It was in February 1951 Ashes test, Day1 Australia were 254 for 3. Arthur Morris was batting on a spectacular 140 not out at the end of the day, and Keith Miller was unbeaten on 24. It was an exciting day of cricket, and the spectators had got their money’s worth, with the home team dominating. A gentleman in his early 40s was walking out towards his car in the parking lot of the Adelaide Oval. A kid stopped him.
“Morris is the greatest Australian batsman”, the kid said. The gentleman stopped in his stride, and said to the kid, “Yes.”
“Do you like cricket too?” asked the kid.“Yes” said the man, “have played a bit myself too”.
The kid was suddenly awestruck. “Can I know your name Sir?” He asked politely. “Donald Bradman” said the man, and quietly walked away to his car. Such is the public memory. People forget the greats very easily, once they find new heroes.
And going gaga over the World Cup 2015, we all, the ardent cricket fans, have done the same.
Not much of us seemed aware today, that 14 years ago on this day, the world of cricket was robbed of Don, whose batting was actually was the dawn of the fast scoring style of batting, which is prevalent and admired the world cricket now, for more than 2 decades, and is entertaining us cricket lovers.
On this day in 2001, the Don passed away. He was to the cricket world, what Sachin was in the Last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the millennium. Few of his records have been so steep, that in seven decades after his retirement, no one has been able to get near to his batting average of 99.94, or his 309 test runs scored in one single day.
Volumes have been written about the Don, and there is not much I can add to it. But there are a few anecdotes, which I would love to share here in his remembrance.
It was 1930, the Ashes. Percy Fender had warned Don, that his technique of employing horizontal bat shots won’t work in England and he will have to use a straight bat. Don had made Sir Percy eat his words in the first test, scoring 131 in the chase. However, Australia had lost the test by 93 runs, and that had stung the Don’s Aussie Pride. The Aussies won the second test at Lords by 7 wickets, largely due to the Don’s 254 in the first knock. That instilled a great deal of confidence in Don. With the series poised delicately at 1-1, the third test was crucial for both the teams. The team who would dominate in the third test would have wrested the advantage. On the eve of the Leeds test, Bradman had a dinner appointment with Neville Cardus, the great cricket author. Don called him earlier in the day, and said, “Can we have this meeting on another day Mr. Cardus? Tomorrow’s test is important, and I will have to score at least 200 in it. So need to retire early to bed.”
Cardus was a bit offended by this, and he thought that the Aussie was being too cocky and overconfident, and was underestimating the English attack of Larwood, Tate, Dick Tyldsley, Hammond and Maurice Leyland. But the Don lived up to what he had said. He reached his century before lunch the next day, plundered another 115 runs in the post lunch session, and walked proudly unbeaten to the pavilion at the end of the day’s play having scored 309 in a single day. Australia had made 458 for 3 in the day, and Don had scored two thirds of the runs singlehandedly. Australia went on to make a mammoth 721 in that innings, and played England out of the match, and the mother country did their best, still could only save the match. Don didn’t do much in the next rain curtailed Manchester test, but came back to his elements in the final test at the Oval, scoring 232. Series tally of 974 runs in a five test series. Take that folks!
Another one is from the India tour of Australia in 1947-48.
While batting in a tour match against Ghulam Mohammed , Don pulled a bit uppishly, and the ball only just eluded Square leg. “That was risky!” exclaimed the wicketkeeper Khokhan Sen. Ghulam Mohammed promptly pushed square leg a bit deeper. “Just wait and watch.” Don told Sen. The next ball was also a short one, and Don pulled it again in the air, again only just eluding Square leg. Ghulam Mohammed pushed the square leg further back, and again bowled a short one. Don again pulled it in a way that it just eluded the square leg. Then he turned to Sen again, and said: “I am not playing Ghulam Mohammed’s bowling to the field, I am “playing with” him to his field.” Such Mastery! He also went on to warn Sen not to pay so much attention to this, or Sen might lose his concentration.
That was the way the Don backed himself, and more often than not, delivered. 29 centuries and 13 fifties in 80 innings is a testimony to that!
Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe , who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.