Saturday, January 05, 2008

Success justifies all

It hasn't always been a pleasant stay for teams touring Australia. But surely, even the worst of tours has been better than this one with India. The Bodyline tour was an exception, with the Aussies, at their own home ground, being at the receiving end of some vicious bowling by Jardine's men. But even then, the umpires never took such an active interest in influencing the result of the game as they did in the Sydney test. Messrs. Bucknor, Benson and Procter seemed determined to ensure the Aussies didn't lose the series and that Andrew Symonds scored a century.

Coming to the Bodyline tour, I finished watching, again, after a long time, the wonderful miniseries 'Bodyline,' made in 1984 for Australian television. Got it in National Market and couldn't believe my luck for that. Starring Hugo Weaving, Jim Holt and Gary Sweet, as Douglas Jardine, Harold Larwood and Don Bradman respectively, the seven episode series covered quite comprehensively perhaps the most controversial series in cricketing history. Of course, I needn't tell you more about it because this new Internet thing has all the information you can get, and then some. But what struck me was the striking(we apologize for the dual usage of various forms of the word 'strike' in the same sentence) resemblance between the tactics adopted then by Jardine and those of Australian teams since Mark Taylor.

Let's see what Jardine did, shall we? He set a packed leg side field, with practically no room even to breathe and left wide open spaces on the off. He had his bowlers bowl relentlessly on middle and leg, fast and bouncing ridiculously high. By 1930s standards, these tactics were outrageous and there was a great diplomatic crisis as well. But who would call a bowler or a captain for doing those things nowadays? For one thing, batsmen are better protected these days, with guards for everything. For another, bowlers do bowl good bouncers, taking care not to get them to rise head high. Australian bowlers do this the most now. So the brouhaha does seem a little over-the-top and hypocritical and Jardine comes across as a tough, no-nonsense, effective, tactically sound captain.

Even after Bodyline laws were brought into force, it surfaced many times again. One of the most popular examples is Dennis Lillee's over to Vivian Richards in Perth, sometime in the '70s:-

Richards bodylined

Listening to the commentator and the others talking about it, you would hardly think these are the same men who cry foul over Bodyline.

Jardine adopted a victory-oriented strategy. He decided, quite correctly, that to defeat the Australian team of 1932-33, he only needed to target Don Bradman. Conducting quite an extensive research on Bradman, he thought he spotted a weakness in him while playing the shorter ball. He had Harold Larwood, a coalminer and the fastest bowler in the world then, at his disposal. Thus, the 'fast leg-theory' tactic was born. 'Victory at any cost' seemed to be Jardine's mantra and he evidently didn't care two hoots about public opinion in Australia or the negative Australian press. 'We are not here to win friends,' he is quoted as having said, 'we are here to win the Ashes.' He didn't care how he played the game, as long as he won. And the English public loved it, since they had not actually seen 'fast leg theory' in practice yet.

Now let's look at Australia now. They've always been a 'chatty' lot, though they claim New Zealand are worse. Since Mark Taylor, and more so with Steve Waugh, the chatting has been stepped up a notch. And with Ricky Ponting at the helm, it's become more of the norm rather than a cleverly employed strategy. other teams should have been used to it by now; don't know why they aren't yet. But Ponting, and the Australian press by large, defending sledging as 'the way we play our cricket' and 'a perfectly legal strategy. There's no law forbidding it, myte.' is the same defense offered by Jardine. Sledging as a form of witty reparteeing, replying or riposting is nice. Sledging used as a 'weapon of mental disintegration' is truly not in the spirit of the game. Cricket matches are won by cricketing skill and cricketing tactics. If words were the only weapons necessary, Samuel L Jackson would be the best batsman in the world.

Banning sledging is stupid. You need the odd exchange, the occasional verbal tiff between batsman and bowler, batsman and close-in fielders to have that edge. But those should not be the main stratagem employed by a team. Especially a good team like Australia, which has classy players like Gilchrist, Ponting(or Bhajji's bunny) and Hussey. They don't need to resort to cheap tricks all the time. They sledge well and they should do it, but all the while. Certainly not in cases like Chris Cairns'. It was reported that, during a New Zealand-Australia match before which Cairns' sister had died in a train accident, the Australians fielding near Cairns were making 'choo choo' noises.


Harish said...

Houdu, nishyabdavaagi aagi aaDidre en chennaagirutte. Maat irbeku. Aadre aa maatu cricket-ge seemitavaagi irbeku. Vaiyakitika vishayagaLa prastaapa aagbaardu.
Aadre keLeda shatamana kanDantha ati shreshta bowler-gaLa paTTige serida West Indies tanDada Walsh aagli, Ambrose aagli maataaDtirlilla. Tamma aaTadindane uttara koDoru. Namma Sachin kooDa ashte. Sachin-ge bowl maaDodu tanagondu 'nightmre' anta heLida Warne kooDa Sachin-na sledge maaDlilla. Illi heLida ellaa aaTagararoo ati hechu saadhane maaDiroru. Crciket aaTada ghanate hechisiroru. Heege noDidre, maataaDuva avashyakathe ideye antha anno prashne udbhava aagutte.

Priyanka said...

That was such a well written out post! And I quite agree with you..just banning sledging isn't the solution...

Karthik D said...

Neevu helodu nija kanayya. Sledging na ban maadbardu. Adar badlu, Cricket na ban maadi sumne kootkobeku.

Sandeep said...

Mr D US ge hogi entha ondu mindri agidaare anta idrinda infer madbodu.

Olle entertaining blogs kanayya. Aa Chris Cairns thing, if true is a horrible thing to say.

Jai Karnataka, Jai Hind. Tipu Sultan.

Arjun Sharma said...

[Harish] Houdu, sumne aadidre olle smashanadalli antima kriye maadtiro haagiratte. Naavu aadovaglu maatu nadeetane irodilve? But 'sledging,' as it began, was more concerned with wit and humour than a serious confrontational stratagem. Sum-sumne, neen helida haage, vaiyaktika vishayagaLa prastapa maadtirbardu. Yavag maadbeko avaga maadidre saaku. For instance:-

When Raman Subba Row, now match referee, was fielding in the slips and Fred Trueman was bowling, in some match, a simple catch to slip was let through his legs by Row. Profusely apologetic, Row went up to Trueman and said, "Sorry Freddie, I should've kept my legs together." Trueman replied, "No, sonny, your mother should have."


[Priyanka] Thank you. Yeah, there's no regulation like self-regulation.

[Karthik D] He he, idu olle radical solution-u, ivre! Neevu maadtira, parvagilla.

[Sandeep] He he, antu character assassinatory inferences draw maadtiya neenu-nu, parvagilla.

Tipu Sultan aagle jai andaytu.