question of barracking into consideration with a view to ensuring that it shall be kept within reasonable bounds.
“Your team can rely on a warm welcome from M.C.C., and every effort will be made to make their visit enjoyable.”
From Australian Board of Control to M.C.C., Nov. 16, 1933.
“We appreciate the terms of your cablegram of October 9 and assume that such cable is intended to give the assurance asked for in our cablegram of September 22.
“It is on this understanding that we are sending a team in 1934.”
A joint meeting of the Advisory County Cricket Committee and the Board of Control of Test Matches at Home, at which the county captains were present, was held at Lord’s on Thursday, November 23, 1933, to consider the replies received from the counties to the M.C.C.’s circular letter in regard to fast leg-theory bowling.
A decision was reached that no alteration of the Law was desirable. 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 in complete confidence that they would not permit or countenance bowling of such type.
From M.C.C. to Australian Board of Control, Dec. 12, 1933.
“Reference your cable of November 16th, you must please accept our cable of October 9th, which speaks for itself, as final.
“We cannot go beyond the assurance therein given. We shall welcome Australian cricketers who come to play cricket with us next year. If, however, your Board of Control decide that such games should be deferred, we shall regret their decision.
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