Text size: A | A

Larwood Makes A Clean Break From The Adelaide Obsessions - Muhammed Aamir Uppal - Pakistani Cricketer (Sept. 1993)

It would have been unthinkable a few decades ago that a crick- eter, whose career had been curtailed on the charges of backstab- bing on gamesmanship, be awarded the title of Member of the Order of the British Empire. A bowler of intimidatory repute, who could never break away from his 'Bodyline' links, from a vital part of the darkest episode in the history of the game. Lithe and hollow-cheeked Larwood with a medium height never gave the looks of a fast bowler at first sight when he entered big-time cricket in 1925. But it was his perfectly-balanced run-up that gave him accuracy of the highest degree in his bowl- ing. Despite the fact that his accuracy and perfectly copybook style enabled him to derive lethal pace, it was not until he became the effective instrument of Douglas Jardine's Bodyline ploy that suc- cess came to him. Earlier, his only major success had also been in Australia, when accompanying A.P.F. Chapman's side of 1928-29, he had match figures of 8-62 and remarkable contributions of 70 and 37 with the bat in the first Test at Brisbane. On the much talked-about 1932-33 tour Down Under he shared the ball with 'Gubby' Allen and Bill Voce. Larwood's short and fast ball coupled with occasional yorkers became so devastating that even a batsman of Don Bradman's calibre failed to maintain his average. But then all this had been made possible only due to the negative tactics of Jardine which Larwood effectively em- ployed. Larwood took 33 wickets in five Tests at 19.51 apiece and in the last match at Sydney hammered his career-best (98) as nightwatchman but, by the end of the series, irreparable damage had been done to the game. So much so that the diplomatic rela- tions between the two countries had come to the breaking point and it also put an end to his career. Many English experts still maintain his ouster from Test cricket has more to do with an in- jury on his left foot than the bitterness of the Australian tour. It might be unwise to repeat his side of the story after 60 years but one wonders success in the Bodyline remains the only 'high' point in Larwood's career. His 33 wickets form nearly 40% of his tally in Test matches. Has he been honored for this rea- son only? Has English cricket really run short of its cricketing immortals or are they on their way to set new traditions? Who comes next on the list...Mike Gatting or the vaseline hero John Lever? No question, England and Australia had always remained torch bearers of cricket's great traditions but, unfortunately, players from the two sides also remain the planners of all the shameful moves in the history of the game.

Career Highlights: Name: Harold Larwood Tests: 21 Wickets: 78 (avg. 28.35) Best Bowling: 6-32 v Australia, Brisbane, 1928-29. Highest Score: 98 v Australia, Sydney, 1932-33. Career Wickets: 1427 (avg. 17.51) Best Career Bowling: 9-41 Notts v Kent, Trent Bridge, 1931. Best Career Score: 102* Notts v Sussex, Trent Bridge, 1931.

====> MORE SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: 24 April 1993 SPO PAGE: 17 A long look back with Larwood lionheart FRANK KEATING

Frank Keating travels to Sydney to meet the delightful octo- genarian who as a lad, not long out the pit, terrified Bradman with his pace and was a key player in the infamous bodyline series. He won't talk about it now, not unless you ask nicely and listen attentively

