History Extension Major Work- The 1932-33 Bodyline Series

Many debates have been focused around the 1932/33 Bodyline series. Some of these debates have included the effects of politics and the Great Depression throughout the series or the effect the Bodyline series had on the way the game was changed in future Ashes series encounters. However, none of these arguments have been more heavily debated than that of the ethics of the 'bodyline bowling' tactic. Whilst considered to be legal and well within the Laws of Cricket many were unsure as to whether or not it was considered to be 'in the spirit of the game'.

Within this argument debate has also arisen of whether or not the English cricket team could still have beaten the Australian side even without the use of the 'bodyline bowling' tactic. Instead of the use of historians both from the 1930s and today to create a debate, major players involved in the series, such as the English captain Douglas Jardine, the Australian captain Bill Woodfull as well as the English fast bowler Harold Larwood.

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Other players who contributed included the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Vic Richardson.

Also involved were journalists such as Jack Fingleton, who even took part in the series as a member of the Australian cricket team and one of the Test series umpires George Hele. A large number of statistics have also been employed to assist in answering the essay question. Books involving many established modern day cricket writers including Jack Pollard, Jack McHarg and David Frith were essential to the construction of this project.

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What was Douglas Jardine's aim in introducing the 'bodyline bowling' tactic, did he achieve his goals?

Would England still have won without the use of the 'bodyline bowling' tactic? The Ashes series of 1932/33, more commonly known as the Bodyline series caused great controversy among two nations when Douglas Jardine, the English captain brought in a tactic that was considered to be 'not in the spirit of the game'. This series has graphically been described as 'cricket's Hiroshima'1. Gone were the days of the gentleman's game. The English arrived on Australian soil, led by their formidable captain Douglas Jardine2 and they had a purpose.

They wanted to win. In order to achieve this Douglas Jardine, Arthur Carr3 and Percy Fender4 had to devise a plan in which they believed could subdue the extraordinary batting skills of Don Bradman. This in turn would lead the English to regain the Ashes. Later known as the 'bodyline bowling' tactic or 'leg theory', debate arose amongst players, spectators and journalists alike regarding the ethics of this plan. Although Jardine's plan was "technically" legal there was disagreement regarding the ethics of it all.

Some believed Jardine's bowlers were out to deliberately target batsmen's bodies whilst others say it was completely a logical plan and was the only way to beat Bradman and intimidate the rest of the batting line-up. This leads one to consider, did Douglas Jardine intend to win at all costs and had he set out to intentionally injure Australia's best players or was it just aimed at intimidating the Australian batting line-up? Also, what role did the field placings play in the 1932/33 Ashes series?

And what effect did the personalities of leading figures from both sides have on the series? School teachers, cab drivers and museum curators believe that Jardine wasn't good for the game, but he did win back the Ashes. Ironically, their respect for Bradman's brilliance (in their eyes) seemed to justify Jardine's behaviour - what else could he do? What Jardine did was well within the Laws of Cricket5, and considered to be completely logical when confronted with the dominance of Bradman against any orthodox bowling attack.

Also it is believed that Jardine and his bowlers were not really targeting the batsman's body, but his confidence. In this respect Jardine was no different from the Australian fast bowlers of the 1970s, Thomson and Lillee. However, the obvious flaw in this argument is the absence of a crowded legside field6 for Jeff Thomson7 and Dennis Lillee. It can be said that not only did Douglas Jardine and his men want to win but it is believed that Jardine and the MCC only devised the 'bodyline bowling' tactic to combat the extraordinary skills of Don Bradman.

If this was the only reason 'bodyline bowling' was devised for, this raises the question, why did England captain Douglas Jardine and vice-captain Bob Wyatt pursue other members of the Australian side with this form of bowling? The answer to this is simple, physical intimidation. Bill O'Reilly's biography mentions that 'a plan to nobble Bradman was almost certainly foremost in the minds of the English selectors'8 and that "if the scheme also worked against the others that would be a collateral benefit".

An example of this can be seen in Perth, Vic Richardson asked Bill Voce about the sort of side they had, Voce's reply was "Not a bad side, and if we don't beat you, we'll knock your bloody heads off"9. During the Brisbane Test, Larwood injured his foot, however instead of leaving the field, Jardine forced him to finish out the over and then stand in the field until Bradman got out (for 71). In an interview, Larwod later mentioned "... Jardine kept me on the field as a psychological effect to make Bradman think that I could come back and bowl again".

