Douglas Jardine: a study
by John Ward

Player:DR Jardine

Teams: Oxford University (1920-1923), Surrey (1921-1933, 141 matches; captain 1932-33)
Tours: England to Australia (1928/29), England to Australia and New Zealand (1932/33, captain), England to India (1933/34, captain)
1000 runs in a season: 9 times
Most runs in a season: 1473 runs (av. 52.28), in 1932
Best batting average in a season: 1002 runs (av. 91.09), in 1927
100 wickets in a season: none
Most wickets in a season: 13 (av. 17.38), in 1920
Best bowling average in a season: 13 (av. 17.38), in 1920
Most catches in a season: 21, in 1924 and 1925
Highest score: 214, MCC v Tasmania (Launceston), 1928/29
Best bowling: 6/28, Oxford University v Essex (Oxford), 1920


In Test cricket: Highest score: 127, England v West Indies (Manchester), 1933


Acknowledgements mainly to Douglas Jardine: Spartan Cricketer by Christopher Douglas, and Bodyline Autopsy by David Frith.


Douglas Jardine was perhaps England’s most controversial cricket captain. It was he who utilized what was subsequently termed ‘bodyline’ bowling in a successful attempt to curb the scoring power of Donald Bradman and win back the Ashes from Australia in 1932/33.


Jardine’s single-minded pursuit of his goal may have achieved its objective and was within the laws of the game at the time, but it almost split the cricket world, sparking resentment in Australia that lasts to some extent even today, and even his own country was embarrassed by and eventually rejected his methods.


Jardine was born in India, where his father (M R Jardine, also a first-class cricketer) practised law, and was sent back to Britain at the age of nine for his education. He was sent to Winchester, a very harsh, old-fashioned school that had much to do with his Spartan outlook on life. He had an outstanding school cricket career, although his ruthless individuality made him enemies; the school professional then was former Yorkshire all-rounder Schofield Haigh. He also bowled his leg-breaks regularly and successfully.


He was captain for his final two years, 1918 and 1919, when he ‘was tactically sound’ but it took him time to unify the team. His own house thought him too authoritarian and intolerant. His proudest achievement was to captain the school team that beat Eton in 1919. As a batsman he was viewed as being calm and correct, but was criticized at times for what many saw as slow play and lack of strokes on the off side.


Jardine progressed to Oxford to study law, where he came under the influence of former Surrey great Tom Hayward as coach. Hayward helped to develop Jardine’s defence and footwork, and also his approach to the game. He took his best bowling figures of six for 28 against Essex early on, contributing to the county’s heavy defeat. The following year he impressed with match-saving 96 not out against Warwick Armstrong’s Australians, and then scored a maiden first-class century against the Army. With his rigid self-discipline at the crease, he proved himself very different from the usual mould of cavalier amateur batsmen.


After the university season of 1921, Jardine was invited to play for Surrey, and began by opening the batting with Andrew Sandham, as Jack Hobbs was out for the rest of the season after having his appendix removed. In a full-strength Surrey side, he normally batted at number five. After a successful season in which he averaged 39, much was expected of him in 1922, but early on he suffered a displaced kneecap when bowling and this put him out for most of the season. Thereafter he bowled rarely in first-class cricket, except briefly in 1926.


Jardine was at Oxford for four years but was never appointed captain. Part of the reason was reported to be ‘a certain brusqueness and reserve’. Also in 1922 the brilliant young amateur Greville Stevens was appointed, while in 1923 Reg Bettington took over the job, another leading player, while Jardine was still not fully fit at the time of the election.


He had another good season in 1923, and for Surrey the captain, Percy Fender, was able to use him in an adaptable role at number five, either to hold an end firm or to attack as the situation required. He was appointed the county vice-captain in 1924, ahead of Hobbs, who it was believed did not really want the job. Both Fender and Jardine were fearless captains, although Fender was the more likely to gamble, and Jardine was later to pay tribute to his first county captain. He was also able to learn much from batsmanship from watching Hobbs, and was his partner when he beat W G Grace’s record of 126 first-class centuries.


He developed slowly, though, and several of his more ‘flashy’ contemporaries – for example, Percy Chapman – received much more publicity. He had the strokes but generally sought to accumulate rather than dominate; his footwork tended to be a little slow against top bowlers who could move or spin the ball, and he was not the best of runners between wickets. The docile pitches of that era suited his style, but he certainly had the determination and technique to bat on the difficult ones. With his favoured Harlequin cap, his stance and high backlift he appeared the personification of the traditional amateur, but his whole approach to batting was professional.


