IT is 80 years since Douglas Jardine’s Bodyline bullies snatched the Ashes.
But beneath the hysterical headlines lies inspiration for Australia’s Mission Improbable tour of England.
Bodyline will always be remembered as the series when England brutally bounced out Australia and cut Don Bradman’s impact in half.
But it was much more than that. Captain Jardine’s planning was decades, perhaps half a century, ahead of his time. It was a rousing example of the focus and self-sacrifice needed to beat a high quality opponent in enemy territory.
When England arrived in Perth in 1932 for their opening tour game, they were greeted by a large package containing a giant bottle of whisky for each member of the team.
“Send them back,” said Jardine and, much to the chagrin of a thirsty team, back they went.
When Jardine noticed Freddy Brown’s golf game was corrupting his batting grip, he ordered the young batsman not to pick up his clubs again on tour.
Brown was an amateur, so cricket was a pastime for him and he did not play a Test on tour. But the captain’s order was non-negotiable.
It’s called taking one for the team and it’s something too few Australian players were prepared to do on the recent tour of India.
Discipline, respect, a clear focus and occasionally doing something you don’t want to do . . . if Australia can’t show these qualities in England, they should not bother leaving home.
If they do, they might be surprised by what they find. England are a house with the odd squeaky floorboard or blocked drain if you can get through the front door.
New Zealand recently dismissed England for 204 and 167 with an attack featuring little-known Trent Boult and Neil Wagner. If the Kiwis can trouble England, surely James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris (if fit) can push the harassment level further into the red zone.
As weak as Australia’s batting is, they can be heartened by the fact no English bowler averages less than 29. Key swingman Jimmy Anderson has a strong mind and subtle outswinger but Steve Finn and Stuart Broad can blow hot and cold.
Spinner Graeme Swann may never be what he was after elbow surgery – and even his best work has rarely troubled Australia.
The challenge of beating England is that they are a true team in every way. The sum of their parts is greater than the individual talents. Just as Australia need to be if they are to beat them.