What can we learn from Douglas Jardine about Mankading
On 15th December 1933, that cosy den of the Europeans in Bombay– the Bombay Gymkhana — opened its doors to natives* as it hosted the first ever Test Match in India. Tents were put up around the boundary and tickets sold to the public. Over 50,000 people attended the match every day. The English team was led by Douglas Jardine* and included the great spinner Hedley Verity. A number of stars who had played in India’s first Test in 1932 at Lord’s were missing – Hammond, Paynter, Bowes, Voce, Allen to name a few*. For Jardine it was a homecoming of sorts, captaining a match in the city of his birth*.
Despite the depleted team, England were still in command after the first two days. India were dismissed for 219 which England overtook on Day 2 itself. By the afternoon of Day 3, England were 219 runs ahead boosted by a century by debutant Bryan Valentine*. Captain Jardine scored a 60, and for the Indians, Mohammad Nissar picked 5 wickets*.
Post lunch on Day 3, India went to bat again and soon it was 21/2. Captain CK Nayudu batting at number 4 joined Lala Amarnath. Slowly, the two built a partnership and carried on batting for the rest of the day. The Indian crowd sensed something special was happening and were fully involved in the match. The moment everyone was waiting for came towards the end of the day’s play. In the lengthening shadows, Lala Amarnath tucked a single to bring up his century*.
All hell broke loose. The crowds invaded the pitch throwing their turbans and shawls and gold necklaces and coins into the air. Lala Amarnath was ecstatic, as was CK Nayudu. The normally calm and impassive Colonel was overcome with the moment and switched off from the game. He forgot to ground his bat while completing the run and went over to first congratulate Lala and also wave away the onrushing crowd. In the meantime the fielder had thrown the ball back to the 42-year-old wicket keeper Harry Elliott*. Elliott noticed that Nayudu was out of his crease and he was about to whip the bails off. He hesitated for a moment and he turned to look at Jardine who was standing closeby. Jardine shook his head and Elliott passed the ball back to the bowler*.
Jardine had probably realised the importance of the moment for the Indian batsmen in particular, and Indian cricket in general, and opted not to spoil the scene (even though it was within the laws). Was this an example of a captain respecting the spirit of the game?
I read this story back in the 90s when I found Mihir Bose’s History of Indian Cricket* in the college library. When I read this particular story, there was a conflict in my head. I had seen the Bodyline TV show on Doordarshan* and Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of Jardine created a certain impression – a cold, shrewd and ruthless war general only focused on his goals and not bothered about what happens to people around him. The above story however seemed to suggest that he was completely different – a compassionate, generous person who graciously let the Indians have their moment.
Was it contrition? During the Bodyline series, he was charged with destroying the spirit of the game, a charge that got the peers sitting in MCC all riled up with indignation. Did the captain mellow down after the intensity of the previous winter and the various recriminations that followed both in Australia and back home in England? Or was he playing the enemy and acting according to the situation? Against Australia the previous winter, he was up against the world’s best batsman and in charge of a team that wanted to be a serious contender in what was then and still is the most prestigious of cricket contests – The Ashes. Against India in 1933-34, he was leading an MCC team on tour of India and Ceylon and there was a “happy go lucky kind of picnic air” hanging over the matches*. The MCC / England team were significantly superior and there was no need to be overtly competitive.
I am inclined to believe in the latter. It is generally agreed that Jardine was a fine captain and a fair and strong leader. His bodyline strategy was a perfectly fair and legitimate concept since it focused on making it difficult for batsmen. A fast rising delivery on the leg side is always awkward to play*. Even today. Fast bowlers don’t mind taking a no-ball and continue to look to put one up the rib cage, just to see what the batsman is worth. Given the importance of the contest and the quality of competition, Jardine adopted a gameplan that made perfect sense. In India, he saw no need to be officious and petty. He let things be.
To me, the spirit of the game is just that – to know how to balance ultra-competitiveness and discretion. In the right situation, the former makes for a great spectacle. In the wrong situation it becomes ridiculous. It is a matter of judgment of the person, usually the captain. There cannot be a written code to say when to do what. Douglas Jardine got it right most of the time. Greg Chappell and Tony Greig, unfortunately, didn’t.
When a tailender batsman comes in to bat along with a top order batsman, it is common to see captains open the field so that the top order batsman takes a single and puts the lower batsman on strike. The fielding team is clearly telling the tailender what they think of his batting. If one analyses it properly, one can argue it is against the spirit of the game. But it does add to the contest by challenging the tailender to do better than people expect him to.
When Greg Chappell ordered his brother to bowl underarm, it was an error in judgment*. With six required of one ball, it was within Trevor Chappell’s abilities to bowl a delivery that McKenhie couldn’t hit. NZ started the over requiring 15 to win and in the first five deliveries, Trevor conceded just 8 runs and took 2 wickets. Tony Greig dismissing Alvin Kallicharan was also an error in judgment*.
The recent controversy (or rather the still continuing controversy) about whether Mankading is within the spirit of the game can be addressed with same principle above. Mankading is now a law officially drafted by the MCC.
