How Jardine found success with doctrine of hatred

From the beginning of the tour he affected a disdain for all things Australian

It's amazing what a chap can find if he digs deep enough in his anorak pocket. A most timely piece of trivia, for one thing, and one I think I should share. For today's date, 23 October, is among the most resonant in English cricket. On this day in 1915, the legendary W G Grace was given lbw by the celestial umpire - a slightly dodgy decision, in fact, for although he was 67, he had been retired from the first-class game for only seven years and still seemed reasonably fit.

It's amazing what a chap can find if he digs deep enough in his anorak pocket. A most timely piece of trivia, for one thing, and one I think I should share. For today's date, 23 October, is among the most resonant in English cricket. On this day in 1915, the legendary W G Grace was given lbw by the celestial umpire - a slightly dodgy decision, in fact, for although he was 67, he had been retired from the first-class game for only seven years and still seemed reasonably fit.

According to Simon Rae's engrossing biography of the great man, W G's death was hastened by the noise of Zeppelins discharging their bombs over London.

Recuperating after a mild stroke, he could hear them from his bed, and grew deeply depressed. A friend asked him why, having seen off generations of fast bowlers, he was so bothered by Zeppelins. "I could see those beggars," he replied morosely. "I can't see these." And so to the further significance of 23 October, the anniversary of a birth as well as a death, for in India, precisely 100 years ago today, Douglas Jardine entered the world with a silver spoon in his mouth and very probably with his patrician nose disdainfully in the air. During the infamous Bodyline series of 1932-33 he became the most vilified English cricketer ever to visit Australia, coincidentally edging into second place W G Grace, whose ruthlessness and gamesmanship on the 1873-74 tour had sown the seeds of future discord. So much for W G's lofty declaration that he would "maintain the honour of English cricket, and... uphold the high character of English cricketers," a pledge made in Southampton on the day the team set sail (which was, hold on to your hats, 23 October).

Jardine, though, earned the enmity of a nation more resoundingly than any England captain before or since - including Mike Gatting, whose 1987 spat with Shakhoor Rana did nothing to endear him to many Pakistanis, and Ian Botham, who three years earlier had caused mighty offence (although not while he was captain) by suggesting that Pakistan was a good place to send one's mother-in-law. Jardine topped that not merely by masterminding the fiendish Bodyline bowling tactics - designed to diminish the threat of Don Bradman, and devastatingly carried out by Harold Larwood and Bill Voce - but also by applying what appears to have been a premeditated exercise to get Australian backs up.

From the beginning of the tour he affected disdain for all things Australian: its accent, its women, its wine, even the inability of its cricketers to express themselves with quite the precise syntax drummed into him at Winchester. He was, according to my (old Etonian) colleague Henry Blofeld, "a rather typical Wykehamist... they seem to have a certain sort of remoteness". Whatever, Jardine plainly embodied everything Aussies despised about the Old Country, and insisted on wearing a Harlequins cap, a powerful and provocative symbol of English privilege, while batting.

My favourite Jardine story concerns his astonishment, feigned or otherwise, on the eve of the first Test in Sydney, when Australian cricket writers assembled at the nets to request the names of England's team. "Let me make it clear once and for all," he said. "I do not speak to the Press, and furthermore, I never speak to Australians."

It is hard not to admire a man who courted hatred so zealously. In the third Test in Adelaide, when the outrage over England's leg-theory fast bowling began to boil over into public disorder, a lightning delivery by Larwood smacked into the chest of the Australian captain, Bill Woodfull. He dropped his bat and staggered from the wicket, clutching his heart as if he'd been shot. Whereupon Jardine said to Larwood, within clear earshot of Bradman at the non-striker's end, or more accurately the non-strikee's end, "well bowled, Harold." Afterwards, Woodfull famously told the MCC manager, Plum Warner, that of the two teams on the field, one was playing cricket and one was not. And the Australian Board of Control supported him, sending its historic cable to the MCC in London, which said of Bodyline bowling: "Unless stopped at once it is likely to upset the friendly relations existing between Australia and England".

To come close to fracturing an empire with nothing more than a cricket ball is quite an achievement, which is why I think it important to acknowledge the cen- tenary of Jardine's birth. He died in 1958, aged 57, refusing to the last, as far as I know, to recant. Larwood would not apologise, either, and never played for England again. A well-known irony is that he later emigrated to Australia, where he lived happily to a ripe age. However, ancient grudges never wholly evaporated. Apparently, during trans- mission a few years ago of a TV drama about Bodyline, one or two very unpleasant things were posted through the old boy's letter-box.

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