Naturally gifted as he was, lonely Don found refuge in sport. The way he practised with a stump and golf ball is part of folklore, and it revealed from a tender age the single-minded dedication that he was admired, and at times loathed, for. He became reclusive and focussed, and as he grew his goal was to excel at cricket. Success was for him paramount. It came to him in such abundant measure that he left an indelible mark in the annals of the game. In the pantheon of greats, the first name etched in letters of gold is Don Bradman, probably forever.
To scale such lofty heights entails ploughing a lonely furrow. His preparation for a match would be all-consuming. Not for a moment would he let his mind wander. He kept to himself, training his mind, doubtlessly visualizing the monumental innings he would play. Bradman gave an insight into his thought processes in a chapter entitled ‘Temperament’ of what is hailed as his classic coaching book The Art of Cricket: “I always liked to see a player who was extremely conscious of his responsibility and all that went with it, who was really very thrilled and enthusiastic under the surface but who kept his emotions under control. The sort of chap who would find it difficult to sleep or eat as usual before a Test match. That type usually possesses a high degree of nervous energy which comes into play at the critical hour. He may be anxious on the morning of the match, but once he sets foot on the arena he is in full command of himself and his reflexes are quick. This man will play better in a Test than in a picnic match. He is the chap for the big occasion.”
Neither metaphorically, nor in actual fact in any way, was Bradman part of a crowd. Just as he stood apart at the crease, so did he in personal life. He was criticized often for being aloof, never bothered to be ‘one of the boys’. He was unapologetic about it, as he wrote in his autobiography Farewell to Cricket: “I was often accused of being unsociable because at the end of the day I did not think it my duty to breast the bar and engage in a beer drinking contest. At least I made no attempt to interfere with the habits of others, and if I thought my most important need was a cup of tea, I had as much right to complain of their late entry into the dining room as they had to complain of my absence from the bar.”
The flamboyant Keith Miller, great fast bowler and allrounder, in his autobiography Cricket Crossfire had more derogatory words than paeans for Bradman in a chapter exclusively devoted to his former skipper. In fact elsewhere he openly stated that he did not get along with the Don: “We had nothing in common.” But even Miller acknowledged that though Bradman kept an exclusive routine, he did not meddle in the activities of his teammates. He wrote in Cricket Crossfire: “I found him an excellent chap to travel with. We did not see much of him and he made it clear enough that he wanted to go his own solitary way, but he made no demands upon the team beyond punctuality, and he looked after the welfare of his players. His solitary habits, which might be due in some degree to shyness, could make him appear unsociable.” Miller was, of course, referring to the post-war days when Bradman was already a legend, and a law unto himself.
Bradman stood apart – and alone – just like his monumental batting record. It is this discipline and dedication that characterized later batsmen like Geoff Boycott, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, all stars in their own right, though light years away from the magical Bradman planet that bloomed a rich harvest of runs season after season.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com. Follow Indra Vikram Singh on Twitter @IVRajpipla).
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995
Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7
Distributed in India by: Variety Book Depot, AVG Bhawan, M-3 Middle Circle, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001, India. Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.