Almanac Book Review: ‘The Bodyline Fix – How Women Saved Cricket’ by Marion Stell

 

 

 

 

SAVING GRACE

When Ashleigh Gardner sat on the grass in South Africa,  with her mouth wide opened, watching the women’s IPL auction.  I bet she was not thinking  about ‘how women saved cricket’ after the infamous Bodyline series of 1932-33 when sporting relationships between England and  Australia where at an all-time low.

 

Gardner received a contract valued at a whopping $558,000 to play in the inaugural T20 in India next month.  She would have been unaware that in 1937 female cricketeers would have to find 80 pounds (about $400 today) to even have a chance of being selected to tour England.

 

The touring Australian team of 1937 raised the money necessary in any way they could from dances, family members and the ubiquitous chook raffles.  Then they had to get money for their gear as well.  Along with that the players either had to get unpaid leave or lose their jobs completely. They chose the latter.

 

These fascinating fact come out in Marion Stell’s brilliant  and historical expose in  The Bodyline Fix: How Women Saved Cricket.   This book will be a revelation to anyone who imagines that women have only recently began to make their mark on the game.

 

Stell, who has previously written books on women in sport, 30 years ago tracked down the women who played in 2 historic series immediately after the Bodyline fiasco. The 1934-35 tour of Australia and the 1937 Australian tour of England.

 

The book is full of ripping yarns on the single bloody-mindedness of these pioneers of overseas cricket tours and the respect they brought back into the game after the near seceding of Australia from the British Empire after Bodyline. Stories such as when the Australian players were boarded out (1937) in stately English homes where they actually had servants to dress them.  Victorian star Peggy Antonio (a factory worked) politely told them ‘No thanks I can dress myself’.

 

What the Australian players did learn was that there where two classes of people in England which they found out themselves by experience. Some of their memories are hilarious and are a credit to the vigilance of Stell to track them down after such a long period of time after the events.

 

Not only are there great yarns about the women and the cricket but how many of them were introduced to the game.  Either playing on grounds that resembled a potato field (which it was), going to the local council asking for their own ground in Annandale only to lose the ground to the men and getting it back through stealth and the cunningness of women.

 

This book  should be a  must for lovers of the game and also from a historical perspective of what life was like immediately after the Great Depression in both England and Australia.

 

 It should be in everyone’s library not just cricket people.

 

CITRUS BOB

 

 

More from Citrus Bob Utber can be read Here.

 

 

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About Bob Utber

At 84 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he has always done since growing up on a small farm at Lang Lang. Talking, watching and writing sport and in recent years writing books. He lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny) and a groodle named 'Chloe on Flinders' and can be found at Deakin 27 every day.

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