Bernard Hollowood (left) walks out to bat with EW Swanton    Getty Images
Bernard Hollowood (left) walks out to bat with EW Swanton Getty Images

Don Bradman s stratospheric average was brought down to mortal levels. The rest of the Australians, barring a brave innings here and there, succumbed without much clue. However, economist, cartoonist and editor of Punch, Bernard Hollowood, did have a solution. Arunabha Sengupta recounts the ideas of that extraordinary man.

We come back to Bernard Hollowood again.

Readers of these pages may remember that we had discussed this versatile person and his eternal prank on cricket earlier. It is now time to go through some of his other associations with cricket.

Hollowood s book of cricketing memoirs is titled Cricket on the Brain. Which makes a lot of sense. This economist, cartoonist and the editor of Punch thought a lot about the game, sleepwalked through it, and had the most outlandish ideas and opinions.

Most of his cricketing ideas were gleaned through imagination, a most fertile one at that. As he writes, Syd Barnes used to carry a cricket ball in his pocket throughout the winter, and handle it regularly to get the feel. I went one better. I carried whole innings around me and I used to play them through in trains, buses and offices. And in bed of course. It is a caddish thing to admit, but I once made a very useful 72 (run out) against South Africa while spooning an attractive blonde in Sherwood Forest. And there was a little gem of a knock, 28 off one over, against Surrey made during an examination at the Imperial Institute. Fortunately, one s skill at imaginary cricket does not decline with advancing years.

During the course of his flighty contemplations, Hollowood learned much about technique by playing imaginary innings : In my time I have broken pretty nearly every record in Wisden in the privacy of wishful contemplation.

He also adds that he had a recipe for countering the thunderbolts aimed at the body by Harold Larwood and Bill Voce during the infamous Bodyline series: I remember demonstrating my method of handling Larwood and Voce to an awestruck Australian team. It was simple,courageous and effective; I took guard on the off-stump and hit every ball to leg. Balls of liberal length were struck on the half-volley and short deliveries were savagely hooked, with rolled wrists, into a flat trajectory.

The result of this coaching session was near-miraculous. It, to a great extent, altered the course of history or at least that of historic cables: The Aussies were quick to learn and their onslaught proved so dangerous to the English leg-side field, as set by DR Jardine, that the Home Secretary, Mr JH Thomas, sent angry cables to the Australian Government informing it that the example of Hollowood was contrary to the spirit of cricket and damaging to the good relations existing between the two countries.

That was the imagination of a young Hollowood, who was in his early 20s during the Bodyline series.

Not that his powers of coaching waned with age: I also taught [Ted] Dexter how to pick [Alan] Davidson s outswinger, and Peter May to detect [Richie] Benaud s wrong un.