119 years to this day, on 23 rd October 1900 one of the most controversial characters in world cricket was born. Although the person was born in Mumbai (then Bombay) he went on to become one of the best but not always most popular in English cricket history.
Douglas Jardine will always be remembered for introducing Bodyline in the 1931-32 Ashes tour. Bodyline was a strategy that was designed to stop Don Bradman’s run feast, which had severely impacted the sporting as well as the diplomatic ties between England and Australia. But Jardine got his reward as England finally won the Ashes with a 4-1 margin and Bradman’s average was 56, almost half of his career average of 99.94.
Jardine was not an easy man. His dislike for Australian people was evident from his first tour in 1928-29. The Australian crowd also did not like him or his slow batting style. He was also mocked for his Harlequin cap, a sign of his Oxford days as the general Australian public found it too snooty.
By the next tour of Australia, he was the England captain and after watching Bradman uncomfortable against the short ball in 1930 series made the plan of using his fast bowlers to bowl quick bouncers at the body of the batsmen with packed leg-side fields for catches. He set up a meeting with Nottinghamshire captain Arthur Carr and his two fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce at London’s Piccadilly Hotel. Jardine described his plan in detail which included
bowling at the body with packed leg-side fields, and asked Larwood and Bill Voce if they could bowl accurately on leg stump targeting the body of the batsman.
The following tour was hostile as Jardine used these tactics regularly resulting in serious injuries for Australian wicket-keeper Bert Oldfield and many other injuries. There were many incidents that started when a Larwood bouncer hit the Australian captain Bill Woodfull on his heart and
knocked him on the ground. When all the other English players rushed to check well being of Woodfull, Jardine commented in a loud voice, audible for both Woodfull and Bradman in the non-striker end, “Well Bowled, Harold.” The crowd was furious and there were many instances of barracking against Jardine and the England team.
Along with the general public, Jardine also angered the press with his statements and his unwillingness to release the team details before the toss which was the norm that day. He went to win the Ashes but his actions almost lost a dominion as was pointed out by Rockley Wilson, his ex-coach.
Jardine will always be remembered for his Bodyline tactics but he was a fine captain and a gritty A batsman who scored his only Test century against West Indies when Learie Constantine and Manny Martindale delivered some bodyline of their own.