“Jardine probably knew much more about India. He was born there, and during the tour accompanied the old butler of the Jardine family to the old cemetery. He was also attracted to Hinduism during his last days”
It was 1933-34.
It would turn out to be the last tour of Douglas Jardine, the last time he turned out for England, the last time his patrician features were seen under a Harlequin cap, marshalling his men in his relentless quest for victory.
His reign had to end. The predictable aftermath of the 1932-33 Ashes triumph, engineered by the infamous Bodyline tactics, the brainchild of this infamous anti-hero of cricket. Harold Larwood, the henchman who provided the killer blows, had already played his last match as he had limped out of the Sydney Cricket Ground alongside the just-dismissed Don Bradman.
Now, Jardine was leading the Test side in India, taking his men around the jewel in the crown of the great Empire, an Empire whose sun was just about showing signs of setting. This was the first time England, or the MCC, were playing official Test matches in India. And Jardine was still at the helm.
It had not been an easy decision. According to the minutes of the MCC Committee meeting of July 10, 1933, “After a prolonged discussion it was decided to invite Mr DR Jardine to captain the team and ask the President and Treasurer [Lord Hailsham and the famed Lord Hawke] of the MCC to have a talk with him when the official invitation was extended.”
Everyone knew his days were numbered. The Australians were scheduled to arrive in England during the summer of 1934. They would not want to see either Larwood or Jardine.
In fact, as the tour drew to an end, and Jardine remained back in India, the country of his birth, with tiger-shooting on his mind, he informed his county, Surrey, that due to business commitments he would not be able to play cricket with any regularity from then on.
The decision was accepted with ‘great regret’. However, privately the authorities in England heaved a sigh of relief.
Even in his last tour, there were several moments when Jardine courted controversy. And not all of them resulted due to his own inflexible and adamant approach.
Indeed, one diplomatic issue was created primarily because of Jardine’s better nature. The lavishness of Indian hospitality had set even Jardine’s milk of human kindness gushing out. And that had resulted in a potential diplomatic fiasco.
And who had achieved this near-impossibility of awakening the softer side of Jardine?
The answer is The Maharajah of Patiala. In other words, and several of them, Lieutenant-General His Highness Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia, Mansur-i-Zaman, Amir ul-Umara, Maharajadhiraja Raj Rajeshwar, 108 Sri Maharaja-i-Rajgan, Baharaja Sri Bhupinder Singh, Mahendra Bahadur, Yadu Vansha Vatans Bhatti Kul Bhushan, Maharaja of Patiala, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, GBE.
Patiala was grand, as grand as the full splendour of his name, and that is an understatement.
His numerous wives and concubines led him to father 88 children, at least. His motorised cavalcade included 20 Rolls Royce limousines. His collection of jewels were exhibited by Cartier.
And he knew how to entertain.
He was 42. In cricketing terms, his son Yuvaraj of Patiala, was a far greater talent. But the Maharajah was not totally inept. In the extraordinary spectrum which had princes like Rabjitsinhji, Duleepsinhji and Nawab of Pataudi on one side, and the Maharajah of Porbandar and the Maharajakumar of Vizianagaram on the other, Patiala came somewhere in the fuzzy middle. He scored one First-Class fifty, and was just about passable. He had captained the Indian cricket team to England in 1911, and had presented the trophy named after Ranji.
And he was a letch. A compulsive womaniser. In a Grand Ball at Simla, he made a pass at the unmarried daughter of the Viceroy, the Earl of Willingdon. Most probably the misdemeanour took place when the Maharajah was in an inebriated condition.
Nevertheless, Willingdon was furious. At the annual Delhi cricket festival that followed, the cricket-mad Patiala did not turn up … the farcical pair of Vizzy and Porbandar took his place. The reasons were not disclosed, but were plain enough.
Jardine came across Patiala and his son, the brilliant Yuvraj, at Amritsar. Both father and son turned out for Southern Punjab, led by a 21-year-old Lala Amarnath.
The Yuvraj scored 66 and added 134 with Amarnath, against a rather decent attack of Nobby Clark, Hedley Verity and Stan Nichols. The MCC batsmen enjoyed themselves, taking a 186-run lead, but the match ended in a draw.
