11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2008
Sadly, most people's knowledge of the Bodyline tour will have been gleaned from Australian TV's hideously one-sided and inaccurate drama based around the events of 1932-33. Happily, David Frith, a wonderfully skilled cricket writer with a foot in both camps, has painstakingly brought the series to life in what is the finest cricket book I've ever read.
Frith's attention to detail combined with his love of the game, not to mention his ability in recreating a time when the Commonwealth (and, indeed, cricket) still really mattered, makes this book stand out from the pack.
Frith has met or interviewed virtually all of the key players in the Bodyline tour, and therefore his characterisation of cricketers - from the toadying Gubby Allen to the obstinate, loyal Harold Larwood - has an air of authority that few, if any, would have been able to recreate.
I'd strongly recommend this book not only to cricket fans whose love of the game goes beyond a passing interest for a few months in the summer of 2005, but to anyone with a love of social history, or indeed and interest in exploring the English psyche. The era when there were gentlemen and players may have passed, but the English attitude to sport - the misplaced air of superiority combined with being torn between wanting to take the moral high ground while having a burning desire to win at all costs - explored in this book is still highly relevant some 75 years after the event. Frith leaves no stone unturned in his quest to get to the truth of what happened on the Bodyline tour and writes in a refreshingly balanced manner. If the Aussies decide to make another TV version of the events of 1932-33, they could do a lot worse than appoint Frith as the script editor.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2004
Having known very little about Bodyline (It was 65 years before I was born!) I decided to find out more. This book gives an excellent overview of Bodyline and Leg Theory, giving the differences between the two and the history. The book is well researched and contains a very balanced arguement, in that it shows the Austrailian, English and World cricket views. It also defines the incident in the context if the politics of the time. This may make the book seem rather heavy, but the descriptions of the atcual cricket are well done and from other sources I have read, seems to be very accurate all round. A brilliant book for any cricket fan
on 12 December 2014
This was the first of the Bodyline Books that I read, and is worth a thoroughly good read. I found it addictive reading,.but a few books further on, one is very much led to suspect that the author was not entirely neutral in his views. There is a anti Jardine line from the start, and he says as much in the first chapter. There is a reluctance also to name Bradman as the great dressing room leaker. Despite the evidence of Jack Fingleton (naming him), Bill Woodfall Jnr (saying Jack Fingleton's book covers it well) and the daughter of the Journalist, who covered the story of the time, confirming that her father had stated that Bradman was the culprit..
One feels that a little too much credence is given to rumours, off the record remarks and old stories where there are no records at all of them taking place. I am not comfortable with some of the conclusions drawn.
A much better book is Bodyline Hypocrisy by Michael Arnold. His book digs so much deeper, and confines itself to on the record statements and checkable facts. All parties are given a very fair hearing, and it is very difficult to deny that very many previous conclusions were false. I would ask reviewers to read both before commenting. .
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Five star reviews abound on Amazon, but this is the first time I've seen a product get a 100% record of 5* on a significant number of intelligent, enlightening & well-written reviews. No surprise that I'm adding my own to the total, then. Whether you know nothing more of the so-called bodyline tour than the hype, hyperbole, and propaganda, or whether you already know far more than that, this is a hugely enjoyable & interesting read.
It is written in what I think of as "Cricket style"; prosy, but not too florid, prone to tangents & anecdotes, but veer though it may from time to time, they are never irrelevant or dull. I know a fair amount about the history of cricket, but not only is this a thoroughly absorbing book, there were plenty of nuggets of information that were new to me (for example, the fact that pretty much all of the surviving players were pretty disgusted with the hugely inaccurate 1985 Australian "Bodyline" TV drama). The less you know, the more you'll get from this; knowing more will not lessen your enjoyment. It's a terrific re-telling of a crucial period of cricketing history, and well worth a place on your bookshelf.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2009
this is an amazing book. david frith has done a remarkable job in creating a fantastic atmosphere as regards the bodyline series of 1932/1933. its almost like you are actually there.
i would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of test cricket. 10/10
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2010
In 1877 the First ashes match was recognised, as an event in cricket sporting history and the matches continued over the years every 18 months. In 1932-33 the latest five match series took place, Douglas Jardine england captain. Bill Woodfull australian captain, Mr jardine employed bowling (bodyline) tactics. That were considered controversial to say the least, aimed at stopping australian batsman Donald George Bradman. Who had taken england and the counties teams apart, scoring 2960 runs at an average of 98.66.
