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Old Ghosts

by Bored Guest

by Gautam Jetley

My interest in cricket starts and ends with Douglas Robert Jardine: the most effective captain the game has ever known.

I qualify to write about him because i have his biography, and the book written by him after the series. And i have his portrait hanging on a wall in my home.

My only connections with contemporary cricket are the screaming hoardings i see as i drive down the roads in Delhi. Some asses in gaudy bollywood gladiator outfits; some idiots selling hooch; and some dressed in clothes that make them look as if they jumped off the back-seat of a cycle.

What would DR, as he was known to his friends, make of all this? The Press, for one, would be put into a corner, and told to type silently: his disdain for the press was legendary; and seeing how the press and the game have evolved, his disdain was rock solid. “Practise is for the players, and not for the public, and i don’t wish to speak to the press about that”… as simple as that. Poor old Plum Warner! No point arguing with someone who knows what to do.

Going by the adverts, there could not be any team discipline in today’s rag-tag bunch of boys, all of whom think, by the looks of it, that a win could land them another advert, and snake them up the popularity ladder. “Plum, i’m not here to win friends,” DR said, “i’m here to win the Ashes”. The iron will and the iron hand: Pataudi senior was sacked, and he never played for England again. And remember, he used to call him Your Highness? A team does what the captain says, else… It is stupid even to expect any captain to be of the calibre of DR: the mould was broken after he was born.

And all that hoo-hah about the “sprit” of the game? “Life is a game”, the advert said, “make it large”. Sprit of the game, Ha! Even Cronje fell from the sky – quite literally too… crash! 6 bouncers an over are better than regular financial deliveries. The other side has to be sent in, by artistry, or by force… and this bunch of gladiators tweak at the prospect of force… “This Time its War” the advert whimpered. All the dirt in the game, and Bodyline was against the “sprit” of the game! Well, if you can’t bowl them out, catch them out… beautiful. And this was the result of one little jerk of hesitation by Bradman (why didn’t he get hit, i still rue). The entire episode is put rather nicely in a quatrain by DR himself:

Australia’s writers showed their claws,
Her brackers raged, her batsman shook,
Statesmen consulted- and the cause?
Our bowling was just too good to hook.

Then, in late 1933, the MCC went to the West Indies. They were just as furious then – the Windian fast bowlers; especially Constantine and Martindale. Their plan was Bodyline, and the only target was DR. His reply was his first test century. In that year Wisden wrote that he played this form of bowling “better than any other man in the world was capable of doing”. Paint cannot confound the artist.

Plum Warner, the manager of the Bodyline tour, years later summed DR up: this is what he had to say – “if ever there was a match between England and the rest of the World, and the fate of England depended on that match, I would pick Jardine as captain every time”. Plum was DR’s most contentious critic.

What about the Selectors…? DR turns around and asks: “what in the world is that?”


sraghuna said...

A truly dour & taciturn Scot if there ever was one ... he always got the job done ... BUT ... resigned as captain when the WI team of the time subjected him to the same treatmment & despite scoring his maiden test ton the battering he got might have made him reconsider his tactics!
Btw I'm more of a trivia buff & my interest in cricket ends before it started!

Gaurav Sethi said...

Welcome on bored Gautam.

Thanks for the pomp. Never before have the austere environs of BCC! been sullied by such a snob. KP, you’re not a patch.