The next stop for Jardine’s men was Patiala.
And at his home, the Maharajah entertained the team with extraordinary relish.
The enormous collection of jewellery was displayed to the cricketers. Shikar was arranged, and Nobby Clark bagged a cheetah. Several other Englishmen shot deer and partridge.
The infamous Patiala pegs of whisky flowed abundantly.
The match played at Patiala was well-contested. The home team had the services of S Wazir Ali, Lala Amarnath, Lall Singh, Mohammad Nissar and the Australian recruit Frank Tarrant. Jardine’s 80 notwithstanding, with Tarrant picking up 4 wickets and Wazir Ali plodding his way to a sedate 156, the Patiala side actually led by 5 runs with four wickets intact in the first innings when the match came to an end.
The more important result was achieved off the field.
Charmed by his incredible hospitality, Jardine offered the Maharajah a place in the team to play the Viceroy’s XI.
Diffusing the Diplomatic Dynamite
Technically, Patiala was a member of MCC, and hence eligible to play for the visitors. However, the news of this invitation had the Viceroy frothing in the mouth.
When he tried to use his diplomatic powers, persuading Jardine not to include Patiala in his team, the England captain just fiddled with his pipe, refilling it. It was uncertain whether he had heard his host.
Lady Willingdon was set on him, as a last-ditch effort. She took Jardine for a walk in the Mughal Gardens and tried to talk him out of it. But the Bodyline skipper was adamant.
No one could tell him what to do with his team.
In the event, either the Yuvraj or the Maharaj played in the MCC game against Delhi and Districts. Historians are uncertain about who it was and the scorecards are inconclusive. It was not a First-Class match, and the man of the Patiala royal family toted up 54.
And then it was time for the big match against the Viceroy’s XI.
The government shut down the Secretariat and Legislative Assembly for the game, played at Feroz Shah Kotla. Huge crowds gathered, and Lord and Lady Willingdon graced the occasion with their presence.
In spite of his obstinacy, Jardine was perhaps aware of the diplomatic implications of playing the Maharajah in his side. Hence, in spite of his seeming indifference to the requests from the Lord and Lady Willingdon, he did not include him in his final eleven.
But, he was Jardine. He had been insulted by having his own selection questioned. Hence, he decided to take revenge on the cricket field.
Besides, Jardine also found that the pitch had been rolled for 20 minutes instead of the allotted 10, so that the Viceroy’s team would have it easy when they set off. He was livid. In fact, the groundsman, Christie, was persuaded to apologise to the captain by the Viceroy himself. “My dear fellow, you are dealing with a tough proposition, the toughest that even the Australians had come up against …”
Jardine set Verity on the Viceroy’s XI batsmen. The team included some stellar batsmen, with Wazir Ali, CK Nayudu, AL Hosie, Amar Singh and Syed Mushtaq Ali … and Mohammad Nissar was there as the opening bowler. However, with the great Yorkshire left-arm spinner picking up 7 for 37, the home side managed just 160. This was followed by 65 by Cyril Walters, 59 by Arthur Mitchell, 93 by Jardine himself and a characteristically entertaining 145 by Bryan Valentine. The MCC amassed 431.
And then Stan Nichols was let loose and the second innings for the hosts amounted to just 63.
Jardine had been at his most ruthless.
When the MCC men left Delhi, Lord Willingdon wrote to his sister: “The cricketers have left us for elsewhere thank goodness. We had 15 of them staying here for four days! I don’t like Jardine and don’t wonder at the Australians hating him. He is a fine cricketer and very good captain, but he is the most self-opinionated man I’ve ever met, full of wind in his head, talks to all of us as if he and not we know much about India.”
Jardine probably knew much more about India. He was born there, and during the tour accompanied the old butler of the Jardine family to the old cemetery. He was also attracted to Hinduism during his last days.
Willingdon was a Governor General in Canada, the Viceroy in India, generally did nothing of importance and was a thoroughly disagreeable person.
However, Jardine had this incredible aptitude for ruffling important diplomatic feathers. A habit that died hard.