Sir Donald George Bradman – “DON” of Australia was, beyond any argument, the greatest batsman who ever lived and the greatest cricketer of the 20th century. Only WG Grace, in the formative years of the game, even remotely matched his status as a player. And The Don lived on into the 21st century, more than half-a-century after he retired. In that time, his reputation not merely as a player but as an administrator, selector, sage and cricketing statesman only increased. He was, without any question, the greatest phenomenon in the history of cricket, indeed in the history of all ball games.
Throughout the 1930s and ’40s Bradman was the world’s master cricketer, so far ahead of everyone else that comparisons became pointless. In 1930, he scored 974 runs in the series, 309 of them in one amazing day at Headingley, and in seven Test series against England he remained a figure of utter dominance; Australia lost the Ashes only once, in 1932-33, when England were so spooked by Bradman that they devised a system of bowling, Bodyline, that history has damned as brutal and unfair, simply to thwart him. He still averaged 56 in the series. In all, he went to the crease 80 times in Tests, and scored 29 centuries. He needed just four in his last Test innings, at The Oval in 1948, to ensure an average of 100 - but was out second ball for 0, a rare moment of human failing that only added to his everlasting appeal.
Don batted like a champion in every form of cricket and not just the test cricket. Even at the first class level he average over 95 and scored over 50 runs in 55% of his innings, that’s a minimum fifty on every other outing on a cricket ground!!!
His conversion rates of fifties to hundreds (1.69) tells us much more about his ability, determination, and dominance once set. In test cricket he punished the bowlers even further as 70% of times that he scored a fifty, he went to make a ton or even more. On November 2, 1931, he and Wendell Bill, playing for Blackheath XI against neighbouring Lithgow, managed 102 runs in three eight-ball overs. Wendell Bill had scored just 2 singles amongst those 102, the remaining hundred came from Don in just 22 balls (10X6, 9X4)!!!
Bradman made all those runs at high speed in a manner that bewildered opponents and entranced spectators. Though his batting was not classically beautiful, it was always awesome. To start with, he had a deep and undying love of cricket, as well, of course, as exceptional natural ability. It was always said he could have become a champion at squash or tennis or golf or billiards, had he preferred them to cricket. The fact that, as a boy, he sharpened his reflexes and developed his strokes by hitting golf ball with a cricket stump as it rebounded off a water tank attests to his eye, fleetness of foot and, even when young, his rare powers of concentration. Bradman himself was of the opinion that there were other batsmen, contemporaries of his, who had the talent to be just as prolific as he was but lacked the concentration.
Don knows as well as anyone, though, that with so much more emphasis being placed on containment and so many fewer overs being bowled, his 309 of 70 years ago would be nearer 209 today, unless of course you have a Vireder Sehwag Batting at Brabourne . This makes it all the more fortuitous that he played when he did, and by doing so, he had the chance to renew a nation and reinvent a game. His fame, like W.G.’s, will never fade. So, with the concentration and the commitment and the calculation and the certainty that were synonymous with Bradman, went a less obvious but no less telling humility. He sought privacy and attracted adulation.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav