CricketBlog.com

Bodyline - a 75 year anniversary


Well, it's been 75 years since the infamous Bodyline series. I vividly remember watching the mini-series as a child, where Hugo Weaving played Douglas Jardine only a shade less evil than Agent Smith from The Matrix. Murray Hedgcock muses on the tactic that tore apart an empire:
Jardine could not understand how Australia tolerated the raucous behaviour of its cricket crowds, where an egalitarian nation bellowed its blunt opinions, seeing no reason to be polite to English players.

But if a common theme among British commentators was that the Australian press was largely to blame for the fuss, egging on an easily excited crowd, then there is little doubt that the man in the street was truly stirred.

There was genuine astonishment across Australia at the England bowling tactics: the locals were supposed to be the rough and ready colonials, to be set an example by cultivated English cousins, and yet here they were, behaving "like lesser breeds without the law".
David Frith examines the duel between Bradman and Larwood:
Their duels during that torrid Australian summer of 1932-33 have been likened to the sheriff (Bradman) facing the gunslinger (Larwood), and the end result - sweat-soaked "Clint" Larwood coming away with the honours - was as gleefully received in England as it was resented and morally questioned in Australia.

By the laws of the time, Larwood had not been employing unfair tactics. But his barrage of express balls at throat and chest was considered immoral by the unforgiving Bradman, by his team-mates, by his captain, Bill Woodfull, and by almost the entire population of Australia.

The fielders waiting for catches close in on the leg side were viewed as bloodthirsty vultures and England's iron-willed captain, Douglas Jardine, was the most detested person in the wide compass of Australia's history.
One of the enduring Bodyline images was Australian captain Bill Woodful clutching his chest after being struck on the heart. Patrick Kidd muses on Woodfull's captaincy as well as some interesting points on vice-captain Vic Richardson:
It is the suited figure of Woodfull, a schoolmaster, who can be seen on newsreel scurrying out of the pavilion after Bert Oldfield, his wicketkeeper, was also hit by Larwood in that Adelaide Test. "There are two sides out there. One is trying to play cricket, the other is not," was Woodfull's verdict on England's tactics. That Woodfull made 73 not out in Australia's second innings as his team tried to avoid defeat says much about the character.

Woodfull's vice-captain, Vic Richardson, may have fought back, but Woodfull was too dignified to allow his bowlers to use bodyline in response. Richardson also possessed a sharp tongue that stunned Jardine when the England captain went to complain about overhearing an Australian call Larwood a bastard. "OK, which of you bastards called Larwood a bastard instead of this bastard," was his response to the dressing-room.
You get the feeling despite several generations' difference, Vic Richardson would slot seamlessly into a modern Australian side.
Posted by JC on Sun 9 Dec 72 comments
"OK, which of you bastards called Larwood a bastard instead of this bastard,"

I doubt whether a more pure Australian line/sledge had been uttered prior or since.
Posted by Hanuman on 2007-12-09 21:55:43
What about the skill of the man to fit bastard into a sentence 3 times. genius.
Posted by cricketwithballs.com on 2007-12-09 22:49:30
Little wonder that Vic Richardson was the proud grandfather of one Ian Chappell, also not given to taking a backward step, regardless of the circumstances.
From memory, Bradman was played by Gary Sweet in that series?
Ashes history makes the most recent 5 zip annihilation that much sweeter. Forgive but don't forget, even after 75 years.
Posted by Dan Tas on 2007-12-09 23:49:17
I just picked up the Bodyline DVD set a couple of weeks ago (cheap, courtesy a large CD/DVD chain). In any case, when I watched the series on TV as a youngster - I guess about nine years old - I remember thinking that Jardine, Larwood etc were personified evil, and going to watch it again, I was surprised how subtle (and sometimes even sympathetic) their portrayal was. You can really feel Jardine and Larwood's frustration and desperation. Well worth revisiting.

Now, if only I could find a copy of Larwood's autobiography which I also remember reading around the same time, borrowed from a local library ...
Posted by David on 2007-12-10 09:10:22
David, you're probably right. All I can remember other than Jardine being evil was him perving at some lady rolling up her stockings. But my memories of how black and white Jardine was portrayed is more an indication of how simply I saw the world than how the movie tried to present it.

I'd be interested in hearing from any UK readers what their thoughts on Bodyline and Jardine are. Is he remembered as a hero? Or is Bodyline remembered with shame the way Australians remember the underarm incident.
Posted by JC on 2007-12-10 09:23:51

Post New Comment

You need to be logged in to post a comment. If you're new, register here. Existing users, login via the right margin.