Cricket and The Loss of an Empire - A Historical Caprice
(A somewhat anglocentric perspective. JH.)

 By John W. Elliott

 The sporting calendar is full of fixtures which can only be described as grudge
 matches. In soccer, there is Scotland versus England; Rangers versus Celtic;
 Arsenal versus Spurs. In South America, they take their soccer so seriously that
 a real shooting war once broke out between two countries after their national
 teams clashed on the field of play.

 Even the seemingly genteel game of cricket is affected by bitter rivalries between
 teams and excesses of partisanship amongst their supporters. Classic grudge
 matches are the tests between India and Pakistan and the Ashes Test series.
 While cricket may not have caused actual war, the game has caused riots on the
 sub-continent and the Ashes Test Series of 1932, played in Australia, strained
 relations between the thirty-one year old Commonwealth of Australia and the
 mother country to breaking point.

 The previous Ashes series played in 1930 in England was a triumph for the
 Australians thanks to the magnificent batting skills of the young Don Bradman
 from New South Wales. He comprehensively massacred the English bowling.
 The M.C.C. captain for the 1932 tour of Australia, the Scotsman, Douglas R.
 Jardine, who held the Australians in deepest contempt, was determined, at all
 costs, to avoid a repetition of the 1930 débacle.

 The sole aim of his captaincy was to neutralise the batting skills of Bradman. To
 that end he refined the leg theory of bowling and fielding used by Frank Foster
 of Warwickshire during the 1911-12 tour. He went to the lengths of selecting
 the bowlers who were to carry out his plan from the ranks of "players" who
 would have no option but to bowl in this fashion. "Gentlemen" could afford the
 luxury of conscientious objection to this type of bowling.

 Because it seemed as if the bowlers were deliberately aiming for the batsman
 rather than the stumps, this style of bowling has gone down in the annals of the
 game as Bodyline. This name actually originated in the telegram which an
 Australian journalist sent to his paper when he had had to condense the number
 of words in his report to keep the cost of the telegram to a minimum.

 Jardine’s insistence on continuing with this style of bowling which resulted in the
 opposing batsmen taking a terrific hammering on their bodies from the
 hand-picked fast bowlers led to acrimonious exchanges of cables between the
 M.C.C. and the A.C.B.; the Australian Government and the British Government.

 The M.C.C. won the 1932 Ashes series. It was said that Jardine changed the
 game of cricket for the worse and turned the Ashes Test series into a grudge

 This is nonsense. Only those who lack a historical perspective can believe this.
 Grudge matches are not restricted to the sporting calendar. The longest running
 grudge match in British history was the hatred that existed between our
 Hanoverian monarchs and their heirs. This began with the accession of George I
 to the British throne in 1714 and, if truth be told, faint echoes of it can be heard
 today. Cricket played a part in this Hanoverian family conflict to the extent that it
 altered the succession to the throne; perhaps it was even indirectly responsible
 for the loss of the American Colonies.

 The most poisonous manifestation of this feud was to be seen during the reign of
 George II. His heir was born Friedrich Ludwig in 1707 in Hannover, Hanover.
 When his father succeeded to the British throne in 1727, Friedrich Ludwig came
 to Britain where he was transformed into Frederick Louis becoming, first, the
 Duke of Cornwall and then, in 1729, Prince of Wales.

 The breach between George II and his son was about money. The details of this
 need not concern us here. It is sufficient to say that there was a complete rupture
 between father and son which resulted in the latter’s exclusion from court and
 the King forbade foreign ambassadors from visiting his heir They were only
 reconciled after a fashion with the downfall of Walpole in 1742.

 Unlike his grandfather, George I, and his father, Frederick made an attempt to
 assimilate himself into English life. He even went to the trouble of having all the
 paraphernalia of cricket brought from England to Hanover, where he received
 his education. He never became a good player; but he was enthusiastic and
 throughout his life, yea unto its very end, he was a committed patron of the game.
 He died on 20th March, 1751 when an abscess on his brain burst.

 It is popularly believed that this abscess was caused when he was struck on the
 head by a cricket ball during a match. Who is to say that this did not happen
 while he was at the wicket facing a primitive form of leg-theory or Bodyline?
 Given the poisonous atmosphere which pervaded the Royal Household, who is
 to say that some malevolent Jardine of a courtier did not decide to neutralise this
 turbulent heir to bring some peace to the King by arranging this early display of
 Bodyline where the bowler’s target was not the wicket but the batsman?

 George II was certainly a nasty piece of work as this verse, on the death of
 Frederick, written by that most prolific of poets, Anonymous, testifies:-

 "Here lies Fred,
 Who was alive and is dead:
 Had it been his father,
 I had much rather" .

 Like the Bodyline episode of 1932, the death of Frederick could be said to have
 had an effect on British colonial policy. His death meant that his son now
 became heir to the throne. He succeeded his grandfather in 1760 as George III.
 Now he was the last really interventionist monarch in British political history.
 During the earlier part of his reign, before he succumbed to madness, there was
 a recognisable King’s Party in Parliament. One can go so far as to say that it
 was his injudicious meddling in the creation of ministries which led to the
 eventual loss of the American Colonies. Perhaps if a cricket ball had not struck
 his father down and he went on to reign as Frederick I, the whole of North
 America and not just Canada would still be within the British Commonwealth of

 Neither the U.S.A. nor Canada belong to the great commonwealth of cricketing.
 The summer game played in both these countries is baseball. It is a popular
 misconception that the U.S. A. turned its back on cricket as a further assertion
 of its independence from Britain. This is not the case, as the direct ancestor of
 baseball is the old English game of rounders.

 Baseball, originally base ball, along with rounders, was first described in 1744 in
 A Little Pretty Pocket Book in which there was a woodcut illustration of the
 children’s game of baseball. This book was extremely popular in England.
 Editions eventually appeared in America in 1762 and 1787. 1744 was also a land
 mark in the history of cricket as it is from then that the first important version of
 the rules of the game was produced.

 Cricket did not really take root in the American colonies. Baseball did not,
 therefore, supersede it there; both games developed simultaneously. Baseball is
 not so much an expression of anti-Englishness as an expression of the American
 national temperament which lacks the patience to appreciate the subtleties of

(The perspective of "the American national temperament ...lacking ...the
patience to appreciate the subtleties of cricket" would now appear to have
crossed the Atlantic with the adoption of the 20 over games being played at
a "first class level" in England. JH.)