(Venkatesh Sridharan.) writes:
>If Thomson and Holding were reduced to looking "only marginally nippy",
>then I must say that with the rather ordinary protective equipment that
>was available to batsmen in those days, I'm surprised that you see so few
>reports of batsmen who were injured in the games played then...
The interesting thing isn't so much the quality of the equipment
as the way it has become higher -- used to be nothing, then pads, then
boxes [OK, out of order!], then gloves, then thigh pads, then chest pads,
then helmets. Must say something about the nature of the game!
You *do* see plenty of reports of injuries in the old days;
"poor Fred", Mynn, Summers and others received notoriously serious
injuries pre-1900, and there was the famous "Punch" cartoon of the
man swathed in bandages being asked "Accident?" "No, I 'ad a hover
of Jackson." [John Jackson, the much-feared Notts fast bowler of the
period]. Bearing in mind how (relatively) few matches there were,
cricket was pretty dangerous, at least until pitches improved towards
the end of the 19th century.
>Either the speedsters of the days gone by were an especially friendly
>lot, and never pitched the ball even short enough to make it rise chest
>high, or the batsmen of the days gone by were incredibly good...
Well, they weren't exactly friendly. But you will recall that
the "Bodyline" tour caused serious international ructions when the
*worst* that Larwood did was to make the ball rise chest high, and that
Cowdrey was thought seriously wimpish for wearing a chest-protector.
The *norm* for a fast bowler in the 1950s was a couple of overs of
flat-out pace, three or so further overs of slower stuff as the bowler
ran out of steam [today's bowlers are typically *much* fitter], then
rest and let the slow bowlers do the work. In the first two overs,
a couple of [chest-high] bouncers to intimidate the batsman was about
as much as was worth using -- any more was just wasting the prime
wicket-taking opportunity; after that, bowling slow bouncers was just a
waste of time. In a day of six hours, 120 overs, there might reasonably
be at most 40 overs by fast bowlers [discounting the medium pacers], of
which 16 might be at full pace, so 16 fast, short-pitched deliveries would
be the norm. Today, the WIndies quartets, rotated to keep them fresh, might
deliver that many bouncers, let alone the merely short-pitched, every hour.
>OR one has to reach the conclusion that as recording equipment and speed
>measuring equipment became available, and became more sophisticated, by
>some *curious* coincidence, the speed of fast bowlers came down,
I don't think this is implied. There are *very* few Test-class
out-and-out fast bowlers. Merely slinging the ball down as fast as
humanly possible doesn't make a good bowler -- you have also to have
control over length and line, and you will be much more dangerous still
if you can add an element of swing. I simply don't know whether (say)
Ambrose and Bishop are faster or slower than (say) Lindwall and Miller
or (say) Voce and Allen. What is clear is that Larwood, Tyson, Thomson
and Holding were significantly faster than the *normal* fast bowler.
Tyson is the fastest I have personally witnessed (by some margin); but
perhaps Thomson and Holding had declined somewhat by the time I saw them
in action at Trent Bridge. None of those four was, as far as I know,
ever measured scientifically in normal action at their peaks; demos in
nets simply aren't the same. It *should* be possible to get *some* info
from newsreel or television footage, but the accuracy would be quite
limited, and for Tyson and Larwood I suspect there are only a rather
small number of recorded deliveries still available, and fewer still
of them bowling flat out. [All the footage I have seen of Larwood --
still pretty impressive! -- is from the "Bodyline" tour, when he was
29, and presumably over the hill. I'd like to see some from 1926-8.]
> and the
>skill of the batsmen deteriorated *so much* that even with improvements in
>the quality of protective equipment, the poor saps were going out and
>getting their wrists/arms/bodies/heads in the way and getting injured more
>frequently than their predecessors.
The "poor saps" are, as detailed above, facing *many* more
dangerous deliveries per year; and are probably dealing with them
in a more dangerous way. Before helmets, only [a minority of] the
really top-class batsman would stand in front of a bouncer; today,
many lesser bats take the risk, and occasionally get hit on the elbow
or the wrist (or the helmet).
>And we suddenly need laws limiting bouncers too! How interesting !
We need laws dealing with dangerous bowling. Full stop. We
have already seen in rugger and soccer the first moves towards suing
players who deliberately injure their opponents. A bowler who
deliberately bowls a fast ball at the batsman's head is, in my view,
criminally responsible if the batsman is injured; and the Laws, the
umpires and the captains must do all they can to make such bowling
unprofitable. I fully agree with your implication than the bouncer
law is unsatisfactory as it stands; but so was the previous (and
still existing, of course) law. I suppose someone must propose a
suitable replacement. How about:
"If the ball passes above chest height, then the ball shall
be called wide and shall not count in the over. There shall
be no penalty for such a wide unless, in the umpire's opinion,
the ball was wilfully aimed at the batsman's person, in which
case two penalty runs shall be added to the score (in addition
to any runs scored by the batsman)."
There you are, you can bowl short at the batsman's midriff or chest as
much as you like [subject to the previous "persistent short-pitched
bowling" unfair-play Law], but anything higher is a waste of effort,
and aiming at the head is penalised.
>PS: What do the "old*er* fogeys" say about the bowlers before Larwood and
> Co.? Were they even quicker ?
The Trent Bridge older fogeys are, of course, biassed; but
Kortright has already been mentioned, and Jones might be another.
I think there was *general* agreement in the 1930s, judging from
articles of the time, that Larwood was as fast as anyone, and most
certainly the fastest of the "great" bowlers, up to that time. I
haven't heard any dispute that Larwood was the fastest genuinely
Test-class bowler before Tyson.
Andy Walker, Maths Dept., Nott'm Univ., UK.