During the Senanayake – Butler incident a few years back, the MCC very clearly scoffed at the English players for making a fuss about it*. It is not easy being a bowler – the game is anyway skewed against them – short boundaries, heavy bats, field restrictions, restrictions on bouncers, and more. On top of that, the batsman is trying to unfairly take an extra run. This rule at least gives the bowler one weapon to hit back at the batsmen.
In the recent, West Indies vs Zimbabwe, U-19 World Cup match, the only unfortunate thing was the narrow margin of error. The decision had to go to the third umpire to see if the bat was in or not. If the Zimbabwean batsman had just held back half a second, he would have been safe. And maybe we would have had a different winner of the World Cup. But given the state of the contest, the act was clearly valid and fair.
Those who understand the game will recognise actions that convey the spirit of the game, when they happen. It is usually those who are unaware of the laws, or are simply not clued in to the game, who seem to cry foul when they see something they don’t like or understand. In the case of players who complain about their opponents being unfair, it tends to be the unsporting or overcompetitive ones..
To go back to Douglas Jardine, what would he have said about Mankading? In an Ashes series, if Bradman was the non-striker trying to steal a single, Jardine would have bloody well made sure that the bowler took the bails off. For that matter, any captain would do it. But then again Bradman being Bradman, something like this never happened. Because Bradman followed MCC’s advice. He stayed in his crease.
- The Bombay Gymkhana set up in 1875 in one end of the Esplanade grounds was exclusively for Europeans. The only natives in the club were the servants who had a separate enclosure and entryway. Even Ranji was not allowed entry. The Bombay Gymkhana selected the Europeans team for the Bombay Presidency matches which later expanded to become the Pentangular tournament.
- MCC winter tours to the colonies were important gigs for professional cricketers as it meant they didn’t have to look for work after the cricket season ended in September. However, given the long travels involved, it was usually voluntary and most of the top players preferred to stay back or save their energies for the Ashes tour to Australia. So it was a bit of a surprise to all to see the reigning captain of England come down to India. Jardine was made captain in 1931 against the touring New Zealand team.
- Post Bodyline, most of the fast bowlers were left out by the England team and only after they publicly apologised for their leg theory bowling were they brought back in. The only person who refused to apologise was Harold Larwood. Larwood never played for England again and would later migrate to Australia after being shunned by the England public.
- Jardine was born in Bombay. He is thus the first captain from Bombay to be a Test Captain, establishing the roll of honour that would include the likes of Ajit Wadekar, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri.
- Bryan Valentine, the first person to score a Test century in India, would play 7 Test Matches, his last match in March 1939. Post WW2, he was well into his 40s and there was no chance of getting another shot. His 136 in Bombay remains his highest Test score
- Mohammad Nissar in his very first innings in Test cricket took a fiver in Lord’s thus becoming the first Indian to find himself on the honours board. Nissar, Kapil Dev, Zaheer Khan, Vinoo Mankad and Chandra is the dream bowling combination that most cricket pundits seem to agree upon.
- Lala became the first Indian playing for India to score a century. Ranji, Duleep and the Nawab of Pataudi Sr had scored centuries while playing for England.
- England had a number of great wicketkeepers in those days – Duckworth was one. But the king of them all was Leslie Ames, first choice for all the captains of that time. Only when he opted out of a tour, like this one to India, was someone else considered.
- Lala Amarnath ended Day 3 on 102 and CK Nayudu was on 44. The night before, the newswires were flashing all over and people from Pune took the Deccan Queen next day to watch Lala play. Those who reached the game early were entertained for the first two hours when CK and Lala went after the bowling. Lala got out for 118 and CK Nayudu made 67. India just about overcame their first innings deficit leaving England a target of 39 runs to get. The match was over post lunch on Day 4.
- A very voluminous book but extremely well written with lots of stories and a comprehensive appendix of India’s Test matches and various records, it came out in 1990. It covers the entire period right up to the debut of Sachin Tendulkar. The years that follow require their own history.
- This 1984 Australian TV production was broadcast in India on Doordarshan around that time as well. Through this show, I got to know of names like Sir Don Bradman, Bill O’Reilly, Ponsford, etc.
- The legendary Jack Hobbs traveled with the MCC team as part of the press contingent and his assessment of the state of cricket in India was overall positive but he did remark that Indians need to take the game a little more seriously.
- The leg theory school of bowling was not unplayable. It was not a negative strategy with the intent to harm and injure people but rather a strategy that required special skills and alertness to play. It required nimble footwork to create the space to play the ball properly. And one has to keep one’s eye on the ball all the time. Bert Oldfield ducked early and didn’t judge the ball correctly. He was hit on the face, a photograph that is etched in everybody’s memory. It was a weakness in the great Bradman and Jardine was determined to take advantage of it. it forced the great batsman to change his technique to counter it. Bradman ended the season with an average in the mid 50s – a fantastic average for any batsman to have but when compared to Bradman’s own career average, it was, as Cardus put it wryly, a failure – a failure only by Bradman’s standards.
- Greg Chappell would plead temporary insanity saying he was mentally not fit to lead having had a stressful season.
- Mike Denness, the then England captain, felt what Greig did was premeditated but there was no way Greig would have admitted it. This was the first Test Match of a five match series and given the lynch mob that was waiting outside for them, it made sense to withdraw the appeal.
- It’s the batsman’s fault, says the MCC. He is doing an unfair thing by trying to steal a run before the ball is bowled.