In the time of the 1932-33 Ashes Tour, bodyline tactics were found responsible for the strain on imperial relations between Australia and England. Heavy social and political influences promoted the significance of the Ashes series and caused great reactions by players, management, spectators and primarily the media. The pressured relations between Australia and the Empire during the Ashes series made the game of cricket reach wider margins than what took place on the cricket field.
It impacted on elements of society and even extended to political spheres. Cricket had just reached a high point as a form of colonial consolidation as the English believed it to be a bonding agent to draw its dominions closer to the Empire. As Lord Hawke stated in his introduction to imperial cricket, “The greatest game in the world is played where ever the Union Jack is unfurled, and it has no small place in cementing the ties that bond together every part of the Empire…” This quote elucidates the importance of cricket, at such an early stage in time.
It also implies that cricket wasn’t just a game; it was the key to successful relations between England and all of its dominions. Cricket in fact was used as a metaphor for life. Many saw the game as an association of ideas and a tutor of self control and physical training. Moreover, the English believed it to be a test of colonial progress and the reinforcement of imperial standard. The implementation of the bodyline tactic was the central cause to the pushed relations between Australian and English players, and between Jardine and English Amateurs.
The reality of England being dominated by Australia in a game that was a national pastime was absurd to Jardine, thus he came up with the bodyline tactic to deliberately injure and intimidate the Australian batsmen- particularly Don Bradman. Jardine completely disregarded England’s concept of strengthening bonds of the Empire as his greatest ambition was to regain the Ashes in 1932, at all costs. Bodyline, what Jardine referred to as leg theory, was perfected by Larwood and Voce who would bowl fast, high and in line with the Australian batsmen bodies.
The Australian batsmen would either duck, allow the ball to strike them or attempt to play a hook shot. But often they would be caught off a nick or seriously injured. Bodyline was clearly ‘an attempt to dismiss rather than restrict. ’ “There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket, the other is making no attempt to do so. ”- Bill Woodfull. This infamous quote clearly outlines the diminishing relations and somewhat rising hatred between Aussie skipper, Woodfull and the English eleven, particularly Jardine and Larwood. The Australian cricket team claimed that the English played within the law but outside the spirit of the game.
Relations between Jardine and his fellow amateurs were also deteriorating, specifically with Gubby Allen who disagreed with bodyline and refused to bowl it for Jardine, causing inside disputes between them. The impact of the Great Depression also strained trade and diplomatic relations between England and Australia prior to the Ashes Tour. In 1930, Australia asked the British Government to allow them to defer an interest payment of 2. 77 million pounds. The Brits were concerned about the state of the Australian economy so they sent Sir Otto Niemeyer to assess the situation and give Australia the necessary advice for its financial problems.
Niemeyer was a symbol of ‘London financial imperialism’. He advocated an end to Australian protectionism. The Australian market began to decrease its imports from Britain as local products were more appealing. This enactment created the anger of traditional British exporters and strained trading relations between Australia and the mother country. The Niemeyer visit clearly provoked a political storm around Australia as many had opposing views and solutions to Australia’s financial issues. The British Government began converting its own loans to 3 per cent to benefit its own population but continued to charge Australia 6 per cent.
This did nothing to improve Anglo-Australian relations as they were already strained by the Niemeyer visit. The incidents that had occurred in Adelaide caused heavy reactions by the players of Australia, the management, and spectators at Adelaide Oval. After scoring a duck, Bradman took action by appealing to the BOC who denied him and would not support his protest. “…it is practically impossible for even our leading batsmen to make runs against the present type of English attack(bodyline) without getting at least one or two sever cracks. ” said Don Bradman in a radio broadcast.
These incidents show how much of an impact bodyline had made on our hero, Bradman. It also underlies how Bradman began to dislike Jardine and his Englishmen. The BOC reacted to the incidents at Adelaide by sending a cable to the MCC to negotiate the continuance of the Ashes series. The MCC felt offended and denied being unsportsmanlike. The BOC reacted by holding an urgent meeting where there was some speculation that they may take action. Plum Warner also grew a grudge against his own English captain- Jardine, as he stated that the real trouble is Jardine.
Warner’s overall reactions to the incidents in Adelaide were relatively sympathetic towards the Australians as he apologised to Woodfull in the dressing rooms during the game. The Australian crowds were very patriotic to Australia and loud and boisterous during the events of Woodfull and Bert being struck by Larwood’s uprising deliveries. The anger of the Adelaide crowd was reaching boiling point. 200 to 400 troops were on standby in case the crowd jumped the fence. Jardine said to his team mates to take a stump for self defence.
