Australia round off a 4-0 Test series win in 1947-48; Bradman wins Indian hearts : Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’

BradmanThe final Test was even more one-sided. Bradman was again in top gear having raised his half century, but had to retire hurt when on 57. The Indian bowlers were saved one last caning from The Don, though some of the other batsmen made them pay. Bill Brown was unlucky to be run out for 99. The young star Neil Harvey, playing his second Test, scored 153 and put on 159 for the fourth wicket with debutant Sam Loxton (80). Australia declared at 575 for eight.

Though Mankad scored his second century of the series, Hazare played another fine knock of 74, and Phadkar continued to display his batting prowess with an unbeaten half-century once again, India were never in the hunt. They were dismissed for 331 and, following on, routed for 67. Australia won by an innings and 177 runs, and closed the series 4-0.

Yet again Bradman topped the aggregates as well as averages. He amassed 715 runs at an average of 178.75, and his six innings contained a double century, three other centuries and a fifty. In the process he became the only batsman to score four hundreds in a series thrice in Tests. The next highest scorer for Australia was Hassett with 332 runs. For India, Hazare was the obvious leading scorer with 429 runs, averaging 47.66, though Phadkar topped the averages at 52.33 for his 314 runs. The main wicket-takers for the hosts were Lindwall (18), Bill Johnston (16), Ian Johnson (16) and Toshack (13), all of whom averaged below 17. Amarnath was his side’s most successful bowler with 13 wickets at 28.15 apiece.

This was perhaps the most relaxed and enjoyable of Bradman’s eleven Test series. He had made a successful return to top flight cricket after the war, and had nothing left to prove to anyone, not even to himself. He notched several landmarks during the course of the rubber, which was devoid of the tension and hostility of Ashes clashes. His health had improved, and he had a young, happy family.

Bradman had cordial relations with the Indians, all of whom obviously held him in great esteem and reverence. One suspects, even The Don, being a fighter himself, had deep regard for Indians probably for the way they had achieved independence after a long struggle. He was not one to miss the significance of such events. Indians, on their part, have never failed to give Bradman his due. One has not come across any Indian who has claimed that Gavaskar and Tendulkar are remotely as good as Bradman, even though these two all-time greats have God-like status in India. Some English cricketers and mediapersons, on the other hand, have at times been grudging in their acknowledgement of Bradman’s greatness. They are quick to point to their own heroes like Grace and Hobbs in support of their arguments against The Don. No doubt these people are entitled to their opinions, and they do have some valid points. One may also hasten to add that those who reviled Bradman in England are in a miniscule minority to the millions of people who adored and feted him. It was just that a small number of the English, like a handful of his own countrymen, spewed venom on him. And how could he forget that a few of them devised Bodyline to get him.

In his Farewell to Cricket, Bradman paid compliments to Amarnath: “I look back on the season with him as my opposite number as one of my most pleasant years. Lala, as he was called, certainly believed in speaking his mind at all times and was not averse to expressing his opinion in regard to a controlling authority or an individual but in Australia he always did with the utmost courtesy and tact. Amarnath was such a splendid ambassador and throughout the tour, I found him and (Pankaj) Gupta (manager) absolutely charming in every respect. They co-operated in all conceivable ways to try and make the games enjoyable and the most wonderful spirit of camaraderie existed between the Australian and Indian players.”

Amarnath, on his part, was unstinted in his praise for Bradman. He wrote in The Sportstar: “I am yet to see another Bradman. Probably none would in the times to come. When people make comparisons between Bradman and others, I laugh. Such was Bradman’s mastery that even Test cricket was One-day cricket for him. Has anyone made 300 in a day in a Test? So please don’t insult The Don by making silly comparisons. I know he never came to India but then it was good for our bowlers. On our pitches, where the ball does nothing, it would have been like going shopping for him and he would have batted day and night.”

