Thursday, 4 October, 2007

Harold Larwood -The Prince of Bowlers

Yesterday’s (3rd October) Indian Express carried an article on the (in)famous Bodyline series. The steamship SS Orontes, carrying Douglas Jardine led England team, arrived at Freemantle, Australia on 18th October 1932, and this month marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the most turbulent tours in the history of cricket.

Can you think of any other series that had so much of intrigue, drama, plots, and sub plots all converging to make work, one grand plan – of stopping the indomitable Don Bradman?

The Bodyline series may have happened 75 years ago, but fortunately, so much is written about it that you can almost relive the moments, that brought the game to its brink. One such book is ‘Cricket Crisis – Bodylines and Other lines’ written by Australian batsman of 1930s and one of my favourite cricket writers, Jack Fingleton. If you are looking for an English perspective, what better than Bodyline’s Principal Architect - Douglas Jardine’s ‘In Quest of Ashes.’

Jack Fingleton also reminds me of two of his beautifully written articles on the lead players of Bodyline –Harold Larwood and Don Bradman. Now, if you are a fan of Fingleton’s writings, these articles would not have escaped your attention. In case, you have somehow managed to miss it, I am reproducing excerpts from it.

Harold Larwood – My friend, the enemy

One has not to talk long with Harold Larwood to realize that he is still embittered over the bodyline days. There were times during the bodyline tour when Larwood thought the game was not worth the candle. He knew abuse. The tumult was overpowering, the work of a fast bowling hard. He has a very sensitive side to his nature and often wondered whether it was worth it.

I don’t think his embitterment was with the Australians, but rather with those English officials who were glad to have him and use him before bodyline became ostracized, and then, conveniently put him aside.

He finds that impossible to forgive. Like the prodigal son, he would have been welcomed home by the MCC in 1935 and had all forgiven, but Larwood is a man of strong beliefs. To satisfy all and sundry, the MCC wished Larwood to apologize to them. But Larwood could not see that he had anything to apologize over and so he remained adamant and went out of the game under a cloud.

In spite of being invited to watch the 1948 series against the visiting Australians, Larwood never came. I think the inside of an English cricket ground contained too many sad memories for him. He deserved better of the game; he deserved better, particularly of English cricket because, in tactics, he was only a cog in the wheel. He was for a certainty, the only bowler who quelled Bradman; the only bowler who made Bradman lose his poise and balance.

There is something tragic about his finish in cricket that he wishes to have no ties with the game at all. It is interesting too, to look back to those days of 1932-33, and reflect what time has done for the central figures, Larwood and Bradman. The game has been overkind to one and unkind to the other, but that has ever been the ways of cricket. It is a game mostly for batsmen….

Isn’t it ironical that the same Larwood, who was baying for Aussie blood in the Bodyline series, eventually settled down in Australia?

The Australians on their part, welcomed Larwood with open arms, for they had always considered him the ‘Prince of Bowlers'.


Soulberry said...

Larwood is said to have bled in his boots to obey his captain's orders. No wonder he didn't care a hoot for English cricket and England following the aftermath.

Cricket Guru said...

True, SB.

But the game lost, forever, one of the most lethal fast bowlers.

His wickets tally may not be impressive (78 wickets in 21 tests) but according to Fingleton, he had both pace and control. In his words - It is my conviction that had Larwood not been in the 1932-33 side and bodyline had to rely on it's existence on Voce and Bowes, the theory would not have survived the first Test.

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payperhead said...

everything you said on here it is so true, but I would ask you a question, why do you call Harold Larwood the "prince" of Bowlers, I think he is THE KING

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