The decision was taken to use this method of bowling using englands fastest bowlers. Harold Larwood and Bill Voces both of nottinghamshire, bowling at the head and body with seven fielders on the legside close in. And two on the offside.
The third test saw bodyline used to devastating effect, the australian captain Bill woodfull was hit in the chest a few times with larwood. Delivering the blows, had the ventricle filled with blood at the wrong moment would have been killed him.
It also saw Bert Oldfield the Australian wicketkeeper struck on the head, fracturing his skull. But the delivery struck his bat before hitting him on the head, this was not a bodyline field. He was taken unconscious from the field of play, but thankfully returned for the final test which. England won the third test and with it the ashes but not without being called unsporting. Which nearly ended the series there and then but commonsense prevailed, the 1934-35 series went ahead the aussies winning.
Eventually the series was fogotten and everything went back to normal in cricketing terms, then in 1976 the australians commemorating the series. Giving their version of what happend so long ago threatened to undermine the good relationship with a farcical television programme. In 2002 this book by David Frith, came out bodyline autopsy telling what really happened. And putting to bed once and for all the controversy, in this readers opinion any way. If you like sport and controversy then this is the book you should read very recommended
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2006
I have seen newsreel footage of Harold Larwood bowling in this series. It brings a tingle to the spine - in particular the critical moment of the whole series, whereby a delivery unleashed from Larwood struck wicketkeeper-batsman Bert Oldfield on the head and fractured his skull in the Third Test at Adelaide.
It is difficult today to understand the impact that Bodyline had on cricket. Fast leg-theory had been practiced certainly since Victorian times, but never with bowlers of such pace, ferocity and consistency as Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, the Nottinghamshire duo, and never with a field set so aggressively - most fielders behind square leg, and no-one on the off side further forward than Point. Risk getting hit, fend off a delivery and risk getting caught. Hook, and risk getting caught.
To say that Bodyline endangered relations between England and Australia is not an understatement.
This is an excellent, well researched book. Unbiased, it paints the picture in great detail as to how the Bodyline saga unfolded. You witness the proceedings from a number of different points of view.
We see how Douglas Jardine, the England captain, knew that the key to the Ashes was to stop Don Bradman. How Jardine had a suspicion that Bradman was susceptible to short pitched bowling. How he executed his plan, and how Harold Larwood was key to this. We witness the execution of the plan, the growing unpopularity in Australia, and the flashpoint at Adelaide which nearly provoked a riot and very nearly caused the series to be cancelled.
We see the heroics. Stan McCabe's battling 189 against Bodyline. Eddie Paynter's heroic 83 having discharged himself from hospital to save England. Bill Woodfull taking blow after blow on the body rather than give up his wicket. Don Bradman's improvised batting technique to combat Bodyline.
We see the shocks. Bradman's first ball dismissal attempting to hook Bill Bowes, for example.
We witness the aftermath. Both political and sporting. How the rules were eventually changed to ban Bodyline. And an intriguing late chapter which moves forward in time and suggests that repeated short pitched bowling from the like of Lillie and Thomson (1970s), Marshall and Garner (1980s) et al is not that dissimilar from Bodyline. How very fast bowlers terririse batsman to this day.
But most of all, one gets a real history of how things used to be. How the pace of life appeared to be much slower. For me, there is the overriding feeling that this was possibly the beginning of "gamesmanship" as we know it today. Douglas Jardine sacrificed sportsmanship, and Harold Larwood too in pursuit of the Ashes. Larwood was simply doing his job. He had no other choice. He was a Professional - a workhorse who had to do as he was told. An ex-miner from Nuncargate, he was bowled to destruction by Jardine. A Captain of England in those days could only be an Amateur - a gentleman, even. We therefore see the human side to this saga too. How Larwood was subsequently ostracised by the authorities for his part in Bodyline and how he emigrated to Australia to start a new life.
