Monday, 14 November 2011

Some Scorpios

Cricketers will of course know that November 14 is a special day.  They will be aware that it should have been declared a holiday many years ago.  In honour of a true great of the game - and one whom the establishment of the game treated shabbily after the bodyline series.  It would have been a small recompense, a small recognition.  Cricketers will know that Harold Larwood day would add immeasurably to the stock of national holidays.  

In Fantasy Bob's opinion, there is no better cricket book that has been written for many years than Duncan Hamilton's biography of the great fast bowler, published in 2009.  FB defies anyone to read it without a lump coming to their throat as it describes how after many years of obdurate shunning the limelight, recognition and applause comes to him late in life in his adopted Australia.  He was eventually awarded the MBE in 1993, 2 years before he died.  This medal may well have been treasured, but not so much as the famous ashtray with the engraved message from his skipper of the bodyline series 'To Harold for the Ashes - 1932-33 From a grateful Skipper.'  Whether Jardine could have done more to help Larwood in the aftermath of the bodyline tour, beyond giving him an engraved ashtray, is one of the unresolved issues of the story.

Cricketers will also know that the great fast bowler shares his birthday with Adam Gilchrist, born in 1971, and in amongst all his other achievements the only player to hit 100 6s in Test cricket.  He probably has lots of ashtrays from Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

What cricketers may not know is that this day is also the birthday of the father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Leopold born in 1719), and the father of Ludwig van Beethoven (Johann born in 1740).  A fascinating coincidence.  Neither father thought to teach their sons anything about cricket which is eternally to their shame, focussing instead in making their sons into profitable child musical prodigies.  However despite this oversight both boys went on to something like success.  Leopold Mozart died in 1787, the same year as Beethoven's mother.

Like Harold Larwood, Ludwig and Wolfgang both fell out in various ways with the aristocratic establishments of their day who were just as nervous about artistic flair and individualism from those conventionally deemed as servants, as the authorities at the MCC were at the extreme stubbornness of a Nottinghamshire pace bowler.  Posterity has reached the appropriate judgement, but biographies are short on information about their ashtrays.


  1. Larwood fans would be well rewarded if seeking out, should it reappear, Nottingham writer Michael Pinchbeck’s stage drama about the bodyline series, The Ashes, premiered at the Nottingham Playhouse – Larwood’s heartland, of course, where his folk hero status remains undimmed – in August and repeated briefly in October.
    It shouldn’t work, but – with the aid of flickering black and white film of the actual matches – it does, most affectingly, with Larwood, Jardine, Allen and Bradman and the momentous events of 1933 springing to life before your eyes.
    It also may be the only stage production to feature an actual cricket ball being bowled (or simulacrum of such), albeit in the guise of net practice at the rear of the stage while dialogue continues in the foreground.

  2. Many thanks - FB heard from friends positive reports of this production - he regrets it is unlikely to be presented nearer home.