AN Australian cricket side arrives tomorrow to resume the an- cient challenge. 1993 is a notorious jubilee year in Ashes legend. Sixty years ago today an England team was making the same journey from the Antipodes - homeward bound on the high seas and celebrating the cruel capture of the tiny urn at the end of still the most infamous rubber of the whole sequence: the bodyline tour. The shipboard celebrations took six weeks and the MCC team did not disembark from the Duchess of Atholl until May 6, 1933 at Greenock. ''Aye,'' remembers the still surviving chief protagonist of that whole infamous shooting-match, ''we got home on May 6 after near eight months away, had one night with our wives and then were off next day playing for Notts at Worcester or wherever.'' He was to play for Nottinghamshire for five more summers but after he had won, almost single-handedly and immortally, the Ashes in that bodyline series, the establishment turned their back on Harold Larwood, who was never again picked for England. By gorgeous quirk of paradox, this now wizened elder - as small and sharp as a sparrow, blind and 90 next year - whose skills 60 years ago so stirred colonial passions and hatreds, has been set- tled happily in Australia for the past two-score years. Happily and almost anonymously, except that his surname more than any other remains an eponym for venemously hostile fast bowling. Larwood lives with Lois, his devoted wife of 65 years, in a tidy trim Sydney street of splintery, sentry-neat colonial bungalows. You ring at the porch door. The bell plays an upbeat ''John Brown's Body''. The inside door opens a fraction. The eye which looks up at you may be blind but still manages a beady aggres- siveness. ''I'm not talking cricket - and I'm certainly not talking body- line,'' he says. The accent is still ripely Nottingham. It goes on: ''Ask me one question about either and you're out. I can't remember a thing about the old days, and can't see a thing, so I know nothing about the present.'' You plead softly: ''I only bring greetings from England, sir . . .'' The door opens wider. ''Don't 'sir' me, I'm plain Harold, one-time coal miner and one-time professional cricketer.'' ''Sor- ry, sir.'' ''Well, I can tell you're from England all right. I suppose you'd better come in - but no cricket questions, mind, and certainly no bodyline.'' How can this tiny ancient have been the most feared in history - patron saint and forerunner to Lillee and Lindwall, Ambrose and Holding and Waqar? If he was scarcely 5ft 9in in his pomp, he is 5ft 6in in his dotage, but still proudly straight-backed. He and Lois brought five bonny daughters to Australia; now they have 13 grandchildren and ''five or six, I think'' great-grandchildren. The walls of his spotless little sitting-room are dotted with framed photographs - heroes in sepia. He hears you hum with pleasure and recognition, and you know he is suddenly glad that you do. Photos fade faster than fame. ''You can have a quick look at my pictures if you want,'' he says. He stands by each one, like a museum guide - which, in a way, he is. He cannot see them any more but he knows exactly which is which and, in detail, who is who. Percy Chapman's happy 1928-29 MCC team in Australia gaze confidently at the camera. Sixteen of the 17 are dead. ''Now Les [Ames] has gone, I'm the only one left. Me, Les and Wally [Hammond] were the babies on that trip. Les remained my best chum and dear pal. He asked me over, all expenses paid, for his 80th birthday. Couldn't go, of course. Wally was always a funny fellow. Moods, you know. ''On tours, us kids would knock about together. One day you'd say, 'coming out tonight, Wally' and he'd say, 'course I am', and be the life and soul. Next day we'd say, 'what about tonight, Wally?' and he wouldn't even answer you. Funny fellow, Wally. Hell of a bat, mind.'' The bright southern sun from the window illuminates the little shrine. The blind man is unaware of it as he steers you proudly to a framed, faded, official scroll. It marks a long-ago appreci- ation for his cricketing feats from fellow members of his Miners' Union at Nuncargate, the mining village in which he was born in 1904. ''I left school at 13, down the pit at 14, driving a pony. Oh yes, lots of crawling along them tunnels. 'Old Joe' Hardstaff lived in our village. When I was around 17, he said I should go down to Nottingham for a trial. I didn't want to go, I was quite happy mining. In the end my dad took me on the bus. They set me to bowl at Art Staples and Ben Lilley [two county pros]. After a bit I went over to dad and said, 'I'm no good at this lark, dad, let's go home'. ''Just then they sent over to say I was wanted in the committee room. Mr Dixon was the president. He owned half Nottingham, didn't he? He says, groundstaff at 32 shillings a week.' ''Outside, dad was fair livid I hadn't asked for more, especial- ly when the secretary gave him a list as long as your arm for stuff I'd need like a bat, flannels, new boots and all. It came to pounds 9, a hell of a lot for us, and on the way home I said, 'Dad, if I make the grade I'll make it right with you.''' Late one Friday night, in the midsummer of 1925, the 20-year-old received a telegram at home: ''Proceed to Sheffield. Be prepared to play - Carr.'' The county's long-time and autocratic captain was AW Carr. ''They put me at square leg and Yorkshire's Edgar Oldroyd kept playing the ball towards me and feinting to run, you know 'kidding the new kid' sort of thing, teasing me. ''Any road, he tries it a fifth time or so, and I'm in on it fast and lets fly - and knock all three down from square leg. He's out by a mile. Mr Carr walks over slowly and says, 'Good throw, sonny, but never ever do that again.' 