After 1926 his work rarely allowed him to play a full season, although ironically his batting reached its peak, as he averaged 91 in 1927 and 87 the following year. He was now a qualified solicitor, although he soon left the legal professional for banking.


He began 1927 with centuries in each of his first three matches, and with thoughts already turning towards retaining the Ashes in Australia in 1928/29, his name began to be mentioned frequently. It has been suggested that the turning point of his career was the century he scored for the Gentlemen against the Players, in front of the influential Pelham Warner.

In the coming winter there was a tour to South Africa, for which Jardine was unavailable due to business. He was selected to play for England against The Rest in a trial match, and ended up captaining the team after the late withdrawal of Chapman. It was the first time he captained the pace bowler Harold Larwood, with whom his name has forever been linked. On a pitch unsuitable for pace bowling, Larwood turned in a memorable performance, leading many with hindsight to remark, justifiably or not, on how Jardine seemed to bring the best out of the paceman.


As there was no Test cricket during the English season of 1927, Jardine made his Test debut against West Indies the following season, the other team’s first series in Test cricket. He scored 83 in a fine innings against the sometimes erratic pace attack before being run out when his partner Maurice Tate refused a call for a second run.


He duly won his place on the tour of Australia, in a team containing such great batsmen as Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond and Hendren, and Jardine won preference for the Test team over Mead, Leyland and Tyldesley, while Frank Woolley was omitted from the tour party altogether. Many consider this the strongest English batting team ever to tour Australia. Chapman was captain, but Jardine had little respect for him.


Jardine began the tour with three centuries, but what was perceived as his stuffy Englishness and inability to respond with good humour to the crowds earned him a great deal of barracking. His third century, 140 against New South Wales in 220 minutes, was one of his greatest innings, played against fiery bowling from Jack Gregory, but he was barracked by the crowd and this perhaps solidified his perceived dislike of Australians.


He played in all five Tests, averaging 42. This was no remarkable figure in a series won four-one by England, but this disguised his value to the side. Jardine played some valuable innings and, perhaps most famously, featured in an incident in the Third Test when England had to bat on a vicious Australian ‘sticky’. The brightest aspect for Australia was the arrival of the 20-year-old Bradman.


Hobbs and Sutcliffe batted brilliantly in one of their most famous partnerships, but at one stage Hobbs sent a message to the dressing room recommending Jardine to come in next as the least likely batsman to get out in these circumstances. Jardine did so, survived a close lbw appeal, and hung on to score a vital 33. He struggled against the bowling of Clarrie Grimmett in particular, but by the time he was out the pitch had greatly eased and England went on to win. After this match Jardine scored the only double-century of his career off a weak Tasmanian team.


After this tour, Jardine did not play at all in 1929 for business reasons, and only nine matches in 1930, when Bradman enjoyed his first devastating tour of England. He did not play Test cricket again until 1931 when, with Chapman out of form, he and Bob Wyatt were the main candidates for the captaincy. Jardine won the vote. England won the three-match series with one victory and two draws, rain badly affecting the Third Test.


In 1932 Jardine took over the captaincy of Surrey, Fender being pushed out by the county committee but declaring his willingness to play under Jardine. When he captained England against the Indian touring team in 1932, the story is that he instructed his pace bowlers Voce and Bowes to bowl one full toss every over in the second innings, feeling the batsmen would misjudge them against the difficult background at Lord’s. They bowled yorkers instead, for which Jardine later reproved them, telling them that when they played under him they would bowl what they were told and not what they thought.


Jardine was duly appointed to captain England in Australia the following winter. Australia were favourites to retain the Ashes, mainly due to the phenomenal run-scoring of Bradman. It was vital, therefore, for Jardine to find a way, as far as possible, to neutralize that threat, and this was how the plan of ‘leg theory’, later to be known as ‘bodyline’, was conceived.


Jardine was fortunate to have the services of one of the greatest fast bowlers in history, Larwood. Larwood was to be aided by Bill Voce and Bill Bowes, but without the coincidence of having the great Larwood at the peak of his career at that very same moment in history, bodyline could not have succeeded and Jardine would have had to rethink his entire campaign plan. And no other plan he could have conceived would have been likely to curb Bradman to the same extent. Larwood and Voce for the last few seasons had been notorious on occasions for physically dangerous bowling at county level for Nottinghamshire.


