The not so humble T shirt, the undergarment that ‘came out’, self coloured or tye-died, ringer or billboard, utilitarian or expressive, mute or shrill – should we wear one for Douglas Jardine?
The boys at philosophyfootball think we should and for this winter’s Ashes tour they have selected for one of their garments the Harlequin’s strikingly modern campaigning assertion that “Cricket is a battle and service and sport and art”.
History has been cruel to this Lion of England. In every way, opinion has moved against him and towards his foes – the hecklers on the Hill, the journalists of Nineteen Thirties Australia, his Establishment familiars, even his ambitious Vice Captain.
Yet, if anything, culture has moved towards his approach if not his heritage. Who would not fancy him to bring back the Ashes in 2011 – as he did in 1933 – four, one?
Cricket has become more professional, more abrasive, more ‘win at any cost’. In other circumstances Jardine might be regarded today as a hero of the game, but Third Man doubts he will be inducted into the ICC’s Hall of Fame.
Cricket long ago clothed itself in a myth of fair play and idealised virtues. Was it the way the early aristocratic enthusiasts excused their dalliance with the lower orders in pursuit of the demeaning shepherd’s game? Was it the pretence by which schools prepared their pupils for war and colonial administration? Was it a convenient narrative by which old professionals romanticised their playing careers and obscured their humble origins and self-serving match-play?
Big cricket cricketers have always found the garment course fitting, so why has Jardine, remained unfashionable?
The costume that today configures itself in the folds and frills of the Spirit of Cricket may be a fig leaf, but nevertheless it must be worn at all times with respect and subservience.
He who questions too closely the Emperor’s new clothes risks becoming a lightning rod through which the guilt and greed of others reaches the ground.
Is it time therefore to rehabilitate Douglas Jardine?
As in most things, we must start much earlier. In November 1928 the genial Percy Chapman led a team Down Under. As now, after a long period of dominance, Australia, with their great players aging or retired, were finding it hard to reconstruct their side.
England on the other hand were able to send the following batting order to the printing office at the Gabba as the series begun on the morning of November 30th: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Mead, Hammond (a debutant in this match who was to score 905 runs in his 9 Test match innings on this tour), Jardine (another debutant), Hendren (who, coming in at the crisis point of the match, if not of the series, when England were tottering at 161 for 4 on that first day, scored 169 of England’s first innings of 521 in a five hour game-changing innings ) and Chapman himself.
These batsmen were complemented by a bowling attack of Tate, Larwood, White, Geary (in subsequent Tests) and Hammond.
In reply, Australia lost their first four batsmen for 40 in a disastrous last hour of the second day and eventually sunk to 122 all out. The youth Bradman, who had already scored 295 runs against the tourists for twice out, was lbw to Tate for 18 batting at number 7. Larwood took six for 32 in 14.4 overs.
Tests being timeless affairs in those days, England batted on to 342 (Mead 73, Jardine 65*) in their second innings before declaring 741 runs ahead in time to take the wicket of Ponsford before the close of play on the fourth evening.
Overnight rain then made batting conditions treacherous and White 4 for 7 in 6.3 overs, Tate 2 for 26 and Larwood 2 for 30 sent Australia to a crushing and demoralizing defeat by 675 runs.
The impact on the home side’s supporters, their media, their cricketers past and present and especially on Bradman would have far reaching consequences.
To be continued …