Douglas Jardine, will forever be linked to Bodyline, for it was during this season that he had the greatest effect on Test Cricket history. Not so much for his batting or bowling feats, but his captaincy and the decisions he made on and off the field. The events are well documented, and are still talked about around cricket grounds in the 21st Century.
When war broke out he was among the first to join. Dropped behind enemy lines he served his country with distinction. Son of a Rhaj, he died of cancer on June 18th, 1958 (Montreux, Switzerland). He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the glens and lochs of Scotland.
Douglas Robert Jardine was born in Bombay in 1900. The son of a Scottish lawyer who had gone out to India six years earlier to practice law – and ended up as Advocate general of Bombay. Douglas a young boy was sent to Scotland at the age of nine to stay with his Aunt Kitty to work his way through the educational system, then appropriate for a member of the Scottish upper middle class. Prep school led to Winchester. Jardine was not particularly adept intellectually but he was good at sport, which in turn earned him the respect of his peers. By the time he went to Oxford University, Jardine was tall, un-athletic, thin faced and had a sharply beaked nose.
It need hardly be said that Jardine’s politics were Conservative – his upbringing in India had seen to that. On the 1928 – 29 tour of Australia he had performed well, just missing his century in the 4th test match, but his habit of wearing a multi – coloured Harlequins cap and a white silk ‘choker’ while in the field was a gift to the Australian barrackers, who accepted it with pleasure! Jardine never took kindly to such treatment and from that moment on, Australians (to Jardine) were known collectively as bastards!
Jardine’s strategy for the tour (1932 – 33), once he had accepted the Captaincy – about which he had doubts as it happened, doubts which took some time to overcome – was very simple. It was to contain Bradman. Bradman had after all during the 1930 tour of England, changed the nature of the game. He had shown even on soft English wickets that he could dominate any English bowling attack, even one containing Larwood, to such an extent that on even harder Australian wickets he would be invincible.
Jardine studied the film records of Bradman batting in the 1930’s; he read accounts of his matches and discussed Bradman with the players who played against him. All in all a very professional research job was done by Jardine, even by modern day standards. However, according to his daughter it was the film of Bradman and Archie Jackson at the oval in the last test of the 1930 series when they were facing Larwood on a rain – affected wicket that put an idea into Jardine’s mind. ‘I’ve got it’, he apparently said, ‘he’s yellow’ – referring to Bradman.
It would be wrong to imagine that Fast Leg Theory or Bodyline emerged fully formed from Jardine’s head at that precise moment. Jardine sounded out both Larwood and Voce in early August 1932, at a dinner in the grillroom of the Piccadilly Hotel. Could they bowl accurately at leg stump, ‘making the ball come up into the body all the time’ in Larwood’s own words, ‘ so that Bradman had to play to leg’ – ‘we thought Don was frightened of sharp rising balls.