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'The sole reason England won the Bodyline series'
Part two: Harold Larwood was fast, accurate, and one to do what his captain asked. And he paid the price for it (00:00)
Producer: Ranjit Shinde
February 14, 2012
'The sole reason England won the Bodyline series'February 14, 2012
He was a smallish man, a guy who could bowl quite quick. He bowled around the off stump, because at the time he was playing, everybody was expected to attack the off stump. You were not allowed to bowl negative on the leg side. It was almost infra dig to bowl at the body. It was seen as terrible to do that - wasn't the right form, as MCC would have it - so all the bowlers bowled off stump on flat pitches.
Now he becomes legendary because... Bradman was the supreme genius batsman, who was beating England, and Douglas Jardine was made captain of England, and Douglas Jardine thought: we cannot beat Australia in Australia unless we get Bradman out cheaply, because he was getting hundreds and double-hundreds. And he worked on a plan. He saw something in a bit of film that [made him think] Bradman didn't like it into the ribs. Now there was no law against bowling into the ribs or leg side, but it was just frowned upon. So he actually got the captain, Arthur Carr, of Notts, and Harold Larwood, invited them for dinner in London - it's a very famous meeting - and asked Carr if he thought Harold was quick enough, accurate enough, to bowl into the body of the batsmen. Carr said yes, and Harold thought he could do it. So in a county match they tried that, just for a few overs, and it was good, he could do it.
So Jardine had him picked for the tour of Australia and then all hell broke loose in the Test matches when he got Larwood to bowl very fast, very accurately, at the body and caused mayhem. The tour was nearly called off - you just have to look at it in the history of the game - and he cut Bradman down, the genius batsman, to an average of 50, which was still miles better than any of the other Australian batsmen, but England won the series comfortably.
It shows that this guy had great pace, great accuracy and great stamina. And the sad thing about him - I read quite a bit about Harold Larwood - is, when they went home Australians played the hell up about it. They said that they wouldn't tour England in 1934, a year later, unless there was no Bodyline. The MCC were worried. If Australia didn't come then they would lose a lot of cash. (What's changed? It's the same today - they're only interested in money.) So MCC got together and promised Australia that they wouldn't. Douglas Jardine played the 1933 summer in England. Harold Larwood was asked to apologise for what he bowled in Australia, because he was a professional and Jardine, the captain, was an amateur. So the amateur was kept on, who made all the decisions, and Larwood wouldn't apologise because he said he had done nothing wrong, he had followed his captain's instructions. And he never got selected for England again.
Jardine captained that summer against West Indies, he went to India in 1933-34, and when they came back, he fell on his sword and resigned, did Jardine, because the Australians were worried that he might resort to Bodyline again. But Harold Larwood was sitting at home, having done nothing wrong, and almost outlawed and shunned. Played a couple more years for Notts, then he opened a sweet shop in Blackpool and he was almost ostracised by the hierarchy of cricket. And it was left to Jack Fingleton, an opening batsman for Australia, who Larwood had bowled against - bowled bumpers and short balls - who helped him emigrate to Australia with wife and family and have a new life.
It is one of the saddest stories in cricket, for a man who was obviously a brilliant fast bowler. In that series he got 33 wickets at 19.5, and he was the sole reason why England beat Australia.
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