chapter  5
18 Pages

'They Play in Your Home': Cricket, Media and Modernity in Pre-war Australia

To say that cricket was an obsession for many Australians in the 1930s, and that every summer the mental world of Australia was structured and defined by the vicissitudes of national and international cricket, is probably not stretching the truth too far. For a sport that originally had been considered to be the most 'English of English Games', Australians rapidly championed it as their own and developed it into a national and distinctively Australian game.' For many fans, commentators and historians the early 1930s were the apotheosis of Australian cricket; the striding colossus of Don Bradman, the infamy of the 'bodyline' test series against the visiting Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) team in 1932-33, and the subsequent retrieval of the Ashes when Australia toured England in 1934, all helped to prioritize this period in the mythology of Australian test cricket. 2 The national fascination with cricket, and the amount of feeling that both the playing of the game and the controversies it generated could stir up, were even patently evident to those who had not been embroiled in them since an early age. Egon Kisch, the radical Czech journalist whose attempts to enter Australia to speak at an anti-war congress in 1934 had been the cause of much comment in the Australian press, found the time between his legbreaking, pier-head jump in Melbourne and his subsequent departure from Australia in 1935 to fully appreciate the position of cricket (and bodyline) in the Australian psyche. 'Bodyline is connected with sport,' he wrote, 'but it also has a profound political significance. To write about Australia and to omit the body line affair would be like describing the Vatican without the Pope, or - but there is no end to such comparisons if we are to describe the significance of cricket for Australia. '3