This clearly delineates how furious the crowd’s reaction was to Jardine’s bodyline tactic. The Australian media and the English media’s reaction was one of the most significant reactions to the bodyline tactic in 1932-33 as they persuaded and altered the Australian public opinion and English public opinion. Although both the Australian and English media were of great importance, they both were subjective and differential in their views of the Ashes series. The test matches played in 1932-33 were as significant in England as in Australia.
The English reaction to the test series were expressed through their newspapers which published extensive reports of the test matches which were very different from the Australian newspaper reports. “The leg theory proves that the people hit are very slow on the feet, and it is not always the bowler’s fault…” said Harold Gilligan in Age, 18 Jan 1933. Note that bodyline is referred to as ‘leg theory’ intentionally to give it a euphemistic view and to persuade the English public that it is of no harm whatsoever. ‘…unskilful batting rather than dangerous bowling, caused the loss of the wickets and the injuries. This line from the Age newspaper really emphasises how bias the English reporters were and what minimal knowledge they had of the Ashes test series in Australia. The Australian media swamped their newspaper headlines and radio topics with furious bodyline reports which ultimately turned the Australian public against the Empire. An important factor in the influence of the Australian media was the double role that Don Bradman had as a player in the game and a reporter in the press. The cables sent to and from England and Australia further pushed the relations between the BOC and MCC.
On the 18th January 1933, the BOC sent a cable to the MCC regarding the bowling tactics being used by the English during the Tour. “In our opinion it is unsportsmanlike…” this was not taken kindly by the MCC who felt overly offended by such a remark towards the mother country as it clearly upset the predominately conservative members of the MCC “…likely to upset the friendly relations existing between Australia and England. ” This line which was present within the cable clearly implies that the relations between the Empire and its Dominion were treading on eggshells.
Moreover, the wording was poorly received by the MCC as the cable was sent via Paris, which also strained the already delicate relations between the BOC and MCC. Many of the British public accused the Australians of ‘squealing’ as they didn’t realise what was actually going on in the test matches and why the Australians were so furious. The initial Australian press reaction to the first cable split in two as some thought it was hysterical and others saw it to be fairly reasonable with a good point made.
On January the 3rd, a full MCC Committee meeting was held and two draft cables were prepared before sending the 3rd cable. “We have no evidence that our confidence has been misplaced. ” The MCC basically stated their full confidence in their management and captain even though they were not in Australia to witness the incidents and to judge how serious they were. The MCC were restricted from knowing what was actually happening in Australia as they only had access to cables or letters, much different to today’s communications. “…jeopardize the good relations between English and Australian cricketers. Again, the relations are mentioned as they are drastically threatened and pushed throughout the Ashes Tour series in 1932-33. “These colonials can’t call us unsportsmanlike. ” Said Jardine in his reaction to the cable sent to the MCC after the 3rd test in Adelaide. This shows us how appalled the MCC, Jardine and his team were after reading the cable. In the time of just a few weeks, the incidents of two Australian batsmen being severely injured by the deliveries of an English fast bowler had grown into a pivotal imperial problem and involvement from the actual cricketers went to the highest political levels.
Some of the Australian cricketers thought to retaliate with bodyline tactics whereas others thought to play the series out and let the issue be dealt with at the completion of the series. Woodfull believed in the moral of the game but he considered that the entire future of the game was in jeopardy as a result of actions taken by the country that created the game around its morals and values. Although the BOC had much involvement in the controversy, the issue had begun to pass beyond the BOC’s full control as some outraged Adelaide members had considerable influences in federal and imperial circles.
Plum Warner informally raised the issue with Hore Ruthven, the representative of the crown, in hope that the issue would arise up to official command as he needed added leverage against his rival, his captain, Jardine. The BOC had been given added pressure from the NSW cricket association to continue the tour as the 5th Test was to be played in Sydney, thus the NSW association would see the needed benefits in the time of the Great Depression. Within the BOC, divisions in opinion existed. Harold Rowe claimed that England had played within the cricket laws and that the protest should have been at the conclusion of the Tour.
Crutchley, the British High Commissioner, rang the Australian PM, Lyons in an attempt to push for the withdrawal of the offending word. Lyons eventually agreed to contact the chairman of the BOC, Robertson. Lyons made it clear to Robertson that the Government ordered for the cricket crisis to be settled quickly as they were at the time, attempting to negotiate a lower rate of interest on its London money loan with the English who were not favouring the Australians at the time, whatsoever.
The BOC found itself losing the battle of their argument that England was unsportsmanlike. Warner made it clear to the BOC that the 4th Test would not be played unless the word ‘unsportsmanlike’ was withdrawn. “May we accept this is a clear indication that the good sportsmanship of our team is not in question? ” The BOC, in a weak position, had no choice but to approve this statement as they couldn’t afford to cancel the rest of the series financially.