Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The question of a blue plaque

It was interesting to read Mike Selvey's article in today's Guardian. Although he mainly dealt with the burgeoning run rates in ODIs today, there was something at the end which caught my eye.

Writing about the attempts by a gentleman named Christopher Douglas to put up a plaque at 21 Bentinck Street in Marylebone commemorating a certain Douglas Jardine.

"The Panel felt that Jardine was not equal standing to those already commemorated under the scheme (WG Grace, Jack Hobbs, CB Fry) and that there are figures not yet suggested by the public such as Len Hutton, Peter May and Dennis Compton who might be considered more worthy of plaques. Just for your interest, Learie Constantine and K S Ranjitsimhji [sic] have recently been shortlisted."
It is indeed amusing to learn that the panel is actually considering Learie Constantine, who (with all due respect to him) did not do much for English cricket - nothing at all if I can remember right! Agreed, he broke a lot of barriers in cricket - much like Jackie Robinson did in baseball in America.

Douglas Jardine evoked a sense of respectful fear in me back in the late 80s when the Bodyline TV-series was shown on Doordarshan. Back then I liked the Aussies (they had just won the World Cup in 1987), and the sheer 'brutality' of the Bodyline series made me gnash my teeth whenever I heard the words Jardine or Larwood.

But over the years I have read so much more into the whole series and the characters behind it. It reads a bit like a soap opera, but yet, I guess the Englishmen never forgave Jardine (nor Larwood) for whatever happened. It is indeed ironic that Larwood settled in Australia, where he was warmly received. Agreed, he probably was a pawn in the whole scheme planned out by a 'thinking' captain and he unfortunately paid a heavy price for 'obeying orders'. But I would say he did it with honour.

Today, we deal with bowlers who bowl intentional beamers (rather hurl) and the intolerance of spectators who resort to a variety of tactics to thrown the opposition off balance. I'd say the Indian crowds whch throw bottles and a variety of other garbage (verbal too) at opposing teams are on par with the Aussie larrikins who heap the opposition with racist abuse. It is sad to see the game degenerate to this level.

But someday I'd like to see Jardine get the respect that is due to him. As a shrewd tactician, as an English captain (a list that also includes a gent called Monkey Hornby and the 3rd Baron Tennyson, among more illustrious names), and (in this day and age) as a man who brought the all-conquering Aussies to their feet. Let's face it, Bodyline was a bit of an annihilation compared to the nail biting stuff that was dished out last summer!


Anonymous said...

I loved 'Bodyline', and yes, it did evoke the same feelings about Jardine in me!

There were a number of articles in 'The Hindu' regarding the same when Larwood died recently- was nice to read and recall scenes from the series!


Soultan of Swing said...

interesting ms. V,
thought i was one of the few jackasses who liked that series, and sympathized with the much maligned duo...

PS: who might u be ;)

Old Spice said...

The more I read about Bodyline, the less I'm convinced that it was all that bad. OK, the ball was hurled at the batsman's body, but that's no different from the WIPQ, really. The major objection was that the fielders were stacked on the on-side, which made dismissal likely.

To me, that smacks of incompetence rather than any real fear of injury. Even giving some allowance to less robust protective equipment, I don't think it merited the uproar it did. If there had been more than three Test sides at the time, I don't think it would have resulted in anything like the retribution it did.

In fact, I get the feeling that the Australians and English do their damnedest to get rid of types of Cricket they can't do much against, even today. The English try to avoid traveling to India as much as possible, because they often get hammered, but cite reasons like terrorist fears (like in 2001-2). (And it will be interesting to see whether this changes now.) Australians hate Murali, but don't make anything like the racket about Harbhajan or any of the Pakistani chuckers.

All up, a sorry episode. Bradman's side, through the lens of 2006, looks like a pack of losers.