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SIR DONALD BRADMAN
My claim to fame is as an Australian cricket player. In my days, I was universally regarded as the greatest cricket player of all time, and one of Australia’s greatest popular heroes.
- Cricket career
1.1 Early years
Born in Cootamundra, I was raised in Bowral, NSW, Australia where the Bradman Museum and Bradman Oval are sited. I used to practice obsessively, often hitting a golf ball repeatedly against a wall using only a cricket stump.
After a brief dalliance with tennis I dedicated myself to cricket, playing for local sides before attracting sufficient attention to be drafted in grade cricket in Sydney at the age of 18. Within a year I was representing New South Wales and within three I had made his Test debut.
1.2 Test cricket
After receiving some criticism in my first Ashes series in 1928-1929, I worked constantly to remove the few weaknesses in my game and by the time of the Bodyline series was I considered extremely strong and feared by our arch cricketing rivals – England.
I developed the ability to play still whilst awaiting the ball delivery. My shot-making was based on a combination of excellent vision, speed of both thought and footwork and a decisive, powerful bat motion with a pronounced follow-through. Technically I was considered flawless, strong on both sides of the wicket with a tendency for my back-lift to be slightly angled toward the slip cordon.
Despite occasional battles with illness, I continued to play world cricket throughout the 1930s and was often credited with raising the spirit of a nation suffering under the vagaries of the economic depression, until war intervened.
Over an international career spanning nearly 20 years from 1930 to 1948, my achievements were unparalleled. I broke scoring records for both first-class and Test cricket; my highest international score (334) stood for decades as the highest ever test score by an Australian. It was then equalled by Mark Taylor, who declared with his score at 334 not out in what many regard as a deliberate tribute to myself. In 2003 it was once more equalled then surpassed by another fellow Australian, Matthew Hayden, who fittingly went on to gain the highest score in Test cricket (380) up to that time.
For decades, I was the only player with two Test triple centuries in a career. I was joined by West Indian Brian Lara in 2004; Lara broke Hayden’s record, and recorded the first Test quadruple century in history, in the process of joining me in this exclusive club.
2. Later career
Approaching forty years of age (most players are retired by their mid-30s), I returned to play cricket after World War II, leading one of the most talented teams in Australia’s history. In my farewell 1948 tour of England the team I led, dubbed “the Invincibles”, went undefeated throughout the tour, a feat unmatched before or since.
On the occasion of my international innings, I needed four runs to be able to retire with a batting average of 100, but was dismissed for nought (in cricketing parlance, “a duck”) by spin bowler Eric Hollies. Applauded onto the pitch by both teams, it was sometimes claimed that I was unable to see the ball due to the tears welling in his eyes ? this is sentimental nonsense. “I knew it would be my last test match after a career spanning 20-years but to suggest I got out as some people did, because I had tears in my eyes is to belittle the bowler and is quite untrue.” Regardless, I was given a guard of honour by players and spectators alike as I left the ground with a batting average of 99.94 my 52 tests, nearly double the average of any other player before or since. My is average is immortalised as the post office box number of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – “Box 9994 in your capital city”.
During the time that I dominated the game, special bowling tactics, known as fast leg theory or Bodyline, regarded by many as unsporting and dangerous, were devised by England captain Douglas Jardine to reduce my dominance in a series of international matches against England in the Australian summer of 1932 – 1933. The principal English exponent of Bodyline was the Nottinghamshire pace bowler Harold Larwood, and the contest between us was to prove to be the focal point of the contest.
My batting average for that series, 56.57, is above the career averages of all but a handful of international players in the 125-odd years of international cricket matches. Statistical analyses will show that I dominated cricket more than Pele, Ty Cobb, Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, amongst other champions of their disciplines.
4. After cricket
After retiring from playing cricket, I continued working as a stockbroker. He became heavily involved in cricket administration, serving as a selector for the national team for nearly 30 years. I was selector (and acknowledged as a force urging the players of both teams to play entertaining, attacking cricket) for the famous Australia – West Indies test series of 1960-61.
As a member of the Australian Cricket Board, I was also involved in negotiations with the World Series Cricket schism in the late 1970s. Ian Chappell, former test captain and selected to lead the rebel Australian side, places much responsibility for the split on me and in his opinion I had forgotten my own difficulties with the cricket authorities of the time.
I always enjoyed personally answering innumerable letters from cricket fans across the world, which I continued to do well into my eighties.
I was born on 27th August 1908 at Cootamundra, New South Wales, Australia. My full name was Donald George Bradman, and my parents were George Bradman and Emily (nee Whatman) Bradman. I married my childhood sweetheart, Jessie Martha Menzies on 30 April 1932 (at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Burwood, Sydney), and we had two children, John and Lorraine. During my later adult years I was 5ft 10in high and 180 lbs. I preferred to remain private and avoid intense media scrutiny I was subject to and hence was regarded as aloof even by my teammates, particularly in later years.
There are two popular songs of very different styles and eras, “Our Don Bradman”, a jaunty 1930’s ditty by Jack O’Hagan, and the folk-influenced rock of Paul Kelly in the 1980’s. The story of the Bodyline series was also told in a television series.
I have written several books on cricket technique and tactics, which are regarded as classics.
I was awarded a knighthood in 1949, and a Companion of the Order of Australia (Australia’s highest civil honour) in 1979.