Sports Honours: Larwood, scourge of Bradman, in from the cold: Major delights cricket by recommending MBE to spearhead of Bodyline series and fastest England bowler of his era who now lives in obscurity
Saturday 12 June 1993
For it was Larwood, bowling at the leg stump to a leg-side field, fast and short, who spearheaded the 'Bodyline' tactics devised by Douglas Jardine to win the Ashes in Australia in 1932-33. The aim was to curb Don Bradman and the plan succeeded, for England won the series 4-1.
However, when two Australian batsmen were felled in Adelaide, telegrams flew from the Australian Board to the MCC and from government to government. The British Empire was almost sundered, so furious were Australians. The controversy rumbles on, for in later years two of the leading amateurs of the time, Plum Warner and Gubby Allen (both of whom were later knighted) shifted the blame in memoirs from England's bowlers to the hard and aristocratic captain, Jardine.
Yet Larwood, not Jardine, bore the brunt of the opprobrium at the time and despite retaining his speed and hostility through the 1930s, he never played for England again. In 1950 he moved to Australia and now lives in a suburb of Sydney, hardly known or recognised, although his old adversary, later Sir Donald Bradman, always kept in touch.
Larwood was neither tall nor heavily built. A former miner, like Fred Trueman, his speed developed from a finely paced run, a long arm and a superb action. He was very quick, could sustain long spells and until Frank Tyson arrived in the 1950s, was acknowledged as England's fastest bowler. Modern players, who see him on film, think his action suspect but that may be a trick of the camera; there was never the faintest suspicion about his arm at the time.
Major has a photograph of Larwood, with his other hero, Jack (later Sir Jack) Hobbs, on his office wall.
With Australia thinking of becoming a republic, and no longer accepting honours from the Crown, Larwood's MBE award will not have the impact it would have had 20 years ago, when he was a mere 68, but cricketers everywhere (and especially bowlers, who tend to think that get all the gongs), will cheer.
Maurice Youdell, the chairman of Larwood's club Nottinghamshire, said Trent Bridge (where there is a tavern named after Larwood and his partner Bill Voce) was delighted: 'He's a lovely man and it's well deserved.'
Even a Labour MP, Graham Allen, the member for Nottingham North and captain of the Lord's and Commons XI, could not quite manage a dart at the Prime Minister: 'It is a very belated but welcome acknowledgement of the great services he has rendered cricket and for which he has suffered.'
Ray Wilkins, the 36-year-old former England captain and Queen's Park Rangers midfielder, is also made an MBE. During his 20 years as a professional, his career has taken him to Chelsea, Manchester United, Milan, Paris St Germain and Rangers. Stephen Hendry, the three-times world snooker champion, and Richard Dunwoody, the champion National Hunt jockey, win MBEs, while OBEs go to the Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh and Mickey Walker, captain of Europe's women's golf team.
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