Life of the Week: Douglas Jardine

The England cricket team caused a storm during the 1932 Ashes tournament against Australia with its use of the controversial ‘bodyline’ bowling tactics. But how much do you know about England’s then captain, Douglas Jardine?

As the 2015 Ashes tournament gets under way, we look back at one of the most renowned names in English cricket history…

Born: 23 October 1900, Bombay (present day Mumbai), India

Died: 18 June 1958, Montreux, Switzerland

Family: Jardine’s mother was named Alison, and his father, Malcolm, was a first-class cricketer for the University of Oxford and county cricket club Middlesex, who later became a barrister in India.  

Jardine married Irene Peat in 1934 and they had four children together – Fianach, Marion, Euan and Iona.

Remembered for: Being one of England’s most renowned and controversial captains in the history of cricket. Jardine led England to its only victory in the Ashes between 1929 and 1953 after beating Australia by four Tests to one in 1932.

His life: Born in what is now Mumbai in 1900, Jardine was surrounded by cricket from a young age, owing to his father’s cricketing career. Having begun his education at Winchester College, Jardine attended New College, Oxford from 1919, where he became involved in a number of the college’s sports teams – most notably the cricket team.

It was here that Jardine began playing first-class cricket and developed his style of play. In a game against the Australian touring team, Jardine scored 96 not out in 1921, and impressed onlookers.

After sustaining a knee injury in 1922, Jardine was forced to take time out to recover, therefore missing the majority of the season’s games. Despite his injury, Jardine made an impression on university cricket watchers, and was selected by The Isis Magazine, an Oxford University publication, as one its men of the year.

Jardine began to play county cricket for Surrey in 1923. During the 1926 season, he scored an impressive 1,050 runs with an average of 43.75 for Surrey. Jardine’s skill on the pitch was recognised as he made his Test debut against the West Indies in 1928.

Alongside his cricket, Jardine found time to qualify as a solicitor after studying law at university in the 1920s.

Jardine was accepted onto the English cricket team’s tour of Australia between 1928 and 1929. He began the tour by scoring three consecutive hundreds, and was seen among the opposition as one of the biggest threats on England’s team. Overall Jardine scored 341 runs during the tour, with an average of 42.62.

Despite his success on the pitch, Jardine earned a reputation among cricket fans. He was teased by members of the crowd for his supposedly slow batting and unwillingness to joke with the onlookers. Many members of the Australian crowds disliked Jardine’s demeanor on the pitch, with one remarking: "Where's the butler to carry the bat for you?"

While it was customary for some Oxford and Cambridge cricketers to wear their university caps during games, the Australian crowds did not approve of Jardine wearing his Harlequin cap, as they saw this as pretentious.

In 1932 Jardine became captain of the Surrey side, and during the following winter he was given the captaincy of England’s national team. With Australia looking on good form for that year's Ashes Test, Jardine had to ensure a strong enough team to face them.

W M Woodfull of Australia ducks to avoid a rising ball from Harold Larwood of England during the fourth Test match at Brisbane on the infamous 'Bodyline' Tour of Australia. (Credit: Central Press/Getty Images)

In order to defuse the threat of Australia’s skillful batsman Don Bradman, Jardine planned for the England team to follow the ‘bodyline’ theory of bowling. Also known as the ‘fast leg theory bowling’, this was a tactic whereby the cricket ball was bowled near to the line of the leg stump in the hope that the ball would be quickly deflected by the batter to one of the fielders close by.

Many commentators, onlookers and members of the Australian team argued against the use of this bowling theory because it was seen as unfair towards the batsman, who were more vulnerable to being hit and more likely to be caught out by the closely positioned fielders.

After the Australian Board of Control vented their objections to the use of bodyline bowling, the Australian cricketers threatened to call off the planned tour of England in 1934. Despite the protestations and controversy surrounding the bowling style at the 1932 Ashes, England went on to beat Australia by four Tests to one under Jardine’s captaincy.

While some might have expected Jardine to lose his captaincy after the controversy of the 1932 Test matches, he was in fact appointed captain of the English team for the series against the West Indies the following year. But despite winning the Test series 2–0, questions arose in regards to Jardine’s future.

Disputes surrounding England’s bodyline style of play continued after the Ashes ended. In 1933 Jardine wrote a book called In Quest of the Ashes in which he voiced his opinions about using fast-paced bowling and defended his team’s use of it during the 1932 Ashes series.

In March 1934, Jardine announced to the press that he had “neither the intention nor the desire to play cricket against Australia this summer”, bringing to an end his first-class career. In the same year, the English administrative body, the Marylebone Cricket Club, ordered that bodyline bowling was to cease, as it was deemed unfair to the batsman.

English cricketer Douglas Jardine walks out to bat in a charity match in 1951. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In 1939 Jardine joined the Territorial Army and was injured during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Later he was given a position in India, where he served in Quetta and then in Shimla, before leaving the army in 1945. Jardine became president of the Association of Cricket Umpires in 1953, and was appointed president of Oxford University Cricket Club between 1955 and 1957.

During a trip to Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe), Jardine contracted tick-bite fever in 1957. After being admitted to hospital, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Jardine died in 1958 at the age of 57 after travelling to Switzerland after his wife believed he would benefit from the fresh air of the mountains to ease his breathing.

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here