'Why not, sir,' I say, 'he's on his way, isn't he?' it'll be four overthrows.' He were right, too.'' In that last half-summer of 1925 he took 73 wickets at 18 each, and word was around that a gale was blowing. The following June England blooded him at Lord's. His first Test wicket was Macartney's. For The Oval Test England recalled the 49-year old Wilfred Rhodes. The old man blindly shuffles a hand around in a drawer and pulls out a parchmenty old newspaper cutting. ''Is this the right one?'' he asks. It is - from a Sunday Express of August 1926, the headline exclaiming Now he directs you to a framed scorecard on another wall - and back all of 67 years. Of the 22 he is the sole survivor, but what giants were comrades of this lovely old man - Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Woolley, Strudwick . . . the Ashes were clinched, Rhodes took six in the match and so did young Larwood. ''Rhodes were pure genius. I got Woodfull for a duck and after a bit Rhodes came on. That Ponsford was a vicious cutter of the ball, vicious. I was at point but Rhodes keeps signalling me closer to the bat. Still fetching me up till I'm almost standing on Ponsford's crease. Sure I'm a bit scared. Rhodes comes up, just two paces from behind umpire. But he stops dead, and stares at me. ''I'd involuntarily taken a pace back from Ponsford's crease. He fetches me in again. First ball nips through and smacks into Struddy's gloves. Second ball breaks back - and Ponsford, surprised, pops it up and I jump across and catch it left-handed. Rhodes walks down the pitch to me and says softly, 'you can go back a bit now, sonny, we got him.' On the mantelpiece is a small silver ashtray. I tap my pipe out on it. The old man hears the clink. ''I think you've just emptied your ash in my most treasured possession,'' he says, though without any trace of admonishment. >From a Grateful Skipper.'' The blind eyes mist over and stare at the wall in a reverie. ''Mr Jardine gave me that when we came back. His inscription still means an awful lot to me. He was a real leader of men. I'd bowl two or three overs for him on that tour and he'd come up and say, 'anything in this wicket for you, Harold?' and I'd perhaps say, 'yes, quite lively, skipper.' ''Sometimes he might wait for Bradman to come in, then he'd clap his hands and everyone would move over and suddenly my field would be Les, at wicket standing back, not a slip, just a short gully to stop the sort of jump and jab, then a mid-off, and every one of the rest in a leg-trap ring. I just used to watch Bradman's feet as I bowled. If he shuffled slightly to leg I'd follow him, if he moved across his stumps I'd follow him there. No, the barrackers never got at me, just at Jardine. They detest- ed him. Larwood came into the final Test at Sydney, the Ashes already well won thanks to his 32 wickets at 19 apiece. ''Bradman comes in. At once my foot went and I'm collapsed in agony. Jardine picks me up and says I must finish the over. 'I can't, skipper, I'm finished.' He orders me. So I do, in terrible pain. '''Can I go off now, skip?' I say. 'No,' he whispers, nodding towards Bradman, 'not until the little bastard's gone. Let him think you can come back for another spell any time. I want you to stand at short cover-point and just stare at him. So Hedley [Ver- ity] comes on at my end and that's where Bradman loses his head, thinking to cash in while I was 'resting'. ''He dashes out at Hedley's second ball, head up, and it bowls him. At once Mr Jardine signals me off. He'd done the trick - and Bradman and I walk off beside one another and neither of us spoke a word.'' Larwood never played for England again. ''Well, I wasn't about to apologise, was I? I had nothing to apologise for, did I? To tell the truth, from the moment we got home from that tour I've been fed up to the back teeth with the word 'bodyline'. Still am all these years later. Vow never to talk about it - except for a little chat like this. Well, you're from England, aren't you? Not many from over there comes to see me now. Well, I'm totally for- gotten now, aren't I?''

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

TopTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Related Links
Players/Officials: Harold Larwood
News | Features Last 3 days
News | Features Last 3 days