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Eleven ways in which Douglas Jardine antagonised Australia
October 25, 2007
Seventy-five years ago this week the MCC played their opening match of what was to become one of cricket's most controversial tours. Over the next few months Bodyline became a household word, and the man at the centre of the storm was Douglas Jardine, England's captain. Wherever he went in Australia, he attracted opprobrium. We look at XI of his most eccentric moments.
Within days of his arrival Jardine had rubbed the press up the wrong way. The custom in Australia was for captains to name teams early to enable the journalists to make deadlines. Jardine refused to play ball, and when challenged by Claude Corbett of the Sydney Sun to reveal the XI for the tour opener against Western Australia, he replied: "We didn't come here to provide scoops for yours or any other bally paper". Corbett explained that the east-coast papers needed the side. "Tell Sydney and Melbourne they can damn well wait," was the response.
On the third day of the tour opener against Western Australia, Jardine angered local officials by turning up 20 minutes late for a pitch inspection. He refused to apologise and local papers ran reports that he was out shopping at the time. The local authorities lodged a formal complaint with the Australian board.
Jardine was booed in Adelaide during the second tour match when he opted to wear his Harlequin cap rather than the MCC tour caps sported by the remainder of the side. The cap became a symbol of everything the Australians hated about Jardine's ultra establishment persona. In the last tour game, also in Adelaide, Jardine displayed a sense of humour when he took to the field in the official tour cap while his team-mates wore a collection of colourful "jazz hats".
Jardine refused to name his final XI in any of the Tests until the last moment, going so far as to make all 17 members of the tour party get changed and wait in the dressing room before announcing those that would play. "Jardine did it for two reasons," Harold Larwood later wrote. "To annoy the press and to keep up the pressure on the Australians."
Bill Woodfull being hit over the heart by a Larwood thunderbolt and reeling away clutching his chest is one of the enduring images of the series. As the Adelaide crowd, already stirred up by Bodyline bowling in earlier matches, bayed and jeered, Jardine - who loudly said, "Well bowled, Harold" soon after - waited for Woodfull to recover and resume. He had been hit while Larwood was bowling to a conventional field. As Woodfull returned to the crease, Jardine calmly signalled for his men to switch to a Bodyline field. The spectators were reduced to apoplexy. Jardine was unmoved, although years later he admitted he regretted the decision.
On Christmas Eve in Tasmania, heavy rain and a brief snow flurry appeared to have washed out the second day, but faced with large losses, the local authorities wanted the game to proceed. Jardine objected but the umpires insisted, and so he refused to bowl any of his frontline bowlers. Jardine himself bowled ten overs, while Les Ames sent down the same number with his trousers rolled up to his knees. Local papers later slammed Jardine, describing his behaviour as that of a "sulky schoolboy".
As was customary, large numbers turned out to watch the teams in the nets ahead of the third Test in Adelaide but Jardine was roundly jeered and abused as he batted. Livid, he insisted that the South Australia cricket association bar the public from the final net sessions the day before the match itself. "The display of hooliganism," he explained, "made the practice a farce."
Jardine avoided public speaking, and when he did, his comments were brief. Addressing the crowd after the win in Adelaide, described in Wisden as possibly the most unpleasant match ever, he made the briefest of utterances. "What I have to say is not worth listening to," he said. "Those of you who had seats got your money's worth, and them some. Thank you."
His own players
Jardine was not averse to upsetting his own men, although he also inspired tremendous loyalty. He fell out with Plum Warner, the manager, so much that Warner wrote he never wanted to see him again. And Jardine had little time for the Nawab of Pataudi. When Pataudi refused to take his place in the Bodyline leg-side field, Jardine turned and sneered: "Ah, I see His Highness is a conscientious objector." Despite a hundred on debut in the first Test, Pataudi was dropped after the second Test and never returned. "I am told he has his good points," Pataudi said towards the end of the tour. "In three months I have yet to see them."
On the third day of the Brisbane Test, Jardine felt he got a rough decision, given out caught behind while sweeping Bill O'Reilly. "How have you got me out in your book?" he testily asked the scorer. "Umpired out or cheated out?" The next morning Jardine requested that the 10-minute rolling of the pitch be split into two five-minute sessions, to allow the moisture brought up by the first rolling to evaporate. The request was in order but the pause meant that the umpires were taking to the field as the second rolling started. George Hele, the umpire, ordered the roller to be removed. Jardine told him to mind his own business. Hele again demanded the groundstaff remove the roller, which they did. Jardine snarled that he would ensure that Hele never umpired a Test again. After checking the regulations and discovering Hele was right, Jardine apologised at lunch.
Jardine made no secret of his hatred of the country and its people. This was perhaps best illustrated by a comment made to Warner while the MCC side were on a cruise round Sydney harbour early in the tour. As they passed near the newly constructed bridge, some RAAF fighter planes flew overhead. Jardine turned to Warner and said: "I wish they were Japs and I wish they'd bomb that bridge into the harbour".
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