Regarding the characteristics of Bradman’s batting, Amarnath observed: “Bradman’s eyesight was remarkable. He would spot the ball so easily, when batting or fielding. Bradman was essentially a back-foot player. And an absolute delight to watch. Among the shots he played, the pull obviously was the most outstanding. He could pull any ball from anywhere, even those going away on the off-stump. His square-cut came from the middle of the bat and the speed with which the ball travelled to the boundary was amazing. I remember in the first Test at Brisbane, he played a square-cut off (S.W.) Sohoni and the ball came back five yards after hitting the fence.”

Hazare referred to Bradman’s tendency to often run, or jog, back to the pavilion after being dismissed. In an article in The Week, Hazare stated: “Whenever he got out, he always used to run to the pavilion! He never questioned the umpire’s decision. Most of the time he started running to the pavilion even before the umpire’s finger went up. We didn’t find him getting angry on the field. He was a cool person. He didn’t want to waste energy on anger.” Bradman’s exit was quite in contrast to his entry towards the crease. Then he would walk in slowly, collecting his thoughts, taking in the atmosphere, getting used to the light. When his job was done he would depart hurriedly, getting away from the heat of battle to relax and rejuvenate in the dressing room.

Sarwate spoke more about the personal qualities of Bradman. He said in The Sportstar: “He was a great tactician, a great captain. But he was also a great sportsman, a perfect gentleman and a true ambassador for cricket. I have not seen many opponents appreciating a good stroke or a good ball. The Don always had nice words if you played a good shot or bowled a good ball to him. Signs of a good sportsman who appreciates a good act and it did not really matter to him if the player was on his side or the other.” Sarwate also recalled in The Week, “Don was very confident but not arrogant and that was the way he behaved with us. He never tried to show that they were playing against a very inferior side.” All this may sound bizarre and outlandish in the modern age of sledging. True, this is a very different era, of cut-throat commercialism, but abuse on the field is certainly a bane of present-day cricket. If players find it difficult to be gentlemanly nowadays, they should at least refrain from being loutish, particularly in this electronic age when impressionable minds watching on live television are quick to imbibe crass behaviour as being an acceptable way of life.

Equally effusive in his appreciation of The Don, C.S. Nayudu also told The Sportstar: “As a cricketer he had no match and he was simply a lovable character as a down-to-earth human being. I know people said he was aloof at times, but we all found him such an easily approachable man.” The verdict was unanimous. Bradman and the Indians got along very well.

Indeed, Bradman was adored in India. Decades ago a youngster by the name of Mudar Patherya, who later became one of India’s finest cricket writers, and then turned into a business columnist, wrote to The Don about the street cricket that young boys played in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and whether they could name it the Bradman Cup. He also requested for a recent photo of the great man. As always, Bradman replied, and also sent along a treasure in the form of a signed picture of his playing days, as a newer one was not handy. For years the Bradman Cup was played with great passion on the narrow streets of the eastern Indian metropolis. Such a folk hero was The Don in India that around the 1987 World Cup even the then government of West Bengal pondered over putting up his statue in the city close to those of Mahatma Gandhi and the celebrated poet Rabindranath Tagore. The close bond between Bradman and Indians was vividly illustrated when he invited Sachin Tendulkar, along with Australian hero Shane Warne, to his home on his 90th birthday. One is convinced that The Don was, for the last time, sending out a clear message that along with his own country, India had a special place in his heart. Of that one is certain, for Bradman never did anything without careful deliberation, especially publicly. Through the gifted, impeccably well-behaved and much-loved Tendulkar, Bradman was, in a sense, inviting all Indians who held him so dear.

In his last full first-class season at home, Bradman scored the most centuries that he did in Australia, eight in all. He hit up 1296 runs in those 9 matches at an average of 129.60, with 201 in the Adelaide Test as his highest.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

Don’s Century’, published by Sporting Links, ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0.

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110 001, Phones + 91 11 23417175 and 23412567.

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