From pen to Bodyline, it all began in Birmingham

Birmingham is called the city of a 100 trades — and not merely because of the heavy presence of Asian communities — but it’s also responsible for some of the world’s greatest inventions.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Birmingham | Updated: June 2, 2017 9:10 am
Don Bradman, Birmingham, Bob Woolmer, cricket news, sports news Pen Museum in Birmingham. Express photo

WITHOUT BIRMINGHAM there probably would be no modern journalism. And there’s no way you would be reading this either. For, there would have been no computer, no internet, no microphone, no camera and maybe not even a pen. They all after all either were invented or at least took shape in Brum, as the Midlands town is referred to by every self-respecting, well, Brummy.

Birmingham is called the city of a 100 trades — and not merely because of the heavy presence of Asian communities — but it’s also responsible for some of the world’s greatest inventions. It could also perhaps be referred to as the city that Inspector Gadget built. They even have a Pen Museum just for the record.

That’s not all, though. Even the electric cooker, vacuum cleaner, x-ray scanner, smoke detector, wind-screen wiper, electric kettle and microwave oven all have origins that can be traced back to Birmingham. Annoyed by the incessant honking in Mumbai? Well you have the Brummies to blame, for it was here that Lucas Industries launched the first-ever electric car horn back in 1901. Birmingham also produced more rifles than any other English centre during World War II, which led to the Germans bombarding this otherwise lovely, breezy setting with added vigour during their blitzes.

It’s no surprise then that Warwickshire were considered the most innovative county team during the 1990s, revolutionizing one-day cricket in the Shires under the captaincy of the enigmatic Dermot Reeve. It is here of course that the late Bob Woolmer emerged as the most progressive coach of his time.

Think Bodyline was a Douglas Jardine invention created to stop Don Bradman in 1932? Think again. It was the eccentric and rather unfortunate Frank Foster, a fast bowler of rave renown but one whose life ended in misery at a mental institution, who designed the famous leg-theory in 1910-11. He had seen the Aussies hop uncomfortably against the rising ball, and it was Foster who decided to employ four men behind square on the on-side in catching positions. England won the Ashes on the back of this strategy, and it was Foster’s innovation that Jardine employed so infamously 20 years later.

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