Fast leg theory
The first name of the fast leg theory is bodyline. The method is to knock out the batsman’s wicket and make him feel as uncomfortable as possible. Fast leg theory is a fast bowler’s serves to the legs or to the bodies of a player with a bat. In the prepared material, we discuss the history of such a serve and other interesting information.
Fast leg theory – history
Bodyline or fast leg theory is a tactic in professional cricket developed in the 1930s. This method consists of the bowler serving the ball directly into the wicket, thereby scaring the batsman (in most cases, striking at the legs or body of the batsman).
For the first time, viewers were able to see fast leg theory in test matches between England and Australia in the period 1932-1933. The method was specially invented to bring down the bright and high-quality results of the Australian batsman Donald Bradman, known by the nickname The Don. He is officially recognized as the greatest batsman of all time. Of course, there were other professional players against whom fast leg serves were used, among them: Bill Woodfull, Bill Ponsford and Alan Kippax.
Fast leg theory is the second name of such throws. The first one who came up with the name for fast serves was a former player from Australia – Jack Worrall. In the 1930s, he was the main man in the press box. It was he who used the phrase bodyline in his articles.
In the XIX century, many players believed that the bowler’s strong throws right at the batsman’s feet were an unsportsmanlike attitude of the batting team. However, every year this opinion changed, and by the beginning of the XX century, a special permitted tactic appeared. The ball was still aimed at the feet or body of the batsman. At the same time, fielders lined up not far from the batsman. The purpose of such throws was to annoy the batting player since the ball was flying quite fast, and the batsman did not have time to beat it off qualitatively (the kick turned out to be weak, and the fielders standing nearby caught the ball quickly).
The opinion that fast leg theory is intimidating and at the same time causes physical harm to players returned after a series of matches in 1932-1933. The use of such tactics by the England team was perceived ambiguously. This method caused disagreement among the players. The Australians believed that England’s bowlers were acting extremely aggressively and unfairly. In a couple of days, the level of conflict has grown to such an extent that even diplomatic relations between the two countries were put at risk; fortunately, everything went well.
Of course, after the scandalous test match, there was a question about the legality of fast leg theory. In 1935, the Marylebone Cricket Club (they are the legal authors of the Laws of Cricket) made some changes regarding the bodyline. The MCC obliged team captains to closely monitor some bowlers’ serves, forbid them to serve direct throws into the batsman’s body. However, this was not enough. Then MCC made more amendments. This time it was prescribed that serves with a direct attack by a player with a bat were considered illegal (the umpires could stop the ball and remove the bowler).
In 1957, the laws were changed once again. There was a limit to staying of fielders (no more than two people, with the exception of the wicket-keeper) behind, next to the batsman. This restriction also applied to the fast leg theory in its own way.
Already now, the talk about the illegal bodyline method has stopped. However, now in cricket, there are serves called bouncer (the ball flies from the bounce of the pitch into the batsman’s body or head), as well as intimidatory bowling tactics. But, bowlers have a limit, according to which it is allowed only to use such serves several times per game. If a player violates the rules – he will be removed.
Did you know that in 1984, the Australian television company Network Ten released a mini-series called Bodyline? The series told about the 1932-1933 test match events starring Gary Sweet as Donald Bradman, Hugo Weaving as Douglas Jardine and Jim Holt as Harold Larwood. The series was filmed for the sake of drama, to show the anger of Australian fans who even burned the British flag at Sydney Stadium after the unfair loss of their team. Critics appreciated the series, although negative reviews were heard from the players who survived at that time, who spoke out for the inaccuracies shown in Bodyline.
To this day, that England team’s trip to Australia remains one of the most significant events in cricket history.