On Don Bradman’s 112th birth anniversary, reproducing my article in the Indian Express on his centenary, 27th August 2008

Hundred years on, Bradman’s genius can still inspire

Don Bradman walking out to bat against England in the fourth Test match at Headingley, Leeds in August 1938.

On Don Bradman’s centenary, a fitting tribute is to assess his real greatness, moving beyond the mountains of statistics and records that are often used to highlight his achievements. Len Hutton wrote in his Fifty Years in Cricket: “It was fashionable to say that The Don was unorthodox, a law unto himself, and that his bat was not as straight as it ought to have been. But his movements were so right and so emphatic. To the straight good-length ball he would either go forward or back with precise judgement, never across the pitch, and at the crucial moment, his bat would be as straight as a Scotch fir.”

KS Duleepsinhji averred in Indian Cricketer Annual 1954: “Will there be another like him? I doubt it. His highly developed cricket sense helped him to make up his mind regarding the stroke in a split second, after the ball left the bowler’s hand. With his large repertoire of strokes, he always found gaps in the field. The opponents always found eleven fielders too few. His fast rate of scoring gave bowlers plenty of time to dismiss their opponents. ‘Bradman is batting’ — at those magic words people would rush to the ground.”

Alec Bedser bowled to Bradman only after the war when the great man was past his prime, but still a run-getter beyond compare. He wrote in The Cricketer International: “My one regret was not to see him at his peak when, as the great Test umpire Frank Chester told me, fielders were wont to whistle with astonishment at the sheer brilliance and audacity of his stroke-play. One of his striking attributes was the way he made full use of the space from the popping crease to the stumps.”

Even during the Bodyline series when Bradman’s average ‘plummeted’ to 56.57, it was still the best for Australia, and second only to England’s Eddie Paynter’s 61.33 who had two not outs in five innings. And Bradman scored at almost 40 runs an hour, hitting a hundred in one Test and half-centuries in the other three. Stan McCabe might have been the more aesthetic while dealing with the scourge of Bodyline, but Bradman was as effective, and certainly more prolific and consistent.

To dub The Don as merely a run-machine is simplistic because machines do not have minds. Among Bradman’s several attributes was a very strong mind. In the 1936-37 Ashes series he was returning to the Test arena after a near-death experience, at the helm of a weak team that had lost several stalwarts. And England won the first two Tests. For most others it would have been too much to endure. But The Don did something, well, Bradmanesque. He scored 270, 212 and 169 in the remaining three Tests, winning all of them and retaining the crown. Nothing daunted him, and his story is so hugely inspirational as much for the massive odds he battled so successfully, as for the phenomenal number of runs he made.

Or let us fast forward to 1946-47, to the first series after the war. Unwell and ageing, he carved out 187 and 234 in the first two Tests, winning both, establishing ascendancy and breaking the English back. Maybe we can rewind to 1934, the first series after the Bodyline mayhem. Bradman was not in good health. He still got his customary double century in the opening match. Then, after a lean run in the first three Tests and the series precariously placed at 1-1, The Don scored 304 and 244 in the last two Tests, winning the final one and wresting the Ashes. That was character, a very tough mind and great skill, something far beyond the capability of any machine ever invented.

What was that one quality that made Don Bradman such a champion. The one most qualified to shed light was his wife Jessie: “More than anything, it was his single-mindedness; the ability to concentrate on any innings from the moment he woke up in the morning.” The key word here is focus. Let that remain the last word.

(Indra Vikram Singh is the only Indian biographer of Don Bradman. His forthcoming book Don’s Century is scheduled to be released shortly)


Don’s Century

Published in India by Sporting Links

ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0

Fully illustrated Paperback

French Fold 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches

188 pages


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