Tag Archives: masculinity


A few words about the men who cause the brave cricketers' injuries.

A few words about the men who cause the ‘brave’ cricketers’ injuries.

Last week I dealt with the heroics of cricketers who played on in-spite of nasty injuries.  But what about the cricketers who cause injury to others?  The villains (depending on you point of view!).  Here are a few possible candidates.

Grievous Bodily Harmison –  On the first day of the Ashes 2005 Stephen Harmison took 5-43 in an extremely aggressive spell.  He hit Justin Langer on the elbow, broken Matthew Hayden’s helmet and smashed the grille on Ponting’s helmet causing a dramatic looking gash on his cheek.  Ricky Pointing recalls the moment in his Ashes Diary

“There was no pain, just a ringing feeling as the impact of the blow reverberated around my head.  I felt fine, but pretty quickly I began to feel something trickling down the side of my face, and when I looked at my shirt I could see bloody dripping onto it.”

A delighted Steve Harmison celebrates Damien Martyn's wicket

It was generally felt that England were attempting to show intent with this aggression.  It was not only the style of bowling that was aggressive but it was noticeable that Harmison did not approach any of the Australian batsmen to see if they were OK after they had been struck.  It was also felt that England were being unnecessarily aggressive in the field when throwing the ball at the stumps while the batsman was in his ground – Pointing accused Vaughan and his team of “macho posturing”.

So is Steve Harmison a villain?  Steve Harmison himself was later to describe the moment as one of the worst of his career.  And he was not referring to the balls he bowl but the fact he failed to show the courtesy of checking that the batsmen were alright.  I do sort of agree with him, it’s always nice to see good manners even in the heat of battle.  On the other hand I doubt Ponting would have welcomed his concern, in another match he was hit by Matt Prior while fielding at silly point, Prior asked if he was OK and Pointings reply was apparently a colourful range of expletives!   England were attempting to show a different, more competitive side and I think they went too far.  I won’t condemn Harmison as a villain however, as he has shown remorse, just a temporary bully.  What do you think?

The cut required 8 stitches.

The cut required 8 stitches.

The West Indian Pace Quartets – these men were not only accused of bullying bowling tactics but of altering the whole game of cricket for the worse!

“Until we can breed 7 ft monsters willing to break bones and shatter faces, we cannot compete against these threatening West Indians.  Even the umpires seem be scared that devilish-looking Richards might put a voodoo sign on them!” (from a letter to Wisden Cricket Monthly, June 1990)

“Their game is founded on vengeance and violence and is fringed by arrogance.” (David Frith. editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, 1991)

Bloody Windies! England tour of terror.’ (News of the World headline 1994)

The main accusation against the West Indian team was that they relied on violence and fear to get wickets rather than skill.  And that this tactic resulted in games than were less interesting to watch as they lacked bowling variety.  Fast aggressive bowling was nothing new but their speed and their use of four fast bowlers rather than the more traditional two gave batsmen little respite from the onslaught.

Mike Gatting had lost part of his nose after being hit in the face by a ball from Marshall

Mike Gatting lost part of his nose after being hit in the face by a ball from Marshall

So were these players villains?  Injuries were caused but then injuries have always been a feature of cricket as last week’s blog demonstrated, did they deserve the special vilification they sometimes attracted?  The allegation that they relied on terror is under serious dobt, the introduction of the one-bouncer per over rule in 1991 did little to dent the team’s success rate, so arguments that the relied on intimidation and lacked talent appear unfounded.   As to intimidation and aggression these are a traditional tactics to restrict a batsman’s scoring options, and unlike with Bodyline (see below), the fields set did give talented batsmen some scoring options.

Michael Holding bowling

“It would be naive and misleading of me to claim that I never bowl bouncers without trying to intimidate the batsmen. On the contrary, I want him to be aware that if he gets on the front foot against me he might find himself in trouble – in other words he might get hurt. But that is quite a different thing from actually wanting or intending to hurt him. I have no desire to hurt anyone.” (Michael Holding)

I don’t think the West Indies pace attacks were villains, just talented aggressive fast bowlers.  I also find the arguments of Savidge and McLellan quite convincing, in that much of the criticism levelled  at the West Indian quicks was tinged with jealousy, sour grapes, and at times, racism.

The Bodyliners – Now for the big one!  Possibly the most vilified group of cricketers in cricketing history.

So bad they almost caused an international incident! - Cable from the ABC to MCC.

So bad they almost caused an international incident! – Cable from the ABC to MCC.

