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In the time of the 1932-33 Ashes Tour, bodyline tactics were found responsible for the strain on imperial relations between Australia and England. Heavvy social and political influences promoted the significance of the Ashes series and caused great reactions by players, management, spectators and primarily the media. The pressured relations between Australia and the Empire during the Ashes series made the game of cricket reach wider margins than what took place on the cricket field. It impacted on elements of society and even extended to political spheres.
Cricket had Just reached a high point as a form of colonial consolidation as the English believed it to be a bonding agent to draw its dominions closer to the Empire. As Lord Hawke stated in his introduction to imperial cricket, “The greatest game in the world is played where ever the Union Jack is unfurled, and it has no small place in cementing the ties that bond together every part of the Empire… ” This quote elucidates the importance of cricket, at such an early stage in time.
It also implies that cricket wasn’t Just a game; it was the key to successful relations between England and all of its dominions. Cricket in fact was used as a metaphor for life. Many saw the game as an association of ideas and a tutor of self control and physical training. Moreover, the English believed it to be a test of colonial progress and the reinforcement of imperial standard. The implementation of the bodyline tactic was the central cause to the pushed relations between Australian and English players, and between Jardine and English Amateurs.
The reality of England being dominated by Australia in a game that was a national pastime was absurd to Jardine, thus he came up with the bodyline tactic to eliberately injure and intimidate the Australian batsmen- particularly Don Bradman. Jardine completely disregarded England’s concept of strengthening bonds of the Empire as his greatest ambition was to regain the Ashes in 1932, at all costs. Bodyline, what Jardine referred to as leg theory, was perfected by Larwood and Voce who would bowl fast, high and in line with the Australian batsmen bodies.
The Australian batsmen would either duck, allow the ball to strike them or attempt to play a hook shot. But often they would be caught Offa nick or seriously injured. Bodyline as clearly ‘an attempt to dismiss rather than restrict. ‘ “There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket, the other is making no attempt to do so. “- Bill Woodfull. This infamous quote clearly outlines the diminishing relations and somewhat rising hatred between Aussie skipper, Woodfull and the English eleven, particularly Jardine and Larwood.
The Australian cricket team claimed that the English played within the law but outside the spirit of the game. Relations between Jardine and his fellow amateurs were also deteriorating, specifically with Gubby Allen who disagreed with odyline and refused to bowl it for Jardine, causing inside disputes between them. The impact of the Great Depression also strained trade and diplomatic relations between England and Australia prior to the Ashes Tour. In 1930, Australia asked the ernment to allow them to deter an interest payment ot 2 million pounds.
The Brits were concerned about the state of the Australian economy so they sent Sir Otto Niemeyer to assess the situation and give Australia the necessary advice for its financial problems. Niemeyer was a symbol of ‘London financial imperialism’. He advocated an end to Australian protectionism. The Australian market began to decrease its imports from Britain as local products were more appealing. This enactment created the anger of traditional British exporters and strained trading relations between Australia and the mother country.
The Niemeyer visit clearly provoked a political storm around Australia as many had opposing views and solutions to Australia’s financial issues. The British Government began converting its own loans to 3 per cent to benefit its own population but continued to charge Australia 6 per cent. This did nothing to improve Anglo-Australian relations as they ere already strained by the Niemeyer visit. The incidents that had occurred in Adelaide caused heavy reactions by the players of Australia, the management, and spectators at Adelaide Oval.
After scoring a duck, Bradman took action by appealing to the BOC who denied him and would not support his protest. “… it is practically impossible for even our leading batsmen to make runs against the present type of English attack(bodyline) without getting at least one or two sever cracks. ” said Don Bradman in a radio broadcast. These incidents show how much of an impact bodyline had made on our hero, Bradman. It lso underlies how Bradman began to dislike Jardine and his Englishmen. The BOC reacted to the incidents at Adelaide by sending a cable to the MCC to negotiate the continuance of the Ashes series.
The MCC felt offended and denied being unsportsmanlike. The BOC reacted by holding an urgent meeting where there was some speculation that they may take action. Plum Warner also grew a grudge against his own English captain- Jardine, as he stated that the real trouble is Jardine. Warner’s overall reactions to the incidents in Adelaide were relatively sympathetic towards the Australians as he apologised to Woodfull in the dressing rooms during he game. The Australian crowds were very patriotic to Australia and loud and boisterous during the events of Woodfull and Bert being struck by Larwood’s uprising deliveries.
The anger of the Adelaide crowd was reaching boiling point. 200 to 400 troops were on standby in case the crowd Jumped the fence. Jardine said to his team mates to take a stump for self defence. This clearly delineates how furious the crowd’s reaction was to Jardine’s bodyline tactic. The Australian media and the English media’s reaction was one of the most significant reactions to the bodyline tactic in 1932-33 as they persuaded and altered he Australian public opinion and English public opinion.
Although both the Australian and English media were of great importance, they both were subjective and differential in their views of the Ashes series. The test matches played in 1932-33 were as significant in England as in Australia. The English reaction to the test series were expressed through their newspapers which published extensive reports of the test matches which were very different from the Australian newspaper reports. “The leg theory proves that the people hit are very slow on the feet, and it is not always the It ” said Harold Gilligan in Age, 1
J n 1933 Note that bodyline is referred to as ‘leg theory intentionally to give it a euphemistic view and to persuade the English public that it is of no harm whatsoever. ‘… unskilful batting rather than dangerous bowling, caused the loss of the wickets and the injuries. ‘ This line from the Age newspaper really emphasises how bias the English reporters were and what minimal knowledge they had of the Ashes test series in Australia. The Australian media swamped their newspaper headlines and radio topics with furious bodyline reports which ultimately turned the Australian public against the Empire.
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