Once Bradman was out the two players departed the ground 'both aware that Bradman's astonishing run-getting had been dramatically curbed. Bodyline had served its purpose'10. Jack Fingleton11 disagrees. He believes Jardine asked his bowlers to aim at the batsmen's bodies with the intent to injure them. "There was nothing half-hearted about Voce's bowling. He bowled with studied intent to hit the body"12. Fingleton played many courageous innings in which he received multiple blows to the body. "Most of Voce's deliveries, if they did not meet a rib in transit, cleared the leg stumps, or a space outside the leg stump, by feet.

A blow on the ribs would be followed by a precisely similar ball"13 By the Second Test all the Australian batsmen had been hit hard and so often that they all believed that Larwood was aiming for them instead of the stumps. Vic Richardson mentions "I took guard a foot outside the off stump and Larwood's deliveries still came straight at me"14. Statistics show that in previous test series' normally self assured batsmen such as Bill Woodfull and Bill Ponsford were scoring respectable batting averages. In the 1930 ashes series in England, Ponsford scored 330 runs for the series at an average at 55. 0 (including two 50s and one 100). He had a high score of 110 in this series.

Similarly, Woodfull scored 345 runs at an average of 57. 50 (including three 50s and one 100). He had a high score of 175 in this series. In the West Indies tour of Australia in 1930-1931, Ponsford scored a massive 467 runs for the serries with a high score of 183 and at an average of 77. 8315 (including one 50 and two 100s). During the South African tour of Australia in 1931-1932, Woodfull scored 421 runs for the series, with a high score of 161 and at an average of 70. 616 (including one 100). Yet, during the 1932/33 ashes series both of these batsmen had series averages under 35. Woodfull had scored 305 runs for the series with a high score of 73 not out at an average of 33. 88 and Ponsford had totalled a mere 141 runs for the series with a high score of 85 and at an average of 23. 5017. Another player to consider is the middle order batsman Alan Kippax. In the 1930 ashes series in England Kippax totalled 329 runs for the series with a high score of 83 and an average of 54. 83 (including four 50s).

Kippax also achieved good results in the during the West Indies tour of Australia in 1930/31 where he scored 277 runs with a high score of 147 and at an average of 46. 17 (including one 50 and one 100). This was then followed up by another useful performance during South Africa's tour of Australia in 1931/32 where he gained a total of 162 runs with a high score o 67 and at an average of 32. 40. In the 1932/33 Bodyline series Kippax's average dropped to 13. 50. With a high score of 19 and a total of 27 runs for the series, this demonstrates the extent of which the effect of 'bodyline bowling' had on the Australian batsmen.

On the English side, run scoring was not an issue. Since Australia had produced such a weak bowling line-up and the LBW (leg before wicket) rule18 worked against leg spinners such as Bill O'Reilly and Dainty Ironmonger wickets were hard to come by and the English built up difficult totals for the Australians to chase. Players such as Wally Hammond, Bob Wyatt and the Nawab of Pataudi Snr. all managed respectable series averages.

Wally Hammond gathered a total of 440 runs for the series with a high score of 112 at an average of 55. 0. Bob Wyatt collected a total of 327 runs for the series with a high score of 78 and at an average of 46. 71. Nawab of Pataudi Snr. also contributed with a total of 122 runs, a high score of 102 and an average of 40. 66. This issue of the 'bodyline bowling' tactic has sparked a great deal of interest from players and spectators alike. It could be said that even without 'bodyline bowling' the English would have won anyway and that 'bodyline bowling' wasn't necessary in order to defeat Australia.

When looking at the Australian line-up one can see that the majority of bowlers selected with the exception of Tim Wall, were spin bowlers such as Bill O'Reilly and Clarence Grimmett. On Australian wickets in a dry summer the prevailing lbw rule made it difficult for O'Reilly, Grimmett or Ironmonger to alter the course of the test series. It is clear that the Australian side had a definite lack in pace, whereas in the English line-up accurate medium-pacers such as Maurice Tate and the leg spinner, Thomas Mitchell were cast aside for the faster bowlers such as Bill Bowes, Harold Larwood, "Gubby" Allen and Bill Voce.

Both sides had competent batsmen; however it was this clear lack in bowling strength on the Australians part that lead some to believe that the Australians weren't as good as first thought. Thus, raising the question, was 'bodyline' necessary? Harold Larwood believes it was. In an interview with Harold Larwood, interviewer Norman May asks the question - Who was bodyline intended for? To this Larwood replied - "It was put on for Bradman and Bradman only!!! "19 Larwood believes the only way to combat Don Bradman was through the 'bodyline bowling' tactic. The statistics disagree.

Evidence that shows the use of 'bodyline bowling' was pointless. 'In Brisbane... Larwood clean bowled Bradman'20 and his figures from the test series show that of his 33 wickets taken, 12 were clean bowled and a further 4 were leg before wicket. This shows that 'bodyline bowling' did not succeed quite to the extent as Jardine had hoped. Also, "Gubby" Allen 'played in all five Test matches and captured 21 wickets at 28 with orthodox methods'21. These figures further emphasise the fact that even without 'bodyline bowling' Jardine and his men still would most likely have won the series anyway.