This is an excellent book, which I consider to be the definitive history on the subject. It is very readable and it is certainly a book I turn to time and time again on my bookshelf.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2010
A comprehensively well-researched and written book. Frith is scrupulous in his analysis and reportage from pre-Bodyline, up until the present day (well until Bradman's death). I personally didn't realise the scope of it's reverberations and I felt educated by the script. One forgets the historical and political context that it all transpired within. It is particularly interesting to see the ping pong diplomacy between the MCC and the Australian equivalent. I was quite moved by it all, especially the ending. It is quite enduring when reviewing the legacies of Larwood and Jardine; and althought they have books dedicated to their own careers, his concise words do justice and culminate in a fantastic read. I have given it five because I enjoyed it immensely and don't think it could be bettered, unless something scandalous emerged. A long but worthy read.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2012
Sensationalist title of my review don't you think?
And before I get deluged with insults from Bradman fans just look at the evidence presented in this book.
I have read the book twice in case my conclusions were biased against Bradman, a man I disliked intensely for all his outward charm he was basically a whinger of the 'if you don't bowl nicely to me it's my bat and my ball and I'm going home' variety!
When Woodfull and Oldfield were hit in Adelaide Fast Leg-Theory was not being bowled! Like Jardine and Larwood I detest the term 'Bodyline'! Woodfull and Bradman it could be claimed induced the crowd to near riot status by ducking balls that only just cleared the stumps, thus keeping the crowd at fever pitch, and even a confirmed 'Ferret' like myself, who goes in after the 'Rabbitts' would have had a slog at those deleveries.
I believe Larwood and Jardine to a lesser extent were made the scapegoats for Fast Leg-Theory, though it was the tactic that did win the Ashes. Both were honourable men, which to my mind was more than could be said of Bradman, who, it has to be said was not a great team man and not that well liked either, on or off the cricket field. A story doing the rounds in 1948 when Bradman got out short of his 100 test average Jack Fingleton and Bill O'Reilly, former 32/33 series team mates, almost rolled around the press-box floor with laughter, much to the chagrin of one Neville Cardus, who it has to be said couldn't take a joke at the best of times. Gubby Allen and Plum Warner hardly come out of the tour covered in glory either, the former telling tales behind Jardine's back whilst calling him friend to his face, and Warner was quite simply the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time, far too weak to handle Mr Jardine. And furthermore what would Bradman have made of the unrelenting West Indian pace attack of the 70's and 80's? And his own Australians were not backwards in coming forwards with the short pitched stuff? My conclusion there is that in Bradman's case it was fine to dish it out but not to be on the receiving end. As he is alleged to have said smiling in 1948 when Miller and Lindwall were pitching it short, 'You've got a bat haven't you? Why you fellows don't just step inside the line and whack it to the fence?' To my mind a spiteful thing to say compared to his whining in 32/33.
But the book was a darn good read and worthy of 5 stars and has lead me into further research on the 'Fast Leg-Theory' Test series, like the Aussie biased TV mini-series that almost had me wanting to see Larwood remove Bradman's head from his shoulders! Though it still reamins a mystery why or how so much of the archive material at Lord's had either been destroyed or 'gone missing'?
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2011
OK, every cricket fan has heard of Bodyline. You could say the story is so well known that it doesn't require retelling. However David Frith finds a way to explain this story in a new and novel way and put it in historical context. The story is largely about the relationship between Jardine, Larwood and Bradman, however it is so much more than that. The wonderful human story of Eddie Paynter is just one fine example. Frith tells the story wonderfully, to the point that you can almost feel the crowd from the Adelaide Oval in the room with you! A really terrific read. The Times recently scored this book 22 in it's list of 100 greatest all time sporting reads, it should be higher than that! A must for every sports fan.