As a Kirkby, Notts born lad Larwood has always been a hero of mine and I’d previously read Duncan Hamilton’s 2009 book – Harold Larwood. Then, more recently, I came across Michael Arnold’s book – The Bodyline Hypocrisy. Having long thought that Larwood and his captain Jardine (not forgetting fellow Notts fast bowler Bill Voce of course) had been used and abused by cricketing authorities to serve wider political ends this book goes into such issues in great detail. Suffice to say it has confirmed my view.
The 1932/33 tour Down Under by a good quality England Team turned out to be the most controversial series just about ever not least because of the accuracy of Larwood’s fast bowling. He could seemingly drop a cricket ball on a sixpence regularly, an art that very, very few really fast bowlers have ever been able to do. Couple that with a captain who knew how to expose the weaknesses in the Australian batting and a great partnership, across a class divide, was created. Add to that the poor condition of the Austrian pitches, which were actually the cause of two infamous incidents where Aussie batsman were seriously hurt, and the fact that the Australians had a poor bowling line up and all that was left to Australians was to complain and complain they did!
I would have loved to have met Harold Larwood but the nearest I was to come was hearing my Mum (Sheila Calladine) talking about being at (Vernon Road?) school, Kirkby-In-Ashfield with one of his daughters – I think that will have been June Larwood.
All in all this book is indeed a good read in cricketing terms but also in helping the reader to understand the times in which the controversy took place and the mind set of Australians.
I was born in Orchard Road Kirkby-In-Ashfield in 1958 and lived there until the age of 6 with my Mum & Dad Sheila & George Robertson. Now exiled on Merseyside I visit Kirkby occasionally.