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Arguably the best test batsman in history, Sir Donald Bradman made sure the rest of the cricketing world was at his mercy during his 20-year international career. He captained Australia and played first class cricket for New South Wales and South Australia.
Bradman's name is synonymous with the term 'batting genius,' and every aspiring cricketer hopes to emulate the Don some day!
Don Bradman was born on August 27, 1908 in Cootamundra, New South Wales. He was the youngest of George and Emily Bradman's five kids.
Bradman's love for cricket was evident at a very young age and he'd already scored a century for his school by the time he was 12. Early signs of his greatness were seen at a local club game, where a prepubescent Bradman was called upon as a substitute batsman. He managed to hold his own while playing against adults bowling at full speed--and scored 37 not out and 29 not out in that game.
Later, when he went to watch an Ashes test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, he famously vowed to his father, "I shall never be satisfied until I play on this ground."
Sure enough, Bradman's wish was fulfilled when he debuted for New South Wales as a 19-year-old. He scored a century on debut, and soon caught the eyes of the national selectors.
Bradman started off his second first class season by scoring a century against Queensland. He even did well against the English in a first class game, and got the much-awaited call to join the national side.
The Don made his debut in Brisbane, but his first match was anything but memorable. The Australians folded cheaply in both innings as Bradman could only manage scores of 18 and 1. His team lost the match by a record 675 runs, and he was dropped for the second test.
However, he was included in the playing eleven for the third test following a second consecutive defeat. He scored his first century in this game, but couldn't save the game for his team at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
After losing the fourth test of the series, the Australians finally bounced back with the help of another Bradman ton in the fifth test. His match-winning 124 sealed his spot for the upcoming West Indies tour.
Soon, Bradman made his mark in the Caribbean and even against the South Africans. His star was rising, and he was becoming a prized wicket for bowlers everywhere.
Upon learning of Bradman's devastating batting display, then-England skipper Douglas Jardine decided to contain him using negative bowling tactics--better known as Bodyline. During the infamous 1932-33 Bodyline Ashes tour, Jardine's bowlers--most notably, Harold Larwood--bowled short-pitched deliveries in the leg stump line to intimidate and even hurt Australian batsmen.
Australia lost that series 4-1, but Jardine was heavily criticized for his unsportmanlike conduct. Bradman and his teammates, on the other hand, became heroes for their tenacity during that harsh summer.
Bradman soon moved to South Australia to work as a stockbroker (we're talking of a much simpler time when athletes were paid as much as us mere mortals!) and later, he became the South Australian captain.
Bradman's best season came during the 1938 England tour, when he piled on 2,429 runs at an average of over 115. He even made several centuries in first class cricket for South Australia. However, his cricket duties took a back seat when he joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1940.
This led to a bit of a decline for great cricketer. After the war, he was diagnosed with fibrositis, a muscular ailment and it came to the point where he couldn't even perform basic movements for a period of time! To add to his woes, the financial firm he worked for filed for bankruptcy and he was left without a job.
However, Bradman was slowly getting back to top form. Soon, he was batting like he used to in the old days, and in the 1948 season, he led the Australian squad--dubbed as Bradman's Invincibles--to a 4-0 victory over England.
In the fourth test of that series at the Oval--his last international game--Bradman needed just 4 runs to ensure his career batting average stayed above 100. However, the Don was uncharacteristically foxed by wrist spinner Eric Hollies, and got out for a duck!
His career average was 99.94, and he scored a total of 29 centuries with a high score of 334. Every one of his 6,996 runs--in 52 matches--was a delight for the thousands of lucky spectators in attendance. How we all wish each of his innings was recorded for posterity!
Bradman married Jessie Martha Menzies, a childhood friend, in 1932. She stood behind him through thick and thin. Their marriage lasted 65 year until her death.
The couple had three children--two boys and a girl. Their first son died an infant in 1936, the second son contracted polio and their only daughter had cerebral palsy since birth.
-"I was never coached; I was never told how to hold a bat."
-"Many cricketers who had more ability than I had, why they didn't make more runs than I did, I don't know."
-"A good captain must be a fighter; confident but not arrogant, firm but not obstinate; able to take criticism without letting it unduly disturb him, for he is sure to get it--and unfairly, too."
Bradman was knighted almost immediately after he retired. Thereafter, he took on several administrative positions with Cricket Australia--then known as Board of Control for Cricket in Australia. His stint as an administrator didn't end as gloriously as his playing career.
Towards the end of his administrative career, Bradman was at loggerheads with several players who were demanding more wages and better contracts. But this in no way tarnished his legacy.
Even before his death in 2001, Don Bradman's name was immortalized in several books, trophies, prizes and scholarships. However, he will always be remembered as a tough character, who used nothing more than his inherent abilities to succeed in the Wild West days of test cricket!
-Picture courtesy telegraph.co.uk and crickethighlights.com-
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