Sir Don Bradman? Who Bradman! I will deal with him said the angry Doug to himself before the encounter, devised a game plan and kept Bradman, someone who had played with their reputation; under check and went on to win the improbable and the most controversial series ever for England. With that triumph, Douglas Jardine was rightly hailed as the greatest English villain of all-time for using the Bodyline tactics.
What is Bodyline?
Bodyline is the term coined to describe fast leg theory bowling with half slingers targeted at the body of a batsman for the purpose of crabbing the room to swing the free flow of the bat and purposefully making him play. There can be only three possibilities on that bowling attack. One- The leather hits your body. Two – You try and defend it and end up getting caught by the close-in fielders surrounding your arse on the legside. Third – you are anyway caught while pulling it away in the deep. There is no escape from the death trap! In short, you are doomed!
Contrary to the beliefs, I do not see it as a heinous act, rather it was smart maneuver that left the Aussies bamboozled. It was strictly professional of Doug to analyze someone’s game so thoroughly and come up with something this intrigue! You need balls to do it and the best part, he pushed the envelope within the lawsuit, far enough to intimidate the opponent without breaking any rule of the game. Moreover, others had no right to call him unprofessional as majority of the folks already had half their focus outside the game – on their part-time jobs while Doug was busy sniffing victory. Lest he wasn’t a rat!
Why the Fuss?
England went on to win the series 4-1 leaving over two dozen Australians injured .The bodyline attack led by Harold Larwood with Bill Voce, Bill Bowes and Gubby Allen in the clan gave major injury blows to the Kangaroos. Woodfull, the Australian skipper and Oldfield were the most affected ones. Woodie was struck 7 times in 4 Tests, his opening partner Bill Ponsford 6 in three and for Oldfield I don’t even have the count. Larwood, the lightening quick pacer gave some brutal blows to the opposition’s skipper in the mid rib section and the worst of the lot was Olly, the man famously known for the fractured skull.
There was a popular saying at that time –
With a prayer and a curse they prepare for the hearse, undertakers look on with broad grins. Oh they’d be a lot calmer in Ned Kelly’s armor, When Larwood the wrecker begins.
No wonder the fury was so intense that every available policeman was reinforced at the ground in case of a riot. I think he should be renamed to Harold Bruises Larwood.
The aftermath –
Statistically it was a win over Bradman. Bradman just averaged 56 (his all time low).Here is a sneak peak at the dip in the averages of some Aussie Batsmen.
- Fielding rules were changed. Not more than two fielders were allowed between the square leg umpire and the wicket-keeper.
- Only a maximum of two bouncers per over were made legitimate.
- Political and economic relations between the two nations hit the rock bottom.
- Larwood who was the right hand of Jardine, always backed his skipper (as Jardine cared and fought for the team from the front, which was appreciated by the Harold) decided to quit the game on a dignified ground, never played thereafter and still hasn’t given a rat’s ass to the Aussie media and the their criticism. Looks scary right! And that is exactly why that series was so crucial and people like me write about it every now and then.
Let’s have a look at the some of the behind the scenes moments. Gubby Allen, the second highest wicket taker for the Englishmen did protest against the tactic and never bowled a bodyline attack. The Nawab of Pataudi did refuse to field in the leg trap and the English manager Pelham Warner had visited Woodfull after he was hit on the heart to which he had got a cold response.
“I don’t want to see you Mr. Warner or any of your teammate. We despise you. There are two teams out there, one is playing cricket and the other is making no attempt to do so. The game is too good to be spoilt. It’s time some people got out of it”.
Well, on a crazy note, Jardine always stood by his words, threatened to back out on logical grounds, inspired the English political delegates to maintain the same cold stand for the wirings that happened after the Adelaide Test and did make the Aussies bend down. Hail Doug – the badass, knowingly or unknowingly you have given us the most talked about event in the Cricket History.