There are varying stories of to what degree Jardine’s plan of bodyline was formulated before the team left England. But there were two factors Jardine would have noted: firstly that some judges felt that Bradman had flinched against Larwood’s extreme pace on a lively pitch in The Oval Test of 1930, and secondly that the tactic of bowling short on the line of a batsman’s body to a packed leg-side field had already been tried to some degree by certain English bowlers, most recently Bowes. He also had a discussion with Frank Foster, the former Warwickshire and England left-arm pace bowler who in 1911/12 had achieved success in Australia swinging the ball in to the right-hander with a strong leg-side field, and a meeting with Nottinghamshire captain Arthur Carr, Larwood and Voce in London to discuss tactics.


From the beginning Jardine kept himself aloof from his men and did not discuss tactics with them. Running the tour like a despot, he would not even explain his plans, leading to an altercation at one stage between himself and Bowes on the tour, when the latter wanted one extra fielder on the leg side; Jardine refused but told him he could have five, whereupon Bowes bowled long hops until being taken off. A later confrontation between the two resulted in their mutual respect for each other. However to a man his team remained loyal to him and respected him, even if they personally loathed him, as some privately admitted later – a situation that would hardly have been possible today.


Jardine, reputed to hate Australians, did much to encourage that idea from beginning to end, and the contrast with the previous touring captain, the debonair and engaging Chapman, also helped to make the feeling mutual. His old cricket master at Winchester, Rockley Wilson, who had toured Australia himself in 1920/21, commented before the tour that Jardine would probably win England back the Ashes but also lose them a dominion. Jardine quickly antagonized the press and the crowds with his attitude. It was not until the fifth match of the tour that bodyline was unleashed, and then only gradually.


Bradman, with health problems and a dispute with the Australian Board, failed in his six innings (totalling 103 runs) against the MCC team before the Test series. He struggled against the quick bowlers, who did not always use bodyline tactics against him at that stage. He missed the First Test through ill health, but Jardine still employed his new tactics against the Australian batsmen with great success, apart from a brilliant innings of 187 by Stan McCabe. McCabe took on bodyline and mastered it, but that was to be a one-off success by any of the Australian batsmen.


Bradman returned for the Second Test, under tremendous pressure. He tried to pull his first ball, from Bowes, but only dragged it on to his stumps. Bowes remembered a rare display of humanity at this point on the part of Jardine, who did a little jig of delight on the spot. But Bradman scored a century in the second innings and this was the one Australian victory of the series; England won the other four.


Jardine himself went through a run of poor form with the bat on that tour, probably due to the pressures of captaincy, which he felt deeply. He actually suggested standing down for the Third Test, but the selection committee vetoed the idea.


This was the match, at Adelaide, when the bodyline storm really broke. Larwood hit the Australian captain and opening batsman, Bill Woodfull (who incidentally refused any suggestion that he try to respond in kind to Jardine’s tactics), a vicious blow over the heart. Jardine called out, “Well bowled, Harold,” before switching to a bodyline field, which had not then been in operation. It was a tactic generally only used as the ball wore and stopped swinging.


Later the wicket-keeper, Bert Oldfield, took a horrific blow on the head from Larwood that fractured his skull, and some have speculated at this stage that on any other ground than Adelaide the crowd might have invaded the field in anger. An exchange of cables followed between the Australian Board and MCC, the Australians at first protesting lack of sportsmanship, MCC indignant and offering to abandon the tour, and the Australians finally backing down somewhat and agreeing they wanted the tour to continue. With no respected cricket correspondents on tour with the team, MCC were unaware of the true state of affairs until a later date, despite the opposition of manager Pelham Warner to bodyline.


Bodyline, mainly in the form of Larwood, achieved Jardine’s aims in curbing Bradman, whose series average was a ‘mere’ 56, and regaining the Ashes for England. To counter bodyline, Bradman’s policy was to back away to leg, as the hook was not reckoned a percentage shot with the packed leg-side field, and try to swat the ball through the vacant off-side field. He did so with some success and despite some hints of cowardice, but was unable to produce the consistently high scores he did in every other series in which he played.


Although Jardine’s tactics caused such offence in Australia, they also inflicted suffering on the captain himself. He was deeply hurt by his treatment in Australia, responsible though he may have been for them in large measure, and especially the accusations of unsportsmanlike behaviour. Soon after the tour he published a book of self-justification, much overdone and at times failing to conceal his rage.


In contrast, at first he was welcomed back to England as a conquering hero. It seems it may have been at a political level that the outrage of Australians was made clear in England and contributed to strained relations between the countries at diplomatic level. The laws of cricket were eventually altered to ban, in theory, intimidatory bowling and restrict the number of leg-side fielders permitted.


Business commitments prevented him from making many county appearances in 1933, but he captained England in the three-Test series against West Indies. Two incidents began to turn opinion against bodyline – and Jardine. Firstly, some vicious short-pitched bowling of extreme pace by Ken Farnes in the University match gave an unsavoury demonstration of what it was all about.