Another view on the Bodyline series was that it was the field placings that made all the difference rather than the bodyline attack itself. The 1932/33 series can be compared to that of the 1954/55 series in the way that Leonard Hutton22 dismissed medium pacer Alec Bedser23 and favoured a faster paced attack in the likes of Frank Tyson24. Both Hutton and Jardine preferred a fast-paced attack to intimidate batsmen however, the difference between this ashes series and the Bodyline series is the field placings. Leonard Hutton used an orthodox field instead of a heavily packed led side field.

The issue is that when captains have formidable pace attacks at their disposal they use them, the difference in the case of the Bodyline series was that fast bowlers and leg theory when combined with a combined with a packed leg side field denied the batsman the opportunity to defend himself or score runs. As such a loop hole in the rules was used to contradict the spirit of the game. Bill O'Reilly25 said of Bodyline "What we saw in Australia in 1932-33 was something quite different, and really you could only say that the intention was to scare the daylights out of the batsman, and to put him off his natural game.

There was no doubt in our minds that when they put those five men close in on the leg side they were trying to hit the batsman... "26 Author, Jack Pollard believes 'there is nothing wrong with captains scheming to expose a rival batsmen's weakness, but Australians have always argued that in devising the tactics to counter Bradman Jardine endangered all the Australian top-order batsmen's good health with an attack that was intended to maim'27. George Hele, who umpired all five Bodyline Tests, said "my constant dread was that a batsman would be killed"28

When asked if the English side achieved there aim of "curbing the run-getting activities of Bradman"29 Larwood's reply was - "as far as we [the English cricket team] are concerned it [fast leg theory] did fail"30, this was later backed up when he said "he still averaged 56 which is not bad for a test"31. In contrast to this "all the England bowlers achieved fair successes but the greater gratification lay in the dismissal of Bradman for low scores in four successive innings".

However, 'the extent to which Larwod and the Bodyline fields subdued Bradman was demonstrated by Bradman's Sheffield Shield performance that summer'32. Bradman played just three matches yet he scored a massive total of 600 runs at an average of 150. The personalities of the leading figures in British and Australian cricket played a crucial role in the events of Bodyline, and none more-so than Douglas Jardine. To carry out the plans set by the MCC required a leader so ruthless and so formidable that any attempts to throw this leader off his game would fail miserably.

Hence the reason the MCC appointed Douglas Jardine as captain of England. As Captain, Jardine quite rightly considered his only goal to be not friendship, but to regain the Ashes for England, and he was uncompromising in his pursuit of victory. To his team, he insisted on a policy of hate; all Australian opponents were to be hated and Bradman was not to be referred to as "Don" or "Bradman" but only as 'the little bastard'. The origin of the Ashes lay in English humiliation at the hands of Australia in 1882, and the 1930 Ashes series in England was consistent with this tradition.

Jardine wanted to avenge this defeat and he knew that to be successful he had to target Don Bradman. 33 The captain of the Australian side, Bill Woodfull was another leading personality of the series. He believed that although the tactic employed by Jardine was well within the Laws of Cricket it was not considered to be in the spirit of the game and therefore was unethical. His physical courage and dignified leadership as his men were repeatedly struck won him many admirers, when he refused to employ retaliatory tactics34. Woodfull remained defiant throughout the entire series.

Even when he himself was struck and had to be removed from the field, he still had the audacity to declare to an apologetic 'Plum' Warner "There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket and the other is not"35. On the other hand, not everyone believed the way Woodfull approached the series was the right way. Vic Richardson believed that if Woodfull had allowed his bowlers to retaliate to 'bodyline bowling' then the Australians would have won the series. Jardine's intent was to win not at all costs but within the rules. He succeeded in this aim.

The genuine hero in the eyes of many of the series was the Australian captain, Bill Woodfull. Woodfull, a man of quiet dignity and integrity refused to exploit the rules, as Jardine had, when he saw it as against the spirit of the game. This research has exposed the fact that the Bodyline series like any event in history has a complex web of cause and effect. The ultimate irony as evident from the statistical evidence and a close assessment of the relative merits of both sides is that even without 'bodyline bowling' the MCC may well have prevailed. Bradman was a batting genius, but even Bradman could fail.

Updated: May 19, 2021
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History Extension Major Work- The 1932-33 Bodyline Series. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/history-extension-major-work-1932-33-bodyline-series-new-essay

History Extension Major Work- The 1932-33 Bodyline Series essay
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