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Opinion

On the trail of Douglas Jardine

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Roar Rookie
23rd June, 2020
50

It’s not difficult to find the pictures – a quick Google and the images of the former English captain are laid out.

Mostly black and white, they show a man with an angular face, smiling but in a manner where he’d prefer not to.

He can also be seen speaking. He sounds rehearsed (drilled even) with minimal facial expression. At the end, he breaks into a relieved smile that the camera is about to be switched off.

As captain of the England side during the Bodyline series of 1932-33, the dislike or hatred from Jardine towards the Australians was demonstrated a number of times.

But why? What drove Jardine to feel so strongly?

We’re used to modern-day rivalries being aggressively played out on the field, often with little attempt to hide them. Think Allan Donald and Mike Atherton, Curtly Ambrose and Steve Waugh or Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels.

Whether these rivalries merely boiled over at a point in the match, or originated by long-held resentments is debatable but a key difference when Jardine played is that it occurred when cricket was still considered a gentleman’s sport. To bowl in an intimidating and dangerous manner was against the times, and against the spirit of the game.

A match Jardine played in 1921 is an example of how cricket was once played. Representing an Oxford University side against the touring Australians, Jardine reached a score of 96 and the tourists did their best to allow him to score a century, serving up easier deliveries. Time ran out however, with Jardine stranded on that score.

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The media subsequently criticised Australia for not allowing Jardine to complete the century despite their efforts (Australia could hardly be blamed, there was no scoreboard on display).

This match is where speculation begins of why Jardine hated the Aussies – he may have decided they could have done more for him to reach his century.

Another theory is that Jardine was brought up in a harsh time where discipline was paramount. As a school student, he was expected to be ready for the effects of the First World War, which involved London being bombed by zeppelins. After being sent to live with his mother’s sister in Scotland, he attended a school renowned for being severe. Jardine was likely hardened during this time and drew on that as a cricket captain.

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Jardine first toured Australia in 1928-29, where crowds perceived that Jardine carried a belief in the class system and that he was better than others – partly because he continued to wear the harlequin-patterned Oxford University cap. While some conceded he may have worn it for luck or superstitious reasons, others saw it as elevating himself above his opposition and even team members.

A crowd member during that tour even called out, “Where’s the butler to carry the bat for you?”

On that tour, Jardine referred to Australians as “uneducated and unruly” and when told the crowds disliked him, Jardine supposedly responded, “the feeling is f***ing mutual.”

From there resentments and problems continued, including Jardine stating he believed Australian spinner Bert Ironmonger threw the ball when bowling.

Jardine was offered the captaincy for the 1932-33 tour and while rumours circulated that he was reluctant to accept, eventually he did and the stage was set.

There were stories he directed his team to refer to Don Bradman as ‘The Little Bastard’ and that they needed to hate the Australians to defeat them. Adding to the early sour note of the tour was Jardine refusing to provide team lists to journalists prior to tour matches and being unhelpful when asked questions by the cricket writers.

During the second Test, Bradman (having missed the first) was bowled for a duck and Jardine clasped his hands above his head, dancing on the spot – an unheard of move at a time when cricketers were generally reserved and courteous.

In the third Test, a rising short ball struck Bill Woodful in the chest, prompting Jardine’s comment “well bowled Harold.” The remark was supposedly meant to be heard by Bradman at the other end.

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Some still rate this match as the most hostile Test ever, with the crowd later enraged following Bert Oldfield suffering a fractured skull from a rising delivery, before cheering when angry fast-bowler Harry Alexander bowled a series of short balls to Jardine, striking him painfully.

While Jardine’s dislike of the hosts was widely reported, his manner towards his own team could be equally as abrasive. His arguments with fast bowler Harold Larwood were seen by many and extended to Jardine refusing to believe the quick had a foot injury (it was in fact broken) and insisting Larwood take the field.

Jardine regularly argued with the team manager. Others in the team claimed he was unsupportive but this tended to emerge after the tour, as players had not wanted to speak up while in Australia.

Jardine is recorded as having often argued with his first-ever cricket coach over technique – he was certainly not one to avoid confrontation, even though some considered him shy.

For some Australians, Jardine was never really forgiven. Bradman refused to discuss him with journalists and after Jardine died in 1958, would not give a tribute.

The skipper’s attitude towards Aussies was most likely powered by being fearless in the face of animosity and looking down on Australians. He may well have at times been as stand-offish with them as his own team.

In 1953, Douglas Jardine returned to Australia and was surprised to find he was well received. While not renowned for his humour, he is believed while here to have described himself as “an old so and so who got away with it”.