Secondly, in the Second Test at Old Trafford, the West Indies were able to play their two quickest bowlers, Constantine and Martindale, and they bowled bodyline at the English batsmen. Jardine was eager to show it could be handled, and he recorded his only Test century, playing the lifting ball perfectly with a dead bat in front of his chest.


It was a fine innings, but could he have played it against a bowler of the quality of Larwood, and on pitches with the pace of those in Australia? Larwood was not playing, having injured his foot through relentless pounding in Australia, and he would never be so fast again – or play Test cricket again. Hammond was hit on the chin and back, and it was an unedifying spectacle that helped to turn opinion against the method.


MCC still supported Jardine enough to appoint him captain of the team to tour India that winter – Jardine’s birthplace. With rebellion against Britain developing in that country, it was a risk considering the trouble Jardine had aroused in Australia. But there was no question of employing bodyline there: the same bowlers were missing, the pitches were very different and India had no Bradman to tame, although they did have some very fine players.


Jardine was also far more at home in India than in Australia, he got on well with the Indians and entered into the diplomatic side of the tour as he had failed to do in Australia. Nevertheless he still contested the Test matches fiercely, and there were several injuries to Indian batsmen, although through orthodox fast bowling.


This tour was virtually the end of Jardine’s first-class career. On 31 March he made an announcement, published in the press, to the effect that he had ‘neither the intention nor the desire to play cricket against Australia this summer’ (1934). There may have been private correspondence between MCC and Jardine that angered him and caused him to make this abrupt announcement, or he may have felt, with increasing opposition to him as the facts about bodyline gradually emerged, that he should resign before being forced to do so. Perhaps there was also the situation that, having taken so much time off work for cricket, he could do so no longer, or possibly, secretly, the stress of bodyline had so affected him that he did not want to face it again. Instead, he took a job in the press box during the Tests.


Personally this was perhaps the wisest step, as there was a lot of devious behaviour on the part of English officialdom, such as their requests to Larwood and Voce to apologize for bowling bodyline and the mysterious removal of Voce from the Nottinghamshire match against the Australians after he had shaken them up in the first innings. Their refusal to apologize meant that neither played any part in the Tests. As an amateur Jardine may have had more independence, but they would probably have been after him as well – if they had not been already, in correspondence unrevealed.


Jardine never played for Surrey again and his only three remaining first-class appearances were in ‘friendly’ matches. It appears he became disillusioned with the game and perhaps bitter about the aftermath of bodyline and lack of appreciation for his success in winning back the Ashes from a team containing Bradman. The repercussions of bodyline continued, and the laws of cricket were changed to ensure it could not recur – not with the same field placings, at least. He himself deplored the term ‘bodyline’ and refused to accept it, always referring to his tactics as nothing more than ‘leg theory’.


Jardine’s place in history as a great captain has been assured, but it is always tinged with reservations. As far as English officialdom was concerned, Jardine himself was treated as if he had never existed, as was shown by Wisden’s preference for ignoring him completely in its review of Surrey’s season in 1934.


Jardine was to take the main blame for bodyline, probably for as long as cricket is played. Larwood has largely been forgiven, but not Jardine, especially in Australia. Perhaps if Jardine had lived as long as Larwood, he might eventually have been forgiven. He was to die at 57. During a trip to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe (where he still has relatives), in 1957 he contracted tick-bite fever and showed no improvement on his return to England. In hospital, it was found that his body was riddled with cancer. He went to Switzerland for treatment but died there the following year.


Jardine was a deeply complex man, often misunderstood and in some ways his own worst enemy. To many he appeared aloof, arrogant, rude, ruthless and humourless, but those who knew him best found him shy, kindly, charming and with a fine sense of humour. None doubted his courage, his leadership ability and his determination.


His outstanding batting ability is often forgotten. He will forever be ranked as one of England’s greatest captains, and he captained England in their only series victory over Australia between 1929 and 1953, taming the great Bradman. But it was a tainted victory and came at great cost both to himself and to the game. Few would argue that the end justified the means he employed.


Possibly he lived to regret much of what he did himself, or at least had reservations, but if so he never let on – except over the occasion when, in the next over after Larwood had badly hurt Woodfull with a blow to the chest, he switched from an orthodox to a bodyline field, causing widespread outrage. He appears to have been one of those so obsessed with the task in hand that he lost sight of the overall picture. His overall legacy on the game therefore has not been a good one.


(Article: Copyright © 2003 John Ward)


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