RES “Bob” Wyatt
Bob Wyatt captained the MCC side against an Australian XI a couple of matches before the First Test in Sydney 1932, he used Bodyline in a restricted for during that match – the first instance of Bodyline used on that tour. According to Wyatt; even at this limited form of Fast Leg theory, Bradman looked uncomfortable against Harold Larwood. However Don was not in full health at this time in his career and was soon to be rested by medical opinion, this may account for his apparent uneasiness. Again according to Wyatt, he introduced Fast Leg Theory (under Jardine’s instruction who was on holiday fishing during the match) steadily throughout the match due to the deterioration of the match ball and the fact that they failed to get the ball to swing away from the batsmen.
Bob Wyatt in his book ‘Three Straight Sticks’ makes a controversial comment ‘ Nor do I think there is the smallest doubt that if the Australians had had a bowler of the type of Larwood they would have bowled him in the same way as we did’. Now as I have mentioned elsewhere in this history section – under Woodfull, there was never a suggestion of retaliation to the tactics used by the MCC side. This being the case, he would certainly have not thought to use the tactics without provocation. I respect Wyatt’s opinion on this matter but I think he is wrong.
The English camp was unhappy with the condition of the pitch at Melbourne for the Second Test match. Vice captain Wyatt mentioned that when the MCC played at the MCG in November during a first class match the pitch was among the fastest in Australia. Because of this knowledge the England committee ahead of the Test match chose four fast bowlers for the match. However when the game began, it was clear that the pitch had been under prepared (an accusation claimed by players from both party’s years later. From the outset the pitch took spin and the English side cried foul.
Wyatt thought ‘Bodyline’ bowling didn’t account for a great percentage of wickets that fell in the series. There is no argument surrounding the two batsmen to be hit during the Third test at Adelaide namely Woodfull and Oldfield as both were hit by non-Bodyline balls. They were good length balls that were misjudged, they paid the price through injury when the balls hit them. Although the majority of wickets to fall were non-Bodyline, the fact that the pressure had been put on the batsmen by these tactics could not have helped their state of mind!
In his book, Wyatt commented on the difference between professional and players in the early 1930’s. In it he says that when money of any amount was won thanks to a player or team’s performance, the money was put into a players pool (as it is these days). However at the end of the series, the class system was in evidence when professional players shared the money and the amateur players or gentlemen as they were known were bought presents!! Just an interesting side note to Bodyline I thought worth mentioning as it was an important one, which would be difficult to imagine in today’s professional game.
An interesting point to come out of Wyatt’s book was the Larwood situation in the final Test match (scored 98). He claims that it was he that suggested Larwood be sent in at the fall of the second or third wicket to fall and not Douglas Jardine. The English captain in his book ‘In Quest of the Ashes’ claimed he was responsible for this team change, and as captain I think you would have to go with what he has written. I’m sure Bob Wyatt may have discussed the team order with his captain at some stage, but so strong and clever were Jardine’s opinions and tactics that I believe it was he who decided on the batting order not Wyatt. Jardine gives further evidence to this view in his book when he gave a detailed reason for choosing Larwood at number 4 (in short to give him a rest after long stint of bowling).
The whole team fully supported Jardine in his decisions and tactics throughout the tour, and because of all the negative feedback surrounding his actions and those of his fast bowlers, it showed the respect that they had for him not only as a player but also as a man. Gubby Allen was the only fast bowler on the tour who refused to bowl Bodyline. This was down to two reasons according to Bob Wyatt. The first being that Gubby didn’t agree with the tactics used by Jardine (although as mentioned there was never any question of where his loyalty lay) and the second and equal reason – he was simply not fast enough.