Described as ‘leg theory’ by it’s proponents but more commonly know as ‘bodyline’ – bodyline bowling involves the bowler pitching the ball short and directed at the batsman’s torso or head while the majority of fielders are places on the leg-side.  It wasn’t a new technique, it was often used to restrict runs, what was different in the 1932-33 Ashes was the speed at which the ball was being bowled by Harold Larwood and Bill Voce greatly increasing the chance of injury to the batsmen.  During the series most Australian batsmen were struck resulting in a number of injuries.  It was thought captain Douglas Jardine chose to using this controversial style of bowling in an attempt to restrain the mighty Don Bradman.

So was there villainy afoot?  And if so who were the villains?  Amateur captain Jardine the mastermind, or professional bowlers Voce and Larwood who followed his orders to the letter?  Or none of them?  Or all three?

Jardine is often seen as the most likely candidate of the three for villainy.  An old school amateur cricketer, upper-class and utterly unapologetic about his choice of ‘win at all costs’ tactics.  Larwood also comes in for heavy criticism especially as he was the one who bowled the ball which hit Australian Captain Woodfull over the heart leaving him reeling in agony.

"the most unsportsmanlike act ever witnessed on an Australian ground." Selector Bill Johnson's verdict on that Larwood delivery.

“the most unsportsmanlike act ever witnessed on an Australian ground.” Selector Bill Johnson’s verdict on that Larwood delivery.

It does seem, however, that the Australians forgave Larwood, he eventually emigrated to Australia and was well received.  Perhaps the former miner was a more likeable figure than the reticent upper-class Jardine.

The bodyline incident was a very unpleasant event in the history of cricket.  Larwood is hard to condemn as a villain, he was treated appallingly by the MCC post-bodyline and physically paid a high price for following his captain’s orders.  Jardine is harder to forgive so I’ve decided that he does qualify for a degree of villainy.

Finally – not a causer of injury, but the biggest villain of the bunch!  I was reading a story which I thought might be a strong contender for inclusion in my blog on heroes.  In 1919 in a match between Sussex and Somerset the scores were level with Sussex 9 wickets down, their number 11, H J Heygate, had problems with rheumatism and was crippled with pain.  But he bravely hobbled out to the wicket as he knew his team needed him.  He arrived at the crease and Somerset’s L. Braund immediately appealed to the umpire.  Heygate was given out as it had taken him longer than 2 minutes to arrive at the crease and the game was declared a draw to the disgust of the crowd.  Now that really wasn’t cricket.  What a villain!


(Further reading : Ashes Diary 2005 by Ricky Ponting & Brian Murgatroyd, Real Quick: A Celebration of the West Indies Pace Quartets by Michele Savidge & Alastair McLellan, Cricket’s Hall of Shame by Dave Warner – all available in the MCC library)

NB – This post was inspired by philgreaney.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, bowling, British Empire, Cricket, England, History, injury, MCC, Umpiring, West Indies

I need a hero!

batting sling

Playing through the pain.

I’m in a very bad mood today.  It’s a damp day outside, I had to endure England’s dismal batting performance into the early hours and I have a sore toe – I’m fed up and uninspired!  I don’t want to be at work I want to be in bed, or slumped on the sofa with the curtains closed playing my new Lara Croft game.  I’ve been in a bad mood all week, the pain in my toe has caused me to limp, having a knock on effect of causing me to strain some kind of muscle in my leg.  I’m miserable, I feel sorry for myself, it’s all going wrong so I think I need some tales of cricket heroism and stoicism to help me keep going!

I’ve found three tales of bravery and endurance  to bring to you today, but hope this will inspire you to think of loads more and to send to me to give me encouragement in my difficult hour.

Going back to 1984 we have Paul Terry who batted with a broken arm (http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63378.html).  At first glance his efforts don’t appear all that heroic, scoring just 7 runs in the first innings, absent hurt in the second and his side crashing to defeat by an innings and 64 runs.  But a closer look shows his 7 runs allowed Lamb to get his century.  It was an effort for his team-mate – a heroic gesture in a lost cause!

Paul Terry

“Just hold your end up until he gets his hundred”

For our next heroic tale we go back to 1963 (http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62930.html ).  An England v West Indies broken arm batting performance again, this time from Colin Cowdrey.  His arm was broken while he was batting on the fourth day, he retired hurt and went for treatment, but then on the fifth day with 2 balls to go and England desperately trying to hold out for a draw on 228 for 9 (still 6 runs behind) he was needed again!  He came out to the crease, his arm in plaster ready to do his duty – luckily he didn’t have to face a ball – but he was ready to do his bit – what a man!  He describes the moment in his autobiography …

“So with six runs needed and two balls to go I walked out to the wicket.  Although I later saw photographs of myself looking very grave I felt confident that even if I had to face a couple of overs I could keep the ball out of my wicket one-handed.”

Cowdrey in plaster

For our final hero we go all the way back to 1836, a time when cricketers played without pads and when men were men (if this tale is anything to go by!)  The player was Alfred Mynn, the match North v South at Leicester played before a capacity crowd.  During the pre-match practise Mynn was hit hard by the ball in the ankle, he returned to his lodgings where a doctor strapped up his ankle for him and things didn’t seem too bad.  His side, the South, batted all day and he wasn’t needed.  The next day he felt much better and came into bat with a runner at 8.  He batted well and even forgot his runner at times!  Patrick Morrah describes it in his biography of Mynn.

“His innings started with a minor comedy that kept the spectators in good humour…once he started hitting he forgot all about his leg and his runner…Mynn hit the ball away, and he, Wenman and Taylor all charged up the pitch…the same thing happened several times.”

Mynn cover

He scored 21 not out, but his ankle began to feel worse, he struggled bowling, but did bowl and even took the final wicket!

“Next morning Mynn’s leg had swollen to an alarming extent, and it was painful for him to walk.  Almost any other player would have dropped out of the match, but Alfred would play as long as he could stand, and he was determined to bat.”

This innings there was no comedy running and his agony was evident, yet he scored a magnificent 125 not out.  Throughout his innings his poor leg was bashed by the ball again and again, but he refused to retire and batted five hours.  When the innings ended he staggered to the tent and received medical attention.  The doctor was shocked by the state of his leg… “the leg was so swollen and inflamed that it seemed impossible that any man so disabled could have stood up for so long.”  The doctor told him to go home, where he could receive the best medical attention.  His home was in Kent and there was a coach about to leave for London, but the big man, unable to bend his leg, was not able to fit into the coach and had to lay flat on the roof rack for the entire journey!

Mynn photo

When he got to London he was taken to a tavern, too ill to travel further.  For some time his condition was so serious that he was thought unlikely to live.  And then when he recovered slightly a doctor who assessed his injury recommended amputation of the leg from the hip!  He refused this operation, and did recover, although it was 2 years before he was able to return to the cricket field.

N.B.What happened to Mynn was a major factor in cricket pads becoming more acceptable and no longer being viewed as unsporting or unmanly.

Inspirational stuff!  And it’s left me feeling rather ashamed of my complaints about my toe.

(Further reading: ‘M.C.C. the Autobiography of a Cricketer’ by Colin Cowdrey.  ‘Alfred Mynn and the Cricketers of his time’ by Patrick Morrah.  Both books available in the MCC library.)


Filed under Cricket, History, injury

Men in pants


Haven’t had much time for the blog this last week as I’ve been beavering away with my cataloguing as well as battling a horrible cold and finding time to play with my bow and arrow.  I’ve seen lots of interesting and baffling things in my brochures and annuals thoughI’m always amazed by what books supposedly about cricket can actually tell you about the societies they’re written by, be it gender, race, class – all the big issues can be found somewhere in our cricket collection.  This week what has stood out as a fascinating issue in my annuals is the changing ideal of masculinity.  I have chosen to depict my findings through a pictorial collection of men in their underwear – enjoy!

We start in the 1920’s with the ‘An-on’, the Onesie of it’s day. Note that the model demonstrates his masculinity with his manly moustache and is clearly an athletic gentlemen, also note the availability of ‘super silk’ for the sophisticated sensually inclined man.

In the 1930’s the look is rawer, more minimalist and assertive. This man shows his confidence with his revealing undergarments, flaunts his manly figure with his stance and challenges us with his forceful, almost confrontational facial expression.

By the early 1960s things had changed once more, we now have a man at ease with himself and fully in touch with his feminine side. The image suggests he is far more concerned with avoiding ‘flaccid elastic’ than with proving his masculinity.

So what have we learnt?  Any comments?

Aside from exploring men in their underwear I’ve also spent this week working on a digital story from Kushil Gunaskera about the power of sport.  Please have a listen at http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/power-sport


Filed under advertisements, adverts, British Empire, cataloguing, Cricket, England, India, Librarianship, Lord's Cricket Ground, MCC, Sri Lanka, underwear