The Ashes Legends: The super villain of Test cricket - Douglas Jardine
“B*st**d… B*st**d… B*st**d” – The entire Adelaide Oval vented their anger as the Australian keeper Bert Oldfield lay on the ground, almost senseless, with a fractured skull. The entire Australian squad ran out on the field to help “Oldie” off the ground as the opposition stood surrounded by angry fans chanting expletives.
Injuries are a part of cricket. Every cricketer has found himself grimacing with pain at some point in his career. But what happens when the sole objective of your opposition is to hurt you physically and stretcher you off the field?
An explosion that changes the game forever!
“Bradman….Bradman…Bradman…” – The Melbourne Cricket ground echoed the name of the greatest batsman in the history of cricket on his return to the Ashes in 1932 after missing out the first Test. The master batsman gleefully accepted the hero’s welcome, but little did he know what his opposition had in store for him.
Two leg slips, leg gully, deep fine leg, long leg, short square leg and a very silly mid on – that’s how the English captain greeted Sir Don Bradman to the crease. Bradman took guard, Bill Bowes ran in, dug the ball short at his ribs, Bradman swiveled to play the pull shot but only managed to drag the ball on to his stumps – the trick had worked. Bradman walked back for a golden duck!
How do you stop a batsman who amassed 974 runs at a batting average of 139.14 in a five-Test series?
You possibly can’t.
All you can try is to find a weakness, lay a trap and hope that your bowlers exploit it. But when someone goes on to record a career batting average of 99.94, it suggests that not many succeeded in exploiting them.
One man did. Douglas Jardine.
Jardine was perhaps the only man who dared to cross the line to take a serious crack at the greatest batsman the world had ever seen.
In 1928, Jardine traveled to Australia with the MCC team along with England’s new pace sensation Harold Larwood. If England handed the Test caps to Jardine and Larwood, Australia introduced the boy wonder from Bowral, Donald Bradman. Although Bradman had a modest Test debut, he left an indelible mark on Jardine. He returned to England and declared Bradman as the greatest that the world will ever see.
“He can do things, no other batsman can. He is unstoppable” – Douglas Jardine proclaimed after the 1928 tour.
The MCC Lords laughed off Jardine’s words, but their jaws hit their knees with amazement when Bradman took centre-stage and launched an onslaught in the 1930 Ashes tour. He toyed with England’s bowling and ended up with extraordinary scores that dented the confidence of England’s fastest bowler, Harold Larwood, who nurtured thoughts of giving up cricket after his sufferings in the hands of the Aussie master.
However, among this carnage, Bradman unknowingly left a clue that led to one of the most controversial Test series ever.
“I feel sure something new will have to be introduced to curb Bradman.” - Percy Fender, the Surrey captain, said after being on the receiving end of a Bradman assault.