GODS of Cricket – Donald Bradman
For a majority, Donald Bradman or ‘The Don’ is the biggest phenomenon in the world of cricket. A cricket stump, a golf ball and a water tank was all he needed in his growing years to entertain himself and subconsciously hone his skills for hours together. Even he would not have thought then that his batting statistic of 99.94 was going to be the most well-known in the world of cricket.
Bradman played like a machine – tirelessly working the ball to all parts of the ground courtesy quick feet and a very good eye, literally endlessly. Out of the 80 innings that he played, 29 were converted to centuries and 13 to half centuries. Indeed, 12 of the 29 were double tons, which further included two triple tons as well. No other player has even come close to matching the batting average of Bradman at 99.94 – arguably the most well-known statistic in cricket and all ball sports.
In the Australian summer of 1920-21, the little Bradman had gone to watch a Test between England and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), and there he vowed never to be satisfied till he played on that ground. That he did, and went on to become the only solace for Australians in the time of the great depression.
Don Bradman scored his first century in his second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), a good looking knock of 118. And then, he never looked back. Always at ease at the batting crease, it was as if Bradman knew where the bowler was going to bowl his deliveries. He possessed a big stride, a high backlift and was technically unorthodox and mechanical, so much so that cricket pundits in his early years disapproved his backswing that had a strange look to it, but that was precisely why Bradman was so special. It enabled him to alter his strokes at the last moment, and he had a grip that allowed him to play defensive and attacking strokes at will.
To the spectator, almost every time he went in to bat, he scored heavily and looked invincible. The bowler who would eventually bring about his dismissal would be regarded as a superhero.
England were so fed up of this menace that they conjured a controversial bowling tactic that could shut Bradman’s bat – bodyline. Bodyline raised alarms and soured relations between the two sides as the ploy saw batsmen being peppered by short deliveries and a crowd of fielders positioned close to the batsmen, mostly in the on side. Bradman adapted to the situation by altering his technique, even scored a century, but even then drastically dropped from his lofty standards.
Testing times were ahead, as Bradman went through a quiet period after the bodyline, giving rise to suggestions that it was bodyline which had hampered his confidence. Yet it only needed a single innings for him to regain his magic. He never stopped henceforth.
His batting average was 101.39 as he entered his last Test at The Oval, London, 1948. In his only innings in the match, he was out for a duck, meaning he had failed to keep his average above the 100-mark. It was agonisingly close though, at 99.94.
Bradman was a reserved person and a philosopher of the game. Apart from his superhuman batting, which draws no parallels with anybody, modesty was the other great trait of his. He was generous in praise of others and was humble about his own self. He was reclusive off the field, but on it, he unleashed his magic that left an impression on cricket that can never die.