Don Bradman’s Average Plummeted in the Body-line Series
Don Bradman’s average plummeted in the Body-line series when the need for raw courage was added to the equation. One error of timing could end the lot. I wish Donald Bradman’s had shown more of the traditional spirit, just as I wish the body-line row had never developed. But I do not blame him. I believe that no criticism of Donald Bradman can be valid because above all he did try to score runs.
I felt he was always giving me a chance and I preferred bowling to him and Stan McCabe than any of the other Australians. I think body-line erupted because it was felt that Don Bradman’s had failed the Australian crowds, yet he finished the series with an average of 56, just ahead of Wally Hammond and Bert Sutcliffe for England.
But he didn’t make the big scores the crowds expected of him. The alert Australians were quick to sense that body-line had been hatched for his discomfort. It will be seen that I do not agree with my former skipper, who, after the Tests, wrote that he was sorry to disappoint anybody who imagined leg theory was evolved with the help of midnight oil and iced towels simply and solely for the purpose of combating Bradman’s effectiveness as a scoring machine. Jardine said, “However highly Don Bradman’s may have been rated, this view is exaggerated.
It did, however, seem a reasonable assumption that a weakness in one of Australia’s premier batsmen might find more than a replica in the play of a good many of his contemporaries, some of whom had doubtless modeled their play on his body-line was devised for Don: it would never have been used if he had not drawn away at the Oval in 1930 to avoid being hit. He asserted later.
Bill Woodfull was at a disadvantage being able to hook with his slow-foot-redness and crouching style, and probably he influenced the other players because of his own attitude. But I do not question Bill Woodfull courage or sincerity. A very correct man, he gave reporters the impression he would ‘rather sacrifice the Ashes than retaliate, and the Board ‘of Control members were no doubt influenced in not seeking retaliation for the simple reason they could not call upon a really fast bowler.
In that respect body-line was a stroke, of genius: the Australians were beaten on tactics. Bill Woodfill ducked frequently, at times unnecessarily I thought, but he also stood up to me, preferring to take balls on the body rather than make a stroke. Bill Ponsford, Jack Fingleton, and Richardson behaved in a similar way.
They had guts Jack Fingleton was probably the most courageous man I ever bowled to. Bradman’s approach was different. He didn’t want any knocks or to take risks. In some respects, Bradman’s and my career were similar. We both came from humble beginnings, cricket being the one thing that lifted us out of the crowd, and we achieved fame in the same era. I think ‘that as Don Bradman’s looked down the wicket at me when I ran in to bowl, he could see his career flash in front of him: he was a national hero